WASHINGTON — Frank Caliendo hears voices in his head.
That is, the voices of celebrity impressions that he has mastered over the years.
Next week, Mr. Caliendo Goes to Washington for a sold-out show at the D.C. Improv on May 30, bringing with him a collection of presidential voices, including President Donald Trump.
“I’ve been doing a Trump [impression] for quite some time, so it was very easy,” Caliendo said, slipping into his best impersonation of the president. “It was simple. It was tremendous. It was ready to go. And right now, let me just say this, Jason, as great as you are, and you are a great guy, let me just say this — this is probably the No. 1 rated segment you’ll ever do.”
In addition to the braggadocios demeanor, what’s the key to doing a Trump impression?
“That’s the other thing Donald Trump can do — he describes a word with a word,” Caliendo said. “He just puts an adverb after it, you know like, ‘That’s tremendously tremendous.'”
You can also expect to hear impressions of other previous presidents.
“When you’re a former president, the questions they ask you are simple. They let you knock them out of the park,” Caliendo said. “With George W. Bush, that’s always great because you never know what he is going to say. They’ll ask you things like, ‘What have you been doing since you’ve been president?’ And he’ll say, ‘Well, uh, I’m not really sure! I guess I’ve been working on my Facebook page, I’ve been Tweetering and playing some Pokemon Go.”
Caliendo can also do a spot-on Barack Obama.
“Ugh, let me be clear. When you do the Barack Obama impression, you talk slow at the beginning and speed up the end,” Caliendo said in perfect cadence.
Is there room for Bill Clinton on our presidential conference call?
“You bet there is! I’m just busy right now!” Caliendo joked.
How does he shift from one voice to the other with rapid-fire recall?
“It’s just part of being brilliant,” Caliendo joked. “I grew up loving Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters and the way they would switch between characters and create scenes. That’s kind of where I saw that and thought, ‘Wow, I think I could do that.’ Once you set them to muscle memory, you can go from voice to voice. … I can see each person as I’m saying them.”
Caliendo’s talent was introduced to the world on “Fox NFL Sunday,” taking over the comic-relief role from Jimmy Kimmel, who left for his own late-night talk show on ABC.
“Kimmel would just needle them and rip them really hard. They were happy when it was me because I was more cherubic and silly,” Caliendo said.
Each week, Caliendo would create original comedy segments with game predictions between analysis by then hosts James Brown, Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long and Jimmy Johnson.
“Can’t stand any of them,” he joked. “They’re great! You usually got one joke per guy, so it better hit, otherwise it’s a waste of time. … The most difficult thing about that segment is that you’re going into a sports audience every week and you have to do comedy. It’s the only thing in the show that’s not organic. … If there wasn’t a story going on in the NFL or something that was too touchy, it was just time to make fun of the guys. They were always good about it.”
The sports audience allowed him to impersonate athletes and coaches, such as Mike Ditka.
“You gotta chew gum first and then you get done chewing them gum, then I insult ya,” Caliendo said. “That’s basically all there is to Ditka.”
His most famous impression is probably John Madden.
“You think of the things you do, the things you don’t do and BOOM!” Caliendo said. “He’s not even in the video game anymore! His own video game with his name on it, they couldn’t take his name off the game because it sold so many copies. It was just branded that. If they went to EA Sports Football, nobody would care, they’d just call it, ‘Madden.’ So they bought him out. They bought his name out and he is not even in it anymore. How crazy is that?”
My personal favorite is his “turrible” impression of Charles Barkley.
“He’s so honest; I love Charles,” he said. “News stations will go to Charles Barkley ’cause he is the only guy willing to tell the truth about everything. … [He said], ‘I want to punch Draymond Green in the face.’ Everyone got upset, so in rare Charles Barkley form, he apologized but the apology was like, ‘I apologize for Draymond Green having such a punchable face.”
How would Jon Gruden describe his chat with WTOP?
“I tell ya what, man, this is the best time I’ve had in my life. I used to work at Hooters, man. Cooking fries. That was nothing compared to this. I coached the Oakland Raiders, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders again. In the meantime, I worked at ‘Monday Night Football’ at ESPN — and nothing has been better than talking to you on the W-TOP.”
Listen to our full conversation with Frank Caliendo below:
WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with Frank Caliendo (Full Interview)