Win Tickets to See Comedian Pablo Francisco

Get a preview of the comedian's upcoming Comedy Central special at the Pittsburgh Improv.

Much to the dismay of vaudeville nostalgists, impression-based comedy is very firmly out of vogue in stand-up circles. The hackneyed set-ups favored by impression comics of yore – “Well I think it would sound a little something like this” – is too stage-y for the current climate. And while some alternative comics come up with preposterously layered impressions – like, say, Christopher Walken’s Japanese doppelganger arguing with the zombie Johnny Carson over a parking space – for the most part, you’re not likely to head to a comedy club and hear someone doing a laundry list of voices.

Unless, of course, you’re going to see Pablo Francisco.

Francisco, a still-rising star based in Arizona, revives the art of imitation by making his voice into an impressively broad toolbox. He can do sound effects, beat box, ape musical styles, and accurately conjure up the voice of just about any celebrity you can name (Wikipedia lists 31 characters, from Stone Cold Steve Austin to Mr. Magoo, in Francisco’s regular repertoire.) What’s more, he can usually do it all at the same time, constructing elaborate scenes incorporating all of those elements. A typical Pablo Francisco bit involves the comic relaying the story of a bad drug-fueled journey through a techno nightclub, with a laundry list of characters, the sounds of the DJ, elaborately constructed scenes, and even auditory hallucinations – all created with nothing but a microphone and a lot of sweat.

Francisco manages to couch his vocal acrobatics within familiar premises and material, so the elaborate routines feel like a breath of fresh air rather than a throwback. Fortunately, his jokes would stand on their own without his knack for impressions. He’s not funny because of his impressions, he’s funny and he does impressions. It’s a crucial distinction, and marks the line between hokey and hilarious.

Following up a 2001 Comedy Central Presents appearance, Francisco’s one-hour special “They Put it Out There” will debut on Comedy Central November 5 at 11 PM. You can get a preview, though, this weekend at the Pittsburgh Improv. Francisco is fresh off a sold-out tour in Australia (where a critic for The West Australian called the show “Wrong on so many levels but funny as hell,”) and should be at his peak.

If you are somehow unconvinced, we at After Dark like to make things a bit easier for you. That’s why we’re giving away two pairs of tickets to the 10 pm show Friday night (October 14.) Enter in the form below with your name, phone number and e-mail address; we’ll need to have your entry by 10 am Friday morning. Winners will be notified before noon Friday, and must be 21 years of age or older.

(Submissions for the giveaway are closed, but tickets are still available for this weekend's shows! Thanks for entering!)

Now, I’m off to work on that Walken/Carson Japanese parking zombie bit. That has potential.

(Pittsburgh Improv, 166 E Bridge St, Homestead. Thu, 8 pm; Fri, 8 & 10 pm; Sat, 7 & 9 pm; Sun, 7 pm. $25. Info: 412/462-5233 or

Categories: After Dark