Thursday, October 09, 2008

Chatting with Frank Caliendo

Frank Caliendo of Frank TVIf you have been watching the baseball playoffs you have undoubtably know that Frank TV returns October 21 at 11:00 on TBS and I had a chance recently to chat with the Frank in Frank TV, Frank Caliendo. Here are some of the highlights:

Scooter: Seems like anyone has been talking about recently is politics, did you watch the debate last night?
Frank: No because they don’t say anything so I find it kind of a waste of time. But I’m sure McCain say my friends at least thirty times and Barack Obama talked about change, those two things happened. I haven’t really watched much lately. I have been working on both lately a little bit more. I really hadn’t worked on either that much that far out and the one reason for that comes down to one word and that is Dukakis. Nobody really care about Michael Dukakis anymore. Nobody really cares when you lose. Even John Lovitz has said, “I think that was a waste of time.” So I just been working on Barack more because that is the way it looks to be swinging. I do general stuff, I try to stay away from policies and whatnot anyways.

Scooter: Regardless of who you are going to vote for, do you have a rooting interest on who gets elected from a comedic standpoint?
Frank: I can pull off McCain quite a bit easier being a chubby Caucasian fellow. As far the gimicky goes, but on Frank TV we have Freddy Lockhart who does a doggone good Obama so we are covered either way. I have started working on that more and more, we will see what happens. I tend to wait it out, I’m kind of lazy. It’s like a book report. I’ll wait until the last thing and read the book and then write the book report the last night and that will be election night hopefully.

Scooter: I have seen the first three episodes of the new season and saw the Obama skit, I don’t want to say comedians are taking it easy on Obama, but he doesn’t seem as funny as Bush or Clinton. Is it hard finding that one thing?
Frank: I don’t think we have seen the real Barack Obama, I don’t think we have seen the real John McCain either. These are two guys are trying to get elected. Everything changes after you see them more. Eight years ago they said there was nothing to do with George Bush and we definitely found a lot of things to do there. I think it just takes time. Camera are constantly on people when they are not expecting them now. They are kind of in control of that now because the media is totally on their side, or at least I feel Barack is kind of that way, not so much with McCain. But the media takes it real easy on Barack Obama.
If you are president they start criticizing you. It’s like now you are there, what are you going to do? Everything changes, your game plan changes. The media tends to be a little more left than right. The Democratic candidate always tends to get it a little bit easier I think just by watching it. I have just been working with sports on NFL Fox and I am kind of used to that with the sports mentality. We can have a great week, and do a great comedy bit and next week they’ll go, well what’s next? It because sport, and even politics is “what have you doing now? You did that and that’s great but stop all the accolades and get onto the next thing.” That’s what Obama is saying about McCain, “Okay, we get what you’ve done, now what are you going to do?” I think that’s our society and I think that is what we look for, what are the answers. I don’t know if anyone has the answers right now and that’s why they keep trying to change the subject.

Frank Caliendo as George BushScooter: Are you at all sad that you only have four more months left of Bush?
Frank: I will do him forever. I will do less but nobody’s going to forget him, he will be around. Jimmy Carter is still around. Bill Clinton is still around. They always find stuff to do. They are always in the limelight somehow. I think that is the funniest question I get, “What are you going to do now that Bush is out of office?” Do you think we are going to forget about him? Two term presidents are around for a long time. Their first term is always interesting, the second term is typically scandal. Because they open up everything they have done wrong in the second half of it, Clinton, Bush. I think he’ll be around for a long time.

Scooter: You have already taped episodes up until election night, are you at all sad that you will miss out on the Palin stuff if McCain loses?
Frank: No. I would not want to do anything right now anyways. I think Saturday Night Live has that, Tina Fey has that anyone else who is doing it looks like they are just copying that. Unfortunately that might not even be the case, but really Saturday Night Live has that cornered. You have millions of hits on YouTube and you have everyone in the media talking about one person’s impression, it would be kind of a waste to try and do it. I think that’s a bad move by some and I’m glad we’re not touching on Sarah Palin because I think it’s overdone already. Well not overdone, I just think Tina Fey has a hold on, I just think she got it as hers and people can try to do it ut they are not going to do it as well and the are going to compare them to Tina. So why even do it?

Scooter: Looking at the new season are there any new impressions you are doing?
Frank: There are a bunch of people haven’t seen before, James Gandolfini, John McCain, we do some other character in there near the end like the white Chris Rock of Finland. All the people Freddy and Mike (MacRae), the new cast members do all that stuff people haven’t seen any of it before. They have a bunch of new stuff but I really can’t remember what most we do, it all tends to blur to me.

Scooter: About how long does it take you to come up with an impression, from the first time you go I want to try out this guy to you are confident enough to show people?
Frank: Well it’s different. People when they think of impressions they think they have to be impersonations, but I really don’t think of it that way. I think if they are funny and they work well enough, that’s all it is. All you need to do is get the idea across. I don’t try to fool anybody, I don’t look like president Bush, I’m just Frank with a wig on. If it is part of my stand up act it is longer than something if we have a good premise for a sketch. It could take months and I can never get there, there are plenty of impressions that I can’t do.
Barkley took me three months, that was quicker. I have been working on the Barack hard for a week or two now and have been working on him a little for months. McCain went pretty quickly. John Madden, if you look at him six years ago and you look at me do it now, it really sucked six years ago. It’s interesting how different it is. My job is basically I get paid to practice. So I am always doing it on stage and whatever and it just gets better overtime. It is easier to get get into the voice and keep it there the more you do it.

Scooter: Speaking of Barkley, do you run into him at Turner office party or events?
Frank: There is a thing on YouTube with me and him talking on TNT (see below) and he’s a funny guy. Charles kind of likes me but he doesn’t think he acts like that. He really doesn’t act like that, the bit is really Charles says what he is thinking and in my bit it’s like taking Charles and making a little bit crazier and then saying what he’s thinking, that’s where the funny comes from is the goofiness of what he’s saying. Charles thinks of himself as a truth teller and I think as the Charles Barkley character that I do as a truth teller too it’s just that he’s a crazy truth teller.

Frank Caliendo Impersonates Charles Barkley

Scooter: How long does it take you to get into the Barkley character with the make up and everything?
Frank: Makeup’s probably three hours, it’s pretty much the same as Terry Bradshaw or Dr. Phil, anyone with a bald cap. What you don’t see is I’m really pretty pale, so any character is going to have a face whether it is Caucasian or an African American. They actually take about the same amount of time. People would think it would be different but it isn’t. It is really just a bald cap then putting on the makeup or other character it’s doing a nose or a beard. Charles has a little bit of a moustache, but that’s all we do with him.

Frank Caliendo as Charles BarkleyScooter: Do you have a favorite character that you do?
Frank: Bush, Madden, Pacino. Barkley is fun because I can just call people knuckleheads all day long. When they become more than impressions and they become these goofy character like Pacino to me is not about Al Pacino anymore, it’s about this crazy guy who is amazed by everything. Bush is like a little kid type character. Both characters are more fun because there is more to do and you can do different things as opposed to something from a movie or being the actor. Like when you do a Robin Williams sketch, it kind of hard to find a sketch because all you can really do is be all over the place. There is really no take on that other than be crazy and wild and annoy somebody. I love doing the Robin Williams impression but it is hard to find something different to do to make sense and be organic.

Scooter: Are there any impressions you may have tried in the bathroom and you just thought, this is never going to see the light of day?
Frank: Tons of them. I can’t even do a good Joe Pesci. I used to use Chris Berman as an example and now people go, (in a Berman voice) “Hey this is going to be a great football Sunday Jaws.” And they go, “well that was pretty good.” Well I can’t use that anymore. So there are plenty. Even like the Barack, it’s not that good yet. Do I do them in my act or on TV, no not really. Radio is really where I go to talk about it because you can bounce things off of people see what their reactions are and they can help you with it and actually structure and mold the impression kind of as you there like a work shop, sitting down with writers and making something better. Radio is really where I go to test things.

Scooter: What would you say was the easiest impression for you to get right off the bat?
Frank: Barkley as of recent, that only took a few months to get it to a point where people were like, “wow, that was really good.” Most of the one’s I’m known for like Madden, those took time to get there, they are so much better now then they were just a short time ago. Also Keenu Reeves, all you have to go it, “whoa, that’s totally cool.” Some just come about then on accident like Jim Rome I was just (starts getting into Rome) talking like this, not even trying to do it, guess what, became incredible. How great is that? (Back to normal voice) If the cadence is good, for some reason some cadences are just easier.

Scooter: What kind of television do you watch?
Frank: I seem to be attracted to death shows. I don’t watch any comedy really, I always watch legal things, Raising the Bar on TNT. I tend to watch the legal type shows, CSI’s, Law and Order’s, that kind of stuff. I like twists and plots and comedy, most of the time I can see most of what’s coming in comedy. Being in the business it is kind of a curse knowing how they are put together. That would be my answer, lots of old cartoons like the Super Friends can never hurt.

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