Comedian Pablo Francisco confesses he doesn’t know how to attach a photograph to an email. But Francisco is more than savvy enough to leverage the web to bring his comedy to a worldwide stage.
YouTube videos of Francisco imitating everyone from Arnold Schwarzenegger to that movie voice-over guy (Don LaFontaine) have helped the comedian break big across the globe.
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“The Internet is such a beautiful thing,” says Francisco, who recently returned from his third trip to Australia and has also played in South Africa. Comedy pals warned him about being unable to connect with crowds while traveling abroad – “good luck with the language barrier, dude,” they told him. Turns out the YouTube videos of his act arrived well before he did.
“They’re getting the comedy … they love YouTube,” he says. “They have the same Burger Kings, the same 7-11s.”
Besides, Francisco’s kind of comedy hardly needs a translator.
“I’m doing it just the way Benny Hill was doing it … everybody likes goofiness, everybody likes messing around, as long as it’s done with soul,” he says.
Anyone can become a YouTube sensation today, but Francisco notes not everyone can write their own material. It’s here where his embrace of the Web casts him apart from a cute kitten or warbling toddler.
Francisco’s latest Comedy Central special, “They Put it Out There,” is now available on DVD. The concept behind the DVD, and his act in general, is simple. If someone dares to enter the public arena, be it that Shamwow guy “who looks like he farted and kept the face,” or a family of reality show dwarves, then it’s fair game for Francisco.
“It’s OK to make fun of them. They put it out there. I’m not a bully,” he explains.
He is a first-rate impressionist, though, channeling everyone from Howard Stern to Bill Cosby in his manic act. He first started doing impressions during his school days, but there wasn’t a formal way to pursue his comedy skills. So he forged his own education.
“You turn it into a hobby, then the hobby comes a career,” says Francisco, who used a fake ID to perform at comedy amateur nights early in his self-made career. He caught a break early in his career when he was cast to replace Artie Lange on MADtv for seven episodes.
“Just because the producers know you well doesn’t mean you’ll be on the show,” he recalls. Being a cast member taught him the nuances of pitching sketch ideas, connecting with the right people and making sure he knew what the right ingredients were for setting up a successful career in the business.
“It taught me a lot about how to make money,” he says.
One part of his career he can’t rush is incorporating new voices into his act.
“Dennis Hopper came this quick, man,” he says, doing a spot-on take on the “Easy Rider” star. Other celebrity impersonations aren’t so easy. “Chris Rock took forever. I thought I’d never get it.”
Francisco says famed impressionist Rich Little typically listens to a celebrity’s voice on a loop while lounging around his house to nail a new voice. “Saturday Night Live’s” Darrell Hammond breaks an impression down piece by piece. But he has a hard time articulating the learning process, as if it’s a natural part of him like taking in oxygen or nutrients from food.
He only wishes more actors were worthy of his fellow impressionist’s time these days.
“It’s very hard to find stars out there [to imitate],” he says. “Shia LaBeouf? You can’t do any of the guys from ‘Twilight.'” “All these stars, these actors, they’re the same common denominator. They’re just average.”
“We’re ready to go … we’re locked and loaded,” he says.