Q&A: Comedian Pablo Francisco Says "Just Keep it American"

Editor's note: Sandeep Abraham is an OC Weekly intern studying literary journalism at University of California, Irvine. 

Chilean-but-very-much-American funny man Pablo Francisco is probably best known for his spot-on impressions of the "movie preview guy," which are all over YouTube, where you can also find the comic's 2004 special Bits and Pieces: Live from Orange County, posted in five 10-minute segments. Francisco returns to Orange County for performances today through Sunday at the Improv in Irvine, where he'll be promoting his upcoming special, Who You Foolin', due out in September.

OC Weekly caught up with Francisco one afternoon as he was preparing for the show. To watch him on stage is to watch one man vivaciously and accurately take on at least a hundred different personalities, while hilariously turning pop culture (and his audience) on its head in the process. That doesn't stop once he gets off stage either. In as many voices as he could muster in 20 minutes, Francisco talked about getting loaded at Dave & Busters, the importance of "keeping it American" and his reluctant acceptance of illegal downloading, among other things.

OC Weekly (Sandeep Abraham): So how are you? How's it been touring around?

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Pablo Francisco: Ah, it's been fun, real fun, just never-ending fun...

You've performed in Irvine and Orange County before, right? What do you think of Irvine?

Oh Irvine is just too cool. It's rich, it's got its shit together. It's a good place to work on new material because the people there seem to be very hip to what's going on. It's like a melting pot, but a good melting pot. It's got a little bit of everything. It's very TV and very... cable, let's put it that way. Arnold Schwarzenegger would say (cue impression): "It's very intelligent here, you know, because there's no Latinos crossing the border. A lot of them are just going through. There's a gated community or is it a lesbian community? All we know is there are no Latinos there, a few blacks, a lot of hot ladies..." and a big Dave & Busters. That place will not let you leave. What, you want to play an EIGHT-DOLLAR video game? The bartenders have nothing to do, like "Hey man! let's just make some drinks. Drink some Budweiser!" They make a Budweiser energy drink and make a Slurpee out of it. You can get drunk--with your kids. It's great. 

I've seen you do all these impressions and personalities. I'm really curious about your childhood. Did you watch a lot of TV growing up?

Well, one thing I can say is I hated school. I hated high school. I had to get up every morning at 8 o'clock. I couldn't stand homework, either. So I never did it. Basically, I just had a lot of funny friends. There were these Latino kids I used to hang out with. They just had so much family that we'd just make fun of all the sisters and brothers and stuff. We'd make fun of my family, too. We still haven't grown out of it. We still talk to each other. We were talking about the Brady Bunch and shit. A lot of it was marijuana induced. A lot of it was alcohol induced, but it's kind of funny. That's where I got most of my ideas. And I watch a lot of television, but we didn't have cable back then, just a few channels.

I remember in one of your shows, you said that your dad insisted that you speak English at home, that you didn't actually learn to speak Spanish at home?

Yeah, not at all. My parents just never got it. A lot of it was just because were here in America and a lot of Latinos would just bump heads. My dad was just like, "Keep it English. We look white, so why not stay white?" 

Ha! Seriously? How'd that jive with all your Latino friends?

Well, a lot of them didn't really speak Spanish either. I mean lot of them do, but there are just so many different inflections. People from Cuba don't get along with people from Mexico. People from Mexico don't get along with people from Chile. You've really got to look at it in a lot of ways. I don't understand all those people on their little bandwagon. It's like, tell all Mexicans who jump over the wall that there are other ways to go, like in speaking. I was born here, raised here. I'm not from Mexico or rooting for the Mexican soccer team. I just keep it American. That's what it is. I'm Spanish, but I live American, let's put it that way. I'm a 100 percent American.

You criticize a lot of the bullshit in society and I wonder what keeps you motivated to keep going on stage every night to do your shows, knowing that there's so much bullshit you have deal with?

One thing about the bullshit in our society is that people don't recognize how fantastic the United States is. Everyone has to complain: "Oh, we didn't give enough money to Haiti, we didn't jump right on it." People are so confused. Comedians are the ones who go after Bush, who go after all the presidents. We're not going out there to solve everybody's problem. We're excited to go on stage and basically make fun of the guy with all the tattoos who's never been to Iraq. "I got tattoos, man, you know, the war is bad, but I got pride, got my medical marijuana card..." I mean, you don't see that on ER. "On the next ER! Medical marijuana! Sponge, scalpel, bong, clear!" I get a little upset when people go (Mexican accent), "We come from another country, we don't eat that. We talk like this..." and I don't want to do that. So basically, it gets me a little ticked off about how some Americans are. They're just bitching and always complaining. Like if you learn two languages, you're rich. Well, I say, "you know two languages and you're broke!" That's how I look at it. Just keep it American. "You gotta learn Spanish!" why? So I can teach other Mexicans how to speak English? I don't get it. I just keep it to myself. People tell me, "We want you to come and do the university of all Latinos. It's a scholarship for only Latinos and we want you to come down here, to...Bakersfield!" I'm like nah, nah, too Latino for me. What about the white people? What about the white people scholarship? Where's that?"

You're talking about affirmative action?

Oh yeah, the black and the white thing, the rap thing, how you can't say the n-word. Of course you can't say the n-word. Who would say the n-word unless you have a black friend who can say it for you? So who knows? After that, it's an open field for what I do in comedy. I'm open to all avenues and try not to be too political because, believe me, I'm not smarter than anyone else out there. I just go in there and fucking make fun of everybody. 

Ok, what about YouTube? 

I know a lot of comedians have a problem with downloading and with people recording their shows and uploading them. 

Is that a problem for you?

You know, it's worked for me and against me. My album came out and I probably sold less than most comedians, probably about 50,000. Downloading is a part of life. It's so weird ... Believe me, if you can download my videos, I don't care. Millions of people in Europe and Scandinavia invite me to go over there and they pay great money and [I] pack the houses there and I can goof off and get drunk. People download? Go right ahead. There are people who can't come to the show and some people can't make it out there, so download the most, as best you can. Go right ahead. 

So, if comedy hadn't worked out, what do you think you'd be doing?

I'd probably be directing movies. That's what I went to school for, directing movies. But there's just so much competition. That's just the showbiz thing. I'd always be making movies, editing stuff. I'd either make movies or I'd probably be an assistant manager at a nightclub ... I'd be a bouncer ... That's where I would be.

--Sandeep Abraham

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