By David Gavri
You know him as the ‘Little Tortilla Boy’, and the ‘Movie Preview Guy’—and Kermit the Frog—and Sylvestor Stallone—and Arnold Schwarzenegger—and Scarface’s Tony Montana—and so much more! Pablo Francisco is an American stand up comedian whose popularity spans all over the globe. Not only does he perform sold out shows in the United States, but he’s also sold out world renowned venues, such as the Milky Way in Amsterdam and the Troxy in London.
Introduced to the world in 2000 with his half-hour special on Comedy Central, Pablo then toured as one of The Three Amigos alongside Freddy Soto and Carlos Mencia. Pablo later released his first special, Bits and Pieces: Live From Orange County. He then followed up with Ouch! Live From San Jose, and most recently They Put It Out There. Pablo’s unique ability to point out the world’s absurdities with clever insight while weaving together his off-the-wall arsenal of animated characters has kept audiences on their feet and coming back for more. We’ve been so lucky to talk with Pablo about comedy, and about his early days, his struggles, the comedy business, random TV show ideas, and his hilarious personal stories. Pablo is in town this Valentine’s weekend right here at the Houston Improv. You don’t wanna miss it!
Pablo, what does it take to have a career in stand up comedy?
Don’t take comedy seriously! [laughs] Take it as a hobby. If you’re gonna go out and try “Amateur Night”, you’ve gotta take it as a hobby. Then the hobby becomes your career. Comedy was a hobby for me—I wanted to be a film maker. I tried the film school thing, yet money was tight…but Jamie Foxx was there with me! We were both kinda bummin’ back then. So you never know where this will take you. It’s like, people get TV shows for anything these days! They’ve got a show about a guy that eats bugs! [laughter] I mean, look at the show Hoarders—look at these guys! [laughs] And it’s like, I’ve got the TV deals, but I really just need some storage and a shed!
“[Movie Preview Guy] Today on STORAGE SHEDS…! We explore why these guy can’t seem to put their own storage…in their own storage shed!”
[moment of laughter]
They could make a show about looking inside someone’s dirty laundry!
“[Movie Preview Guy] On the next, LAUNDRY BOX…!”
It’s friggin’ stupid, you never know…
“[Movie Preview Guy] On the next, FIND YOUR WALLET…! WHO will find his wallet? Will they just look in it and send it back?! Find out what happens with our next Wallet Finder!”
[can’t stop laughing]
Where did it all begin for you? Were you always ‘the funny guy’ in school?
[sigh] I hated high school. I hated everything about it. I hated getting up in the morning…I hated the homework… [laughs] I was a C average student. I got kicked out of science class AND math class because I kept goofin’ around. And it got to a point where I almost couldn’t graduate, because I kept makin’ fun of Mr. Walton and Mr. Rathscot! [laughs]
What happened after high school?
So I graduated, and being from Tucson, everybody was like, [Girly voice] “Yay! I’m goin to University of Arizona! I got a scholarship in this, this, ‘n this!” Everybody had scholarships in somethin—“[College Frat voice] Bro! I got a scholarship in guitar! I’m goin to the university!” [laughs] And everyone threw it in my face because I went to work…at Domino’s Pizza. But now, I’m the richest one out of all of ‘em—four times over—because I didn’t throw anything in their face.
So it was Domino’s Pizza that supported your comedic struggles?
Oh yeah, that’s where I came up with a lot of my material. I would make fun of the people I delivered pizzas to…and we had a buncha fuckin weird drivers, so I’d make fun of them—in a tasteful way. And my manager was laughing at all my shit. In fact, that’s where I came up with my Tortilla Boy bit. Those were my struggling days, and I worked there up until I started getting paid for my comedy. In fact, my first paid gig was here in Houston at Spellbinders Comedy Club. They took good care of me, it was great! And then I got fired from Dominos…
Before you were getting paid for comedy, where did you begin performing?
I used to commute from Tucson to Phoenix, Arizona to perform at the Tempe Improv. One day I asked the owner, “What does it take for me to work for you?” And he said, “Gimme six minutes, clean.” So I went up and gave him a clean six minutes. But he didn’t like it. And when I asked him what the problem was, he told me, “Butt-nuggets are not the Improv, Mr. Francisco. Call me in three years.” I was SO disappointed.
How’d you overcome such a harsh rejection?
I took that part out of my act, and then I went and found other clubs that eventually liked me. It’s all about bouncin’ back. If you bomb, don’t run off stage! It’s okay to fuckin suck! [laughs] It’s tough. One time it took me three weeks to get over it when I bombed. It was terrible! But just be honest with yourself. If a joke doesn’t go well, be able to say to yourself, “Okay that joke stunk!” It’s a beautiful thing.
Not only are your jokes funny, but your impersonations are impeccable—
Why thank you.
Have you ever bombed while doing an impression?
Well, I always make sure that the impression sounds just like the guy, ya know? I never do an impersonation that I can’t fully nail. But there are impressions that I cannot do—I can’t do Christopher Walken…but I CAN do Dennis Hopper! [Dennis Hopper’s voice] Dennis Hopper I can do, maaan!
Did you get into comedy to be an impersonator? Or did that develop over time?
Eh, I would say that I’m good at impersonating people, but I’m not JUST an impersonator. I’m good at doing my friend’s mom; I’m good at doing my next door neighbor cussin’ out the dog… [laughs] It was always like, “Hey you can do that person,” but never, “Hey, you’re an impersonator.” Like, Frank Caliendo, I would say, is the best impersonator. He does it right to a T, where it’s kinda spooky. [laughs]
And I encourage comics to make their own impersonations. But I don’t like people who have weak impersonations. Like…they’ll do a chick’s voice, but it’s too weak and too…uhh…guy-ly ? I dunno… But impersonations help you surprise people. And I think people deserve that. That’s what I wanna see when people go up on stage—I want them to grab me! I don’t want ‘em to be like, “[Heavy New York accent] Hey guys haiya doin?? My name is David Sss…sauusage, I’m from New Yawwk. I play hockeyyy…ah hey what’s your name? I’m David Sausage!” [laughs] I hate that shit. But anyways…
Is there a formula to the style of comedy that you enjoy?
I’d say the best way is having a mix of goofiness, intelligence, and sarcasm. Someone like Jim Carry—he’s physical and he also has funny ass jokes in between. That’s 100%. It’s a home run. I don’t like when comedians are all about politics, but with no goofiness. “[Angry Lewis Black voice] Everybody! Here’s some political property jokes! And uhh…what’s up with fuckin’ Utah?!”
It’s like, “Dude! I wanna see some goofy shit!” Anybody can be angry about…Proposition 87! “[Nerdy voice] What’s up with Proposition 87?! You gonna let ‘em pass it? Are ya? Huh? Huh?? Huh?!?” And it’s like, “Whoaaa mannn…who gives a shit?!” We wanna make fun of people and get a point across! Get your point across and be goofy about it.
Advice for younger comics?
Be a fan of comedy! Get on YouTube and watch comics—mimic the comics, and get on that buzz. You can do my jokes—just don’t do ‘em on stage! But you could do ‘em at parties—so you get the feel of it and all the momentum. Do other peoples’ jokes at parties. DO NOT do ‘em in auditions! Stick to parties—try ‘em on those three girls at the pool!
And by the way…don’t talk about yourself. Let people hear about you. One time, a guy from the New York fire department came to Tampa, Florida for a guest spot and comes up to me—cocky as hell—and goes, “[Heavy New York accent] Hey haiya doin Pablo? The name’s Benny Badass. Hey, six minutes ain’t enough for me baby, I’s wondering if I could do fi’teen. That cool wit you?”
And I’m like, “Well…okay…are you sure? If you’re sure, then…yeah, let’s see it!”
Then he goes, “[Benny Badass voice] Yeah, I put my two weeks in at the department, cuz ya know, I’s already been doin this six weeks now. I get nuttin’ but standing O’s. Everywhere I go—standing O’s!”
So I’m like, “Wow…really…?” This guy told my opener, “[Benny Badass] No hard feelin’s, but…I’m Pablo’s guy. I’muna be his next bullet!”
But the thing was, only his family and friends were ever in the audience. He’d never performed in front of real strangers. So that night he bombed hard. And he had a coupla old friends in the audience that night—and they didn’t even laugh at him. In fact, afterwards they were like, “Can you believe he put his two weeks in?!”
Let’s talk about the business of comedy. How do you know when it’s time to get a manager and an agent?
That’s a great question—and I have the answer. This is what you need to do: First, get your finances straight. Then, get REALLY good. Once you have a really killer fifteen minutes, believe me—whether it’s the owner of the club—somebody will notice you and they’ll come up to you and say, “Hey, I wanna recommend you to so ‘n so coming into town…” And then you do a guest spot. And on ‘n on. But you hafta be disciplined.
And try not to smoke marijuana before the show—don’t smoke pot around the comedy club, and don’t smell like it. Because agencies can tell you’re stoned. And marijuana’s legal now! But they still don’t like it. And also, don’t talk shit about other comics.
All right Pablo, what do you have to say about the show coming up?
Come on out to the Houston Improv and start the party with us! Our first show is on Valentine’s Day! It’s the perfect place to take a Valentine’s date. You order drinks, the lights go down, and you don’t hafta talk to each other. [laughter] And also, if you want a good ice breaker for parties—put any one of my videos in! And you don’t hafta watch ‘em from the beginning—fast forward to your favorite parts! Like I do here…
Interviewed & Written by: David Gavri