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30 Jun 2017

A Madden-ing Performer: Funnyman Frank Caliendo Brings his Standup act to Morongo

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Frank Caliendo. Frank Caliendo.

If you watched Mad TV in the early ’00s, you probably remember the guy who played George W. Bush and John Madden. You probably also remember he was on Fox NFL Sunday for a while.

That guy is Frank Caliendo, and he’ll be bringing his standup show to Morongo Casino Resort Spa at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7.

During a recent phone interview, Caliendo talked about his five seasons on Mad TV.

“The opportunity to be on TV and do different characters with the impressions and different makeup was always great,” Caliendo said. “The disadvantage was going up against Saturday Night Live: They can be live and up to the minute. Ninety-nine percent of Mad TV was (made) two weeks in advance. It’s amazing to think how Saturday Night Live is able to put that show on. Some people got flustered with Mad TV, but Saturday Night Live was always going to get the accolades and the attention, because something could happen that day, and they could add it to the show and make multiple jokes about it. But Mad TV was great for trying to do different things and learning about acting from the ground up.”

When I asked about his George W. Bush impression, Caliendo imitated Bush’s voice, telling me: “Always simple, man. Always stuff to do.”

He then returned to his normal voice. “They weren’t sure if they were going to have me doing George W. Bush. They let me do a sketch with Michael McDonald, who was playing John Kerry, and it was a debate sketch. I kind of just took the sketch over, improvising. It just got laugh after laugh. That really was a lot of fun, and a great time for me.”

Caliendo is a football fan, so his Fox NFL Sunday years were also great times for him, he said.

“It was a lot of fun, given I was a Packers fan who grew up in Milwaukee. It definitely was pretty cool to be around those Hall of Fame football people. Some of those sketches worked, and some of them didn’t, but it was pretty amazing, because that’s really what took me to another level. Jimmy Kimmel used to bring me on to do the John Madden sketch with him, and he moved on, and I took over for him and started doing different characters each week. That was a huge deal for me.”

Caliendo is a warrior of the road when it comes to standup comedy, but he said he’s now trying to slow down.

“I’ve done so much over the years that now, I’m actually trying to work more on the acting side,” he said. “I don’t audition stuff, but I’ve been working on the skill set and learning the craft a lot more. I do workshops and take classes. That’s been more of my focus than standup. I’m just doing a casino show here or there, and corporate and private shows once a month, but I’m not on the road like I used to be. I used to be out 45 weekends of the year, and I don’t really want to do that anymore. I’m trying to develop a one-man show and do things outside of the impressions.”

Even though he once impersonated Bush for a living, Caliendo said politics is not his favorite subject. “If you’re listening to me for politics, you’ve got problems,” he said.

Caliendo said it’s his kids who make him laugh more than anything.

“The fact that my daughter, who is 10, wants a YouTube channel—what are you going to do with it?” he said. “My son and I are lazy and play video games, but my son is so lazy that he watches people play video games on YouTube. What is that about? I don’t even get it anymore. Things don’t make sense. The Internet has changed everything. … It’s going to be like that WALL-E movie, where everyone just wheels themselves around.”

Frank Caliendo will perform at 9 p.m., Friday, July 7, at Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon. Tickets are $31 to $124. For more information, call 800-252-4499, or visit www.morongocasinoresort.com.

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