If there was ever a problem getting through a performance, Frank Caliendo would guide you through.
The comedian structures his act like a stream of 100 celebrity consciousnesses. Voices can enter at any time. If the audience does not respond to a professional athlete, Caliendo will invoke actor Morgan Freeman to make light of the tepid response. He does not care and it makes him funnier.
But luckily for Caliendo and the few hundred people at Eisenhower Auditorium on Sunday, the laughs were abundant. Following a well-received performance by opener George Cantor, Caliendo stepped out on stage and immediately broke the “fourth wall.” He introduced an impression of the average audience member and put the character in scenarios and conversations with some of his best-known voices.
“Why isn’t he doing (John) Madden?” Caliendo whined as an audience member. “I don’t get it.”
For his first bit, Caliendo scrunched his face, twirled his hair and out came Donald Trump’s voice. The comedian seamlessly segued into the odd mannerisms and nonsensical words of Bill Cosby.
Caliendo explained what made these celebrities ripe for impression. For Trump, it was his facial expressions and unusual way of saying words like “luxurious.” For Cosby, Caliendo compared the comedy legend’s movements to jumping rope under water.
By the middle of the show, he was bouncing from one voice to the next: Charles Barkley, Larry the Cable Guy, Al Pacino, Jeff Goldblum, Dr. Phil, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
It wasn’t until Caliendo got to his most popular impression that he stayed on the person for an extended time. It was the voice that got him noticed on ESPN and Fox Sports — former NFL analyst and coach John Madden. Once on Madden, Caliendo shared a long rant about the video game Super Mario Bros. In Madden’s voice, he explained Mario’s story as an Italian immigrant whose girlfriend was kidnapped by a gorilla.
The longer the bit went, the louder the audience howled. For most comics, that might have been the finale. But, never to disappoint, Caliendo took requests from the crowd. Most were calls for his sports personalities. Many were featured on a parody documentary aired on ESPN this year.
“There are more characters on ESPN than on the Cartoon Network,” Caliendo said.
Just as he began, Caliendo guided the audience to the end. He shared his best Barkley, Bill Walton and John Gruden impressions. He wrapped up the set with a rousing rendition of Robin Williams’ one-man performance of “Wizard of Oz,” thanked the crowd and, with after one last Bush impression, called it a night.