TV Guide may have listed David Caruso’s decision to bolt NYPD Blue as one of television’s 25 biggest blunders, but for many comedians it was more like a godsend. Were it not for Caruso’s premature exit, he might never have wound up as Lt. Horatio Caine on CSI: Miami, a character whose omnipresent sunglasses, deep monotone and cheesy one-liners have been spoofed by, among others, Jim Carrey, Betty White and Calgary-born comedian Roman Danylo.
Danylo, who now lives in Vancouver, first began impersonating the oft-mocked actor on CTV’s Comedy Inc. in sketches advertising the “David Caruso School of Acting,” which purported to offer courses such as “Monotone 101.” Inspired by the more than 250,000 hits the clips have drawn on YouTube, he’s donning the sunglasses again for CSI: Calgary (the letters stand for “Comedy Sketch Improvisation” this time). Along with fellow comedians Diana Frances and Nathan Clark, Danylo will mix a send-up of the show with other sketches and some improv comedy. And while he’ll no doubt play Caruso’s tics for laughs again, he actually claims to admire him.
“I’m a big fan of that David Caruso acting style,” he says with apparent sincerity. “It’s a lot like William Shatner in the strange pauses and the weird inflections and the über hero that they both are.”
Whether or not audiences share this high regard for Caruso, Danylo says they’ve responded to the comedy show enthusiastically since it debuted in Kamloops last June, the first of seven B.C. cities it’s appeared in. Though he thinks the concept becomes funnier the smaller the town it’s spoofing — he laughs at the idea of a “CSI: Brooks” — he’s found it easy to tailor the show to each location, and expects returning to his hometown will make it even easier.
“Every city has a seedy part of town, a dodgy bar that everybody knows, and there’s always a town nearby that that town makes fun of,” he says. “And being from Calgary, I should be able to put in a lot of that without having to do as much research as I do in some of the other cities.”
In the show’s first half, the trio will intersperse scenes from a CSI-style “case” with other sketches familiar from Comedy Inc., such as a tantric sex guru “perpetually at the point of climax” and a passionate accountant who gets almost as excited about his own work. Although the sketches are scripted, Danylo says audience participation always keeps things interesting.
“You really never know what an audience member is going to do once you get them up onstage. For example, we have some interactive sketches where we have an audience member participate in what we call the ‘guy standing competition,’ and we’ve had some of them get a little bit too into it, believe that they’re in the middle of a real competition.”
Audience members will also shape the second half by offering suggestions for improv to the cast. Danylo has learned how to get around the usual suspects on this front, though, so fans of sophomoric humour may be disappointed.
“The more creative the audience is with their suggestions, the better for the show too, I think.”
Although he doesn’t have any more CSI shows planned after Calgary, Danylo hopes to tour Saskatchewan later this year and may return to B.C. And while CBS hasn’t confirmed if CSI: Miami will return after this season, Caruso will likely remain the butt of Danylo’s jokes for a while yet. But does he ever wonder what the actor would think of his impression?
“I hope he would understand that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”