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Eric Lyden impersonates big names to get attention.

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Eric Lyden's celebrity takes on Mel Gibson, Ray Liotta, and a pumped-up Santa Claus often come in handy onstage. He appreciates them even more in out-of-the-way places like cruise-ship lounges. "When I feel like I'm losing it — when people start thinking about the buffet — I say, 'This is Captain Arnold Schwarzenegger. I promise you we won't go down.' All of a sudden, I get them back," says Lyden, who's in town this weekend to perform in the Flats. "It's like a big, shiny object you can wave in front of them." The New Jersey native has worked the East Coast comedy-club circuit since dropping out of a community college and ditching his "lofty" position as a Sears store clerk on the 2-to-10-p.m. shift. Sometimes, Lyden would ask to punch in for the 9-to-5 grind. "That was depending on how early in the day I wanted to hate my life," he moans.Now that his résumé boasts gigs as an opening act for veteran comics like Joan Rivers and Gabe "Welcome Back, Kotter" Kaplan, Lyden has started to score a few acting jobs. Take the recent promo he shot for the History Channel's Mega Movers that ended up on YouTube.com. The user comments say it all. "One says, 'Great graphics. Bad actors,'" says Lyden. "I checked the address on it. It was my dad." Lyden goes on at 8 and 10:15 p.m. today and tomorrow and 7 p.m. Sunday at the Improv, 2000 Sycamore Street on the West Bank of the Flats. Tickets are $11 to $17. Call 216-595-4677 or visit www.improv2.com.
Fri., Dec. 21, 7 p.m.; Dec. 21-22, 8 & 10:15 p.m., 2007

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