The Italian Almanac

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Baldini & Fiorello

Italian News - August 16

The season’s end of the wildly popular radio program “Viva Radio 2” has left millions of Italian listeners feeling bereft and disconsolate.The show’s popularity lured many famous guests — sports, music and movie stars — to the Rome studios of the state broadcaster RAI to take part in the madcap madness, a mix of talk-show banter and improvisational cabaret, pushing ratings through the roof.

Mostly, though, devoted fans are pining for their daily dose of the show’s star — Rosario Fiorello, better known by his last name alone — and the menagerie of Italian celebrities he so uncannily mimics, from former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to the growly-voiced Sicilian best-selling author Andrea Camilleri to the model and singer Carla Bruni.

Fiorello, 46, is a former D.J. and television entertainer. Despite past successes, he has no intention of returning to the small screen, for now. “People say that when I left television for radio, I was going backwards,” he said. “But I see it as a step forward. It shows that in Italy you can use inferior means to get tremendous results.”

Marco Baldini, one of the main writers, explained the show’s popularity: “It’s because we have fun together. Even at 46, we’re still horsing around.” Mr. Baldini has cast himself as the straight man to Fiorello’s verbal metamorphoses. “And we try not to be vulgar,” he added. This does not mean banishing the puerile altogether. On June 8, before the show went off the air for the summer, Mr. Baldini strutted down the streets wearing flesh-colored underwear, paying a bet that the show’s compilation CD would not go to the top of the charts.

Fiorello’s impersonation of the last president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whose mandate ended in May, was rewarded by an on-air phone call from Mr. Ciampi. The politician unexpectedly called during a show in the spring, thanking Fiorello for “keeping me in line.”