In a statement on his site, comedian and impersonator Frank Caliendo announced today that he would be ending his run at the Monte Carlo resort and casino in Las Vegas this coming spring.
That's eight-and-a-half years short of his 10-year contract, which Caliendo began in October 2009.
Caliendo cited his family, and a desire to pursue projects outside of Vegas and in TV and movies, for the early split.
"Performing at Monte Carlo is an experience I won't soon forget. From day one, the support from the staff and fans has been amazing. However, the demands of traveling from Phoenix and away from my family have been harder than I anticipated. With this move, I hope to take advantage of opportunities in television and film that will allow me to spend more time as a husband and a father."
No hard feelings from the Monte Carlo, according to the statement from resort/casino President Anton Nikodemus: "Frank has become a part of the Monte Carlo family over the last year. We absolutely love having him here, as have our guests, but we understand that family should always come first. We wish Frank every happiness and thank him for the time spent with us."
Caliendo still appears regularly on FOX NFL Sunday. Here is his performance from this past Sunday, featuring his impersonation of Jay Leno. Roll it.
We've got ourselves a big Monday here, which means it's time to catch up on what's been happening in comedy and see if we missed anything. First up, what funny things from comedians have I posted recently over on The Laugh Track?
But that's not all. There was also some comedy in the news. Such as, for instance, this, that and the other thing:
If you watch any of the Major League Baseball playoffs on TBS, you'll end up seeing quite a bit of Frank Caliendo as the network promotes the second season of Frank TV, which returns Oct. 21. Caliendo also pops up quite a bit in TV ads for Dish TV service, which makes for, frankly, a lot of Frank, as well as a lot of images and voices of his impersonations. But you won't see him do Sarah Palin, so to speak. For one thing, they taped the 10 new episodes before Palin became newsworthy. For another, well, let Caliendo explain it:
"We won't have a Palin impression," he wrote to me last night. "But I think SNL has the market on that anyway. It already seems kind of mainstream...so I don't miss it on the show. That's what everyone is doing right now anyway...ripping her...so it seems like that it's fresh that we aren't. Everything is perspective. I just look at stuff positively."
Which means he's not too worried about the criticism he has gotten so far from the ads or from the first season. There's a lot of snark online (just search his name in blogland). I have always enjoyed seeing Caliendo's live stand-up. It seems as though much of the criticism about his TV effort is centered around his looks and how he may not look like the people whose voices and mannerisms he's embodying. Here's Caliendo's take on that:
"I really don't read any criticism. To me, looking like the person doesn't really matter if you have the essence. That's all it's about. I'm not an impersonator...I'm just out there trying to do some funny stuff. Some poeple aren't wired to get past simple visuals...some are...everyone is different. Criticizing is easy, being funny is the hard part. Ha. Most people who criticize have never tried what they're judging. The key is that people are watching. Lots of people. You'll never get everyone to like you...and all you need is a small percentage of people to like you."
After the jump, a behind-the-scenes clip and some quotes Caliendo gave during a conference call yesterday.
The second season of Frank TV comes to TBS on Oct. 21. You certainly have seen a lot of Frank Caliendo and his many impersonations on TV in the year since his own sketch show debuted last November, with plenty of ads not just for his show but also for other services. Viewers seem to be split on Caliendo. Either they love him, or they don't. The critics tend to focus on Caliendo's look (particularly on mainstays he doesn't look like at all) instead of on his voices. I've found him to be quite proficient onstage during his stand-up, particularly when he does a medley of impersonations, and yes, your enjoyment of Caliendo's stand-up act has depended almost entirely upon how much John Madden you can handle. Caliendo's George W. Bush also is a winner. As for translating the voices into actual costumes and makeup for sketches, well, we can still have a healthy debate about how well that's working. Let's check back in October and see what we think. The new season also adds fellow impersonators Mike MacRae and Freddy Lockhart to the cast, so that may sway your opinion as well as mine. In the meantime...
Here is a new bit he's got involving Republican presidential candidate John McCain:
And here is his take on Democrat Barack Obama (note: Caliendo not trying to be Obama; that's Lockhart):
The New York Comedy Festival today announced it has entered a multi-year partnership deal with Comedy Central, which means Caroline Hirsch's annual celebration of big-name comedy in the Big Apple now will get a bigger TV presence. The deal includes an annual Comedy Central special, and perhaps more. So the fifth New York Comedy Festival, running Nov. 5-9, 2008, in varied venues around Manhattan, unveils this early lineup:
11/5: Frank Caliendo, Carnegie Hall
11/5: “We Have a Winner” moderated by Lizz Winstead, 92nd Street Y
11/6: Louis C.K., They’re With Me, Town Hall
11/6: Katt Williams, Live In Concert, Carnegie Hall
11/7: Carlos Mencia: At Close Range, Avery Fisher Hall
11/7: An Evening with Craig Ferguson, Town Hall
11/7: Writers Speak! A Potentially Regrettable Evening with the Writers of The Daily Show, Paley Center
11/8: Tracy Morgan: Coming Back Home, Apollo Theater
11/8: Sarah Silverman and Friends, Hammerstein Ballroom
11/8: Joel McHale Live at Town Hall, Town Hall
11/8: Late Night with Conan O’Brien Writers’ Panel Discussion, Paley Center
11/9: Brian Regan Live in Concert, Avery Fisher Hall
11/9: B.J. Novak and Friends, Town Hall
Tickets start going on sale at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Thursday, Aug. 7. They still have to release the names and special events happening during that week at Carolines. Plenty of big names, though, on the slate, including several repeat performers from last year. Louis CK rocked Town Hall last year, so already looking forward to that. We'll see how McHale and Novak handle the larger stage. Tracy Morgan plays the Apollo. Sarah Silverman moves from last year's Carnegie Hall to this year at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Carlos Mencia? The Late Night writers talk should be very interesting, coming as it does near the end of the road for some of them as the show prepares to move to California.
If you thought you'd seen enough of those TV commercials in which impersonator Frank Caliendo promotes his sketch comedy show through his various celebrity characters, well, get ready for a new round of apologies from Frank. TBS announced today it has ordered eight more episodes. The network that's trying to make its bones as a center for comedy, ahem, reported that 3.2 million viewers tuned into the Frank TV launch in November, with the series averaging 2.1 million viewers during its first run.
Here's the obligatory press release statement: "Frank is one of the country's most popular performers for a reason: He's simply the best at what he does," said Michael Wright, senior vice president in charge of the Content Creation Group for TBS and sister networks TNT and TCM. "FRANK TV has resonated with audiences because his style of comedy is so accessible. Frank has a very appealing everyman sensibility. He laughs at the same things we all laugh at in the popular culture around us. And the show's sketches catch that comedic point of view perfectly. We were thrilled by the audience response to the show, and can't wait to come back with more, even funnier, episodes."
Comedy Central's annual "Stand-Up Showdown" airs today, rebroadcasting the top 20 stand-up specials as voted online by fans over the past month. It's airing now!
The full schedule/countdown...which began at 11:30 a.m. today...(with applicable taping season)
20) Loni Love (season 11)
19) Doug Benson (season 8)
18) Chelsea Handler (season 11)
17) Steve Byrne (season 10)
16) Maria Bamford (season 11)*
15) Rich Vos (season 7)*
14) Dane Cook (season 3)
13) Stephen Lynch (season 12)**
12) Mike Birbiglia (season 10)*
11) Demetri Martin (season 8)
10) Mitch Hedberg (season 1)
9) Jim Gaffigan (season 3)
8) Pablo Francisco (season 4)
7) Kyle Cease (season 10)
6) Mitch Fatel (season 11)
5) Lewis Black (season 6)*
4) Frank Caliendo (season 8)
3) Lisa Landry (season 11)
2) Josh Sneed (season 11)
1) Jeff Dunham (his Spark of Insanity hourlong special)
* These comedians have multiple half-hour CCPs. Rich Vos has one upcoming this season.
** Stephen Lynch is the only one from this current crop of CCPs to make the list. Which, of course, is unfair to the many comedians this season who also taped with Lynch but haven't gotten on the air yet. Then again, this whole "showdown" is essentially just a test to see which comedian wants to mobilize his or her fans to vote early and often for them to get an extra TV airing. Really, that's it. No big cash prize. No trophy. But it certainly got us paying attention to Comedy Central on a Sunday in January, right? Of course, if I were one of the comedians who made the top 20, I'd probably still feel pretty good about it (while also looking at the other comedians who got listed ahead of me and behind me and wondering where I stood, which is why you have to realize and remind yourself that this isn't a "showdown" at all).
Short notice tonight, but wanted to let you know of comedians appearing this week on Late Show with David Letterman, the only WGA-approved late-night show of choice.
Tonight: Frank Caliendo shows his impersonations and explains his TBS show. Tuesday: Don Rickles plugs the DVD release of his documentary. Friday: Jim Gaffigan will likely mention bacon!
Conan and Leno aren't putting their guest appearances online so as to avoid picket-crossing hassles, but I'll keep my eyes peeled. Saw Elon Gold on Leno the other night. Christopher Titus, too. Conan, meanwhile, has really been upfront about mentioning the plight of the striking writers and about killing time. I saw him devote a full 10 minutes to a hilarious pre-taped segment interview with one of his producers. Then again, past episodes of Conan can be viewed on the NBC site online. Which is at the heart of the WGA negotiations. Also will be keeping you updated on goings-on with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, so don't you worry.
Before I get to recapping the year in comedy, circa 2007, let's look back at some of my more illuminating, insightful and interesting comedy interviews from the year.
My sit-down with Ricky Gervais has to take the top spot in my mind, because his strongly held opinions on sticking to your creative guns and not sacrificing your beliefs in your own sense of humor (and humour) are words that any creative artists -- whether they're comedians, musicians, writers or actors -- can live by.
A close second, then, has to have been my September face-to-face with Dane Cook. Arguably the biggest headliner in the country this year and last, in terms of tickets and CDs sold, Cook met me in a Manhattan hotel lounge as part of his promotional tour for Good Luck Chuck. But we barely talked about the movie, instead tackling every question you've probably wanted to hear Cook answer, and then some. He even brought up Louis CK!
Speaking of whom, Louis CK was just one of the many other bright lights of comedy I got to talk to at length in 2007 -- the others included Nick Swardson, Christian Finnegan, Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Eddie Brill, Bob Saget, Artie Lange, Doug Benson, Damon Wayans, Charlie Murphy, Frank Caliendo and Tim Minchin. Of course, there were hundreds of other comedians I got to witness and talk to this past year, and hopefully, I'll get to tell you more about all of them in 2008.
Now that I've had a chance to rest and gather my thoughts, a few things still left to be said about The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
For one thing, I'm still not really sure what Ellen DeGeneres was trying to accomplish with "Ellen's Really Big Show" at Caesars Palace. They say you shouldn't critique a TV taping, because it all looks much better once it's edited for broadcast, but really...this show was a really big dud. DeGeneres had talked up this special as an attempt to rejuvenate the variety show. Only the variety show doesn't need rejuvenating. Her guests included jugglers, acrobats, and the quick-change artists who had already made a splash on America's Got Talent. And that show isn't going anywhere, considering its relatively high TV ratings and the ongoing Writers Guild strike. DeGeneres also included a nod to Ed Sullivan. But isn't David Letterman doing something similar with his odd assortment of guests with their stupid human tricks every night (when not on strike)?
Frank Caliendo impresses you much more in person doing stand-up than on his fledgling TV show, which only makes me question Barry Katz (his show's executive producer) that much more.
One thing you often hear about The Comedy Festival is how it's built for headlining acts and not for showcasing up-and-coming talent. But I saw plenty of industry people and tourists checking out the so-called smaller shows such as "Unprotected Sketch!" and Broadband Theatre. And any chance for Kurt Braunohler, Kristen Schaal and Reggie Watts to perform before new audiences is a good thing. The Broadband show, which included performances by Pete & Brian, the folks from Blerds.com, Chelsea Peretti, GarageComedy.com -- featuring the talents of Brody Stevens (whom I still fondly remember from his days in Seattle when Jews and Samoans would take over the world, or at least your cable access TV), and a new Funny or Die video (see below).
Another fun festival fact: Comedy industry lounges attract all sorts, and in Vegas, they bring out the other comedians performing on the Strip, including Carrot Top (cover of that week's Las Vegas Weekly) and George Wallace (performing across the street from Caesars), plus other comedians who may or may not have coincidentally scheduled gigs in Vegas that weekend. Oh, really? There are agents and casting directors in town? Who knew?
Jon Stewart and Katt Williams were down the Strip for the opening of Planet Hollywood Resort, but didn't make it over to Caesars.
And finally, kudos also should go to the HBO comedy festival staff, who managed to maintain solid morale under difficult working circumstances -- whomever thought it'd be a great idea to announce that HBO would be streamlining its comedy operations before the festival?! I wholly sympathize with their situation, particularly since the festival represented a turning point in my own career as well. Good luck to us all. May we meet again under happier conditions.
And Caliendo had the same reaction to his incessant TBS promo ads that you likely had. "To all of you who watch baseball, 'I'm sorry,'" he said. Those were his first words to me backstage, and they're how he opens his stand-up special "All Over the Place" that airs tonight on TBS. To those who don't know Caliendo, the ads may not have given you an accurate portrayal of what he's like onstage or what you should expect out of his sketch show. "No, not at all," he agreed. "But it wasn't supposed to. It was supposed to get you curious as to what this show was going to be."
That's what his stand-up special aims to do. "It's an introduction to me," Caliendo said. "I did a Comedy Central Presents, which was about 30 percent of what I wanted to do."
The other 70 percent showcases his wide and dizzying array of voices, some of which football fans already know from seeing Caliendo on FOX's NFL pre-game show (Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson appear in a taped bit for his special) or at one of his club shows over the years. The title refers to his style of celebrity impersonation. "My idols were always Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams, and they were always all over the place," Caliendo said. And so is he. During the course of an hour, you'll hear him introduce his versions of President George W. Bush, Charles Barkley, Bill Clinton, Yoda, Jay Leno, Ahnold, Al Pacino, Jeff Goldblum, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Richards, Andy Rooney, Jim Rome, Robin Williams and of course, John Madden. "If I don't do certain things like John Madden, people get mad," Caliendo told me. The real difference between Caliendo and most other impersonators is how he uses his voices in making observations about the people, and later taking what could be a simple joke and weaving it through several voices for his callbacks and tags. He said it keeps it fun for him. "I didn't want to do 10 to 15 minutes of one impersonation straight," he said. "I'm trying to get that going earlier in the special, introducing them at a more frantic pace."