Pablo Francisco

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Early in his set, hyperactive Chilean-American comic Pablo Francisco does a typically spirited routine faithfully recreating the riffs of bands such as Metallica using little more than his innate energy and fantastic vocal talents.

He has more in common with the bands he’s gently mocking than he might admit – this is a rock and roll-style gig not just in scale, filling east London’s sizeable conference and banquet venue The Troxy, but in attitude. Come for the posturing, the spectacle and the infectious rhythms, just don’t worry too much about the actual words.

Fans of Lee Evans will recognise the restless pacing and breathless pace of his delivery; which is mixed with the sort of achievable coolness and relentless audience pandering of Dane Cook, with Francisco making sure he never misses a chance to either force an applause break, tell us how great we are as an audience, or plug the merchandise on sale in the foyer after the show.

His show is a bubbling mash-up of sound effects, celebrity impressions and snatches of familiar tunes, such as the James Bond theme. The excuses to do these are often paper- thin – imagine Bill Cosby buying a Subway sandwich – but then you do get a great Cosby impression, reduced to little more than verbal tics.

With all its opportunities to play to Francisco’s strengths of grunting and writhing, sex is a common theme. ‘Why isn’t there an XBox Porn Hero game?’, he muses, then acts out with predictability but verve exactly how that might go. What would Jackie Chan – and a handful of other stars – be like on the job? Again, allow Francisco to demonstrate, in a segement that’s born from the sort of borderline East Asian stereotyping that American comics always seem worringly at home with.

This is an hour or so of pop culture references faithfully and briskly re-enacted, with nothing of himself or the wider world having any place in his routine. He beatboxes a bit, recreates the effects of being horny and E-ed up at a nightclub, gets his black friends on stage to mess about with the word ‘nigger’ with an engaging playfulness, the back to the vocal and physical trickery that makes him such a compelling performer, if only in short doses.

Everything is given the hard sell, which is at first impressive, until you start to look behind the bluster and start to consider the snake-oil that he is actually pitching. The adage about empty vessels making most noise seems increasing apt, as you tire of the technique and yearn for some content.

Francisco has a reputation as a ‘viral’ comedian, given that the clips of him parodying the movie voiceover man Don LaFontaine have attracted millions of hits. It’s not entirely surprising as his target demographic does seem to be MTV-obsessed American college kids who have the most access to the web, and time to spend surfing it. More sophisticated comedy palates are more likely to see him as style over content, but you can’t deny he’s got the style bit nailed.

Review date: 23 Oct 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Troxy

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