Punching It Up
Pablo Francisco Brings His Manically Funny Show Back to The Punchline

By Lee Valentine Smith

A conversation with Pablo Francisco is an unpredictable as his manic on-stage personality. He quickly jumps from one pop culture reference or uncanny voice impression to another within the span of a run-on sentence. His rapid-fire delivery and irreverent wit have served him well and his stint on MAD-TV in the '90s solidified his headlining status at the beginning of 2000.

The California-based improvisational performer kicks off his 2018 tour in Georgia with a show at The Loft in Columbus on January 11 followed by a weekend run at the intimate Punchline. Recently, INsite caught up with the hyperactive performer for a long chat before a show in San Diego.

Will material from this tour eventually become the basis of your next special?

Yeah, I'm working up a new hour and we're shooting for Netflix or Comedy Central, they're interested. So in the meantime, I'm just trying to put a little more spice in it and see how it goes. But I'll throw in some old hits with the new bits and some new impersonations. We'll be making fun of a lot of people.

There's so much stuff just ripe for the picking at this point in pop culture.

Oh yeah. I mean look, Mark Wahlberg is in every movie now for cryin' out loud. I'm surprised he's not in the new Star Wars. [He lapses into a frenzied Wahlberg:] 'Darth Vader? Huh? You're my father? I don't get it. Darth Wahlberg?' So we'll have plenty of stuff and maybe even a little Trump here and there. I have to clear my throat to even do Trump. 'It's yuge, yuuuge!'

There are a lot of comedy specials to sort through now and you've been doing them for a long time.

There are a lot of 'em, but this one is going to be a little different. Mine's gonna have some cartoons in it too, so it's like Dave Chappell meets cartoons. I'll set it up and then it'll go to a cartoon of maybe Dog The Bounty Hunter arresting people in Chinatown or something. That kinda thing. So it's basically Family Guy plus In Living Color divided by the square root of Pablo Francisco.

It's a good time for live comedy shows. There were times when some of the bigger clubs had more comics on the bill than people in the audience.

Yeah it's real strong right now. It's just good entertainment. Dinner and movies get a little boring but it still depends on the night. Thursday through Saturday, it's usually packed everywhere. Mondays and Tuesdays are still kinda slow so those are good nights to work out new stuff. Comics usually stick together in groups and sort of watch each other's backs, keepin' an eye out for who's stealing bits and all that. But it's still best to take it as a hobby first and make it into a career later. Put some clips out on You Tube and work at it but still take it as a hobby so it's fun for everybody. About 600 comics go through the Melrose Avenue Improv a month, for example. It's amazing. Every week is like a new Saturday Night Live.

You mentioned You Tube. Social media is good for promotion but doesn't it eat up a lot of material?

Some people kinda wear out their welcome with it, yeah. It's good to put a little on there, slowly. A few minutes here and there.

But if you have an off night, inevitably someone has a cellphone video of it.

Oh yeah, people sneak clips for sure. Sometimes you can take the clips off yourself and sometimes you have to get a legal letter to You Tube and that's a pain. Like, people can put up a clip of me falling off the stage. Ok yeah, I did that. I fell off the stage, I was drunk. I went to AA and then I went to triple A!

Unlike music though, bootlegged comedy really ruins the initial impact of the humor.

Yeah, that moment. It's what we work for, because you have to work for the fresh laughter. Sometimes you've gotta practice in the shower instead of on a stage somewhere. But it's mostly been good for me. Through You Tube, I was able to get gigs in Croatia and Poland and Sweden. I was one of the first to go international and then it was Chris Rock and now there's a bunch of comics working all over the world. A lot of them went through the Naval Bases but for me it was You Tube. It's funny, we're kinda like karaoke stars. Some You Tubers get as much money as people who do TV and some people you know from TV don't even sell out their shows anymore.

Pablo Francisco will perform on January 12-14 at The Punchline. For more information, please visit punchline.com.

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