Melissa Villaseñor on Her Sebastian Maniscalco Impression That ‘Saturday Night Live’ Never Aired
Being a comic impressionist is a trap. You get famous for your uncanny ability to mimic celebrities, creating caricatures with exaggerated vocal tics and contorted facial expressions. But gifted mimics from Frank Caliendo to Darrell Hammond have dealt with the other side of that coin — sure, your Bill Clinton impression is dead-on, but who the hell are you?
That might be why Melissa Villaseñor seems to be making a hard left turn on her “New Things” comedy tour. “My stand up is about myself,” she recently told The New York Post. “There’s impressions, but it’s not famous people. It’s people around me, my family, so there’s always a lot of voices.”
It’s a smart move, but a risky one. Some faction of ticket-buyers is coming to hear Villaseñor’s impressions, so too far a departure will likely leave a few people disappointed. Maybe that’s why the new tour isn’t completely walking away from her signature talent. “I’m bringing back J-Lo. Ash Ketchum from Pokémon and Pikachu and Schwarzenegger. They’re all very silly, but tied to my life in some way.” Makes sense — it’s how she broke out in the business in the first place.
There is one impression in particular that Villaseñor is bummed she never got to show off on Saturday Night Live: “My impression of Sebastian Maniscalco. I did him twice at dress rehearsal. There was one where I was him on a ‘Family Feud,’ and it did really well but sometimes it doesn’t work out. Maybe the host doesn’t like their piece or you don’t know the reason.”
Other finished material that didn’t make it onto the 30 Rock stage could find its way onto Villaseñor’s tour. “There are also a few comedy songs I wrote for SNL that didn’t get picked for music videos,” she says, “so I’m trying to figure out a way to make those happen for the live show because they’re so fun.”
Showing off her musical talents is one more way to break from the comic-impressionist mold, something she’ll likely need to do for a sitcom she’s developing. Stand-up rooted in a comic’s own reality is where a lot of the great TV comedies start. “It’s more my story, more my point of view, more voices, more singing. It’s everything,” she says. “There are no rules.”