Comic and impressionist Frank Caliendo draws the
audiences to him in Vegas residency.
Caliendo’s live show, seen Feb. 21 at the Monte Carlo casino in Las
Vegas, as part of his long-run residency there, adds another dimension
to what the former MadTV cast member now best known for his John Madden
impersonation exhibits on television.
Caliendo’s repertoire of impressions may not be as vast as Darrell
Hammond’s, but he weaves them into a somewhat improvised stand-up set as
characters in a surrealistic web, rather than simply going on at length
as any one personality, as Hammond does in his stand-up.
So imagine a world [and imagine that said in Caliendo’s movie preview
announcer voice] where Charles Barkley’s voice becomes the voice of Andy
Rooney’s overgrown eyebrows. Or where George W. Bush and Bill Clinton
play “Old Man Carruthers” in Scooby Doo episodes, with their own spins
on the signature refrain “I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t
for you meddling kids!’ Or where Madden himself offers running
chalkboard diagrams and critical commentary on Caliendo’s act.
Caliendo’s show is loose enough that he can even crack himself up at
times, or interact with a backing trio there to throw in the occasional
drum roll or incidental music. This gives Caliendo’s show a bit of Las
Vegas Rat Pack feel, rather than coming off as one where every moment is
planned or even choreographed.
But where Caliendo’s gifts really become evident is in his show’s
closing piece, where he works his way through the song “With A Little
Help From My Friends”, going from line to line responding to suggestions
for impressions called out by his opening act, George Cantor. Cantor’s
suggestions even call for series of impersonations in succession, a la
“Seinfeld; Dr. Phil; De Niro” or “Madden; Bush; Leno,” requiring
Caliendo to match each lyric or put a spin on each lyric in the voice of
At present, Caliendo is performing exclusively in Las Vegas, with no
touring scheduled. By doing so, he has definitely put himself at the top
of the list of comedy attractions there. And to see what he really can
do, which didn’t really come through on his short-lived TBS cable show,
you’ll have to go there.
Failing that, there is a version of his live show on DVD: