Friday, July 11, 2008

"Wow, you guys are being really critic-y"

The subject line quote is courtesy of "Frank TV" star Frank Caliendo, who discovered quickly what a tough room the TCA can be.

Because press tour is, in theory, an information-gathering exercise, performing for the critics in general and performing comedy in particular can be a minefield. Sometimes, it'll get a big laugh, like a session last year for "The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show" where the stars not only sang for us, but spent the entire press conference in character. But if you come out, do jokes and then fail to get a laugh, well... there's a reason comics refer to it as "dying."

So Caliendo came out and trotted out his usual impressions -- President Bush, John Maddem, Robin Williams -- and if crickets could survive within the all-powerful air-conditioning system of the Beverly Hilton, you would have heard them chirping.

Not to be deterred, Caliendo kept going, no matter how stony the faces in the audience were.

"You guys are really starting to feel like you don't need to be here for this," he quipped after yet another joke bombed. Again, silence.

But persistence has its virtues, and midway through the session, Caliendo randomly did his impression of The Penguin from "Batman" (that, or he was doing his impression of Jon Stewart's impression of Dick Cheney) and the chuckles were audible -- so much so that Caliendo literally jumped up out of his chair, raised his arms in triumph and declared, "That's the laugh I've been looking for! You're finally getting it!"

And, of course, once you get a crowd to laugh, it's easier to keep them laughing. The volume never rose much above, say, a guffaw, but he also got good responses to impressions both familiar (Charles Barkley) and esoteric (Jeff Goldblum).

And, in between, we managed to ask a few questions. I brought up the plague-like barrage of "Frank TV" ads that aired during last year's baseball playoffs, and asked whether Caliendo had maybe asked his bosses to tone it down this fall. Sadly, the answer was no.

"They worked," he said, while acknowledging that some of that work involved annoying baseball fans with the same three clips played ad nauseum. He then apologized in advance for TBS' plan to show even more "Frank TV" spots this time around.

8 comments:

jim treacher said...

Wait, you can get a bunch of TV critics to laugh by slamming the Bush administration? No way!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Actually, no. We didn't laugh at any of his Bush stuff. The Cheney thing was a joke on my part, one that no doubt bombed just as much. Caliendo was just doing Burgess Meredith.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that comedians whose bread and butter are impressions aren't very good at actual joke telling. Makes me think Jimmy Fallon may not have been the best choice to take over for Conan.

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Uhhh... Jimmy Fallon's an impressionist?

Nicole said...

I thought Jimmy Fallon's comedic ability was that of laughing during the sketches... which is actually perfect for the kiss-ass part of the interviews.

jim treacher said...

Fallon actually did a pretty good Howard Stern. Might have been his very first appearance on SNL, I think. Way before Lorne fell in love with him and he realized he could stop trying.

Pandyora said...

Jimmy Fallon also does a pretty good Adam Sandler. But given that Sandler himself isn't particularly funny, perhaps it should only count as half an impression...

Mo Ryan said...

I was not one of those critics who failed to laugh. Because I ran, I ran so far away. I would rather be boiled in acid than watch this guy's show.

Good line about the crickets though. It's true, you could store raw meat in that dang ballroom. It's cold.