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Pablo Francisco Kicks Off New Year At SJ Improv

In Culture
Are you laughing at me? Funnyman Pablo Francisco is performing at the San Jose Improv on New Year’s Eve.

Are you laughing at me? Funnyman Pablo Francisco is performing at the San Jose Improv on New Year’s Eve.

Like many fledgling comics struggling to make a name for themselves in stand-up, Pablo Francisco worked the open mic scene hard. But not all would-be comedians have been fortunate enough to have the kind of secret weapon that Francisco stumbled upon one evening at a gentleman’s club.

It was there that Francisco met Candy Cantaloupes, a sweet and busty porn star, with whom he forged a platonic friendship—with benefits. Although Francisco says he never hooked up with Candy, she did ask the manager of the Improv comedy club in Brea, Calif., out on a date.

“She cancelled the night before (the date), but the manager was so nice to me after that,” Francisco says. “They started letting me open up for big acts. It’s a strange door, but it’s a good one.”

Francisco would likely have done just fine without Candy’s help. In a word, he’s a natural, and he is bringing his eccentric blend of unflinching, observational humor, spot-on impressions, and manic contortions to the San Jose Improv to ring in 2015 (he played on New Year’s Eve and performs tonight, Jan. 2, and tomorrow night, Jan. 3).

According to Francisco, he discovered his talent by mistake. “I got my start in comedy by accident,” he explains. “It was a hobby that turned into a career. I got fired from Domino’s pizza. After that, I saw the comedy club down the street.”

Francisco performed each Wednesday at the Improv comedy club in Tempe, Ariz., gradually building his set until a “What are you going to do with your life?” lecture from his father prompted him to test his stuff at a larger club.

“I went there and they just told me ‘Hey man, we think you can do this business’ and I was really blown away by it,” he says.

After a little help from his adult film star friend, Francisco further expanded his audience through the then-nascent power of online streaming media. “When YouTube came out, oh my God!” he exclaims. “Talk about life-changing.”

One his early online bits showcases Francisco’s fervent impersonation of an Indian karaoke king. In the same video, he drips sweat while unraveling the sexual implications of mariachi, country and R&B music with the passion of a Pentecostal preacher in front of a raucous crowd.

The video blew up, giving him worldwide exposure. After a couple days, his manager called him with shocking news: “You’re not going to believe this, but that YouTube thing sold 10,000 tickets in Sweden—in seven minutes.”

Francisco explains his popularity by impersonating a real Swedish fan that came up to him and said, “Television goes off at 9, 10 o’clock and no one has nothing to do so they go to the YouTube and watch comedians and so far you are the biggest one.”

He mimics an Australian who told him, “we can watch you any time we want, mate. We only got Oprah, Doctor Phil, and YouTube.” Then snapping back into his grateful, actual self, he says, “But that’s only over there.”

Francisco hasn’t achieved the same level of fame stateside, but he’s not complaining. “I’m in between—it’s a beautiful spot to be,” he says. “You make the money, but you can still go eat or shopping.”

As his career has progressed, Francisco has begun using his comedy for deeper purposes. “I don’t go out there and say ‘Hey, I’m Pablo, save the soldiers!’ But the money has helped people I’ve known who have been in bad positions,” he says.

In addition to visiting injured soldiers, he has volunteered with people with special needs and paid for a girlfriend’s cancer treatment. “That’s what it’s all about in a way,” Francisco says.

His newest material reflects his growing maturity. “We decided to write another hour of comedy, but this time do it differently,” he says. “Add video to it, add a little more electricity, make a show out of it, make it different, and then we’ll go back to same old formula. It’s a little like Steve Martin playing banjo, I guess.”

He has also been using his comedy increasingly to scrutinize the hypocrisy and poisonous nature of much of popular culture. During our interview he launches into an impression of Dog the Bounty Hunter: “We’re gonna go in there. We’re gonna get these guys and kick their ass! OK, Jesus? Thank you, Jesus. Amen.” He says with a laugh, “It’s contradictory stuff. … I think people need to wake up a little bit more, and I think comedy is the best way of doing that.”

Pablo Francisco will ring in the New Year, performing at the San Jose Improv on Dec. 31. More info.

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