Frank Calieno and Kathy Griffin: Impersonations and Insults

If you had to be ridiculed, say your life depended on someone making fun of you, would you rather be impersonated or insulted?

If you chose impersonation then you’d probably enjoy comic Frank Caliendo. If you chose to be insulted than you’d probably enjoy funny lady Kathy Griffin.

Frank Caliendo

Catch Frank Caliendo this summer in cities like Palm Springs, Minneapolis, Atlantic City and Newport.

The two comedians (the former the quintessential insider and the latter the quintessential outsider) are out on the road this summer bringing their “unique brand of humor” to an auditorium near you.

Caliendo was on MadTV and then starred in his own sketch comedy show, the short-lived and awful FrankTV. He’s best known as the prognosticator on Fox NFL Sunday and foil of Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long (Frank does a men Bradshaw impersonation).

Frank is a very likable guy and seems to have more of an “ahh shucks” attitude then some phony in-your-face pretense. Therefore, his impersonations are always more of a homage than a bitter attack.

Most impressionist make you roll your eyes and sigh in disgust as they continually fall into the same two traps.

First, they do one or two impressions well but in order to round out their repertoire (i.e. have enough material to actually be called an impressionist) they add a bunch of mediocre imitations.

The second mistake impressionist make is they always gravitate towards imitating the most famous celebrities (i.e. presidents and political figures). Yet, the more famous the celebrity is the more they’re impersonated. In other words, those impressions are boring.

Audiences would much rather hear an impersonation of Christian Bale or Dane Cook than impersonations of Presidents George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

Caliendo can do a lot celebrities and he does them all extremely well. His canon includes Robin Williams, Al Pacino, Jay Leno, William Shatner, Donald Trump, Andy Rooney and the cast of Seinfeld. His John Madden is hilarious and his Charles Barkley is worth the price of a Frank Caliendo ticket alone.

Of course, Frank also does President George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.

The downside to Caliendo is he falls into the third trap that plagues the art of impressionism: not having a lot of interesting material. Most impressionist rely on the fact that if they act and sound like a famous person, you’ll laugh.

So don’t attend one of Frank’s shows expecting to hear some esoteric bit about Dr. Phil (another Caliendo impression) and French existentialism or Jim Rome (he does him too) hosting the Tony’s. Caliendo is funny but not cutting edge.

Kathy Griffin on the other hand, will cut you down where you stand and not even rip the stitches from her latest plastic surgery.

Kathy Griffin.

Catch Kathy Griffin this summer in cities like Austin, Livermore, Sarasota, Hollywood and Orlando.

When Griffin isn’t out on the road delighting fans with her salty language and licentious lingo, Hollywood’s favorite straggler is the star of her very own reality show on Bravo, My Life on The D List.

While Caliendo makes fun of the way Barkley pronounces “terrible” or Madden’s robust appetite, Griffin absolutely decimates celebrities and every stupid thing they do.

Some of her targets include Barbara Walters, Celine Dion, Clay Aiken, Paris Hilton, Star Jones, Oprah Winfrey, the Jonas Brothers, Lindsay Lohan and of course Britney Spears.

Griffin doesn’t just attack these people for a simple mispronunciation or an extra serving of pudding, Kathy goes for kill as she calls them out for plastic surgeries, substance abuse, eating disorders and ambiguous sexual orientation.

This caustic but funny approach has put the world’s most famous D-lister on several black lists. She’s band from Conan, Lettermen, Regis and Kelly, Ellen and The View.

These talk shows can’t run the risk of having the incorrigible Kathy Griffin offend some weak-willed mega-celebrity to the point they’ll boycott.

Recently on her show, Griffin introduced legend Don Rickles to her mother. It was quite a poignant moment not only because Rickles reminder Kathy of her father, but her comedy is quite similar to Rickles’—even though his style is charming while Kathy is controversial.

Somehow you always know that a Rickles’ barb is done in jest whereas with Griffin it’s hard to tell if she’s being playful or being venomous. Then again, Rickles was born in a different time with a different class of celebrities. Nowadays, the celebrities of Griffin’s quarry don’t lend themselves to sympathy.

It’s still leaves one to wonder whether her targeted animosity is shtick to sell Kathy Griffin tickets or just her natural disposition.

Does the world have a problem with Kathy Griffin? Or does Kathy Griffin have a problem with the world?

We don’t mean that Griffin should change her act and joke about airline food instead of Britney exposed delicates, but maybe focus her comic energies towards getting talk show producers to like her.

Basically, Land of Punt wants Griffin to heed the words of Jack Donaghy and have the guts and the intelligence to work within the system.

Bottom line, we would like to see more of Kathy Griffin, not less.

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