11 p.m. Tuesdays
He’s Bush, Clinton, Barkley, Gandolfini, Letterman, Limbaugh, Madden, Osbourne, Trump and Yoda rolled into one. Ace impressionist Frank Caliendo does ’em all — and more — on “Frank TV,” which returns to TBS for a second season beginning Tuesday.
Since Caliendo is best known as so many other people, it seemed only fair to devote some space to items of note about the former “Mad TV” star and his show. In other words, let’s let Frank be Frank.
1. Caliendo is genuinely nice, and his comedy is tame by design. “I’m not there to attack people,” he says in a phone interview. “I’m out there to have fun with people I think are fun to watch. I’m just trying to make people laugh. I’m not trying to hurt anybody. Some comedians teach you stuff; some are philosophers. I am neither of those. I’m just a goofball. Steve Martin didn’t teach you anything, but you walked away laughing. I’m not saying I’m Steve Martin, but I help people get away from some of the tough things.”
2. The first impression he ever did: Jay Leno.
3. He acknowledges that the first season of his show — five episodes that went on around the time of the writers’ strike last year — had some rough moments. “We couldn’t fix stuff. We got to the point where we had a lot done and things had to go as they were. We couldn’t do the best show possible. But I was very happy with the shows at the time.”
4. After doing the on-air part of the show almost entirely by himself last year, this season he has help. “I originally wanted more of a cast, but with budget and time, we couldn’t do that. Freddy Lockhart came in the audition process. I’ve known Mike MacRae for years from standup. He does some impressions in his act, but he’s not an ‘impressionist.’ I brought their tapes to the president and vice president of the network and said, ‘I think they should be on the show,’ and they said, ‘You know what? You’re right.’ They never met the guys. They trusted me, they trusted their gut and they cast them on the show.”
5. “Frank TV” should be much better than it is. When the sketch idea is great — as it is in his Oliver Stone-makes-the-movie-“Clinton” bit — his impressions are off. (His Al Gore is abysmal.) If the impressions are working, as they usually are, the writing is weak. And sometimes everything’s a mess (his “Bachelor” parody is embarrassingly unfunny). He’s such a likeable guy that you want him to succeed. But wow, some of “Frank TV” is just unwatchable. Or as his Charles Barkley would say, “Trrrrble.”
6. On the plus side, he’s performing his standup act at the Murat Theatre on Jan. 10, 2009. “The best description I ever had somebody say [of his live act] was Robin Williams meets Jim Carrey. I love Jonathan Winters and Robin Williams, and that’s the way I went with the impressions. It’s making observations: Bush can’t get to the end of the sentence. He can’t think of that last word, and you’re kind of rooting for him to get it. Pacino yells in movies for no reason. The act is always evolving. You’ve got to do some of the stuff people have seen before and you’ve got to do stuff people haven’t seen. I’m trying to find the mix that makes everybody happy.”
7. He has a new standup DVD called “All Over the Place.”
8. Don’t ask him who he can’t impersonate. “That’s always an interview stumper because I can’t do it. There are thousands I can’t do.”