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Mad Man

Comic and impressionist Frank Caliendo draws the audiences to him in Vegas residency.

Frank 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 each personality.

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:




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