Interview: Pablo Francisco
Published on October 18th, 2009 | Jonny Abrams
The only thing harder than interviewing an impressionist, it turns out, is transcribing an interview with an impressionist. As well as his breathless stand-up, Pablo Francisco is also well-known for doing voices on Family Guy and, true to his occupations, he is indeed a funny guy.
Rocksucker had the great pleasure of nattering to him by phone, during which time we discussed – amongst other things – Swedish women, his close friendship with movie voiceover king Don LaFontaine, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Latino comedians. Oh, and we inadvertently gave him an idea for a new skit. Ladies and gentlemen…Pablo Francisco!
So Pablo, what are you up to at the moment?
PF: Right now, we’re travelling through Sweden. We’re in a town called (Rocksucker says: goodness knows how it’s spelt but it’s pronounced Oo-Meow) and it’s freezing. We’re doing the tour here. I’m a YouTube star, let’s put it that way! (Laughs) That sounds like a karaoke star with balls.
Do they join in with the routines over there?
PF: Yeah, sometimes I become the comedy jukebox. They’ll shout out “Little Tortilla Boy!” here and there. I read the emails, people give me requests, I become the comedy jukebox. We sell out all the shows. The shows are just amazing; they’re packed with people and they’re so much fun to do. I’ve got two other guys with me who are just as funny. They’re on tour with me. We goof off onstage and do little skits and stuff. It’s fun.
They’re fun-loving people, the Scandinavians…
PF: Yeah. They’re quiet people but, when it comes down to it, if they want something out of you then they’ll let you know. Every city looks the same. I’ve been to sixteen cities, and every single city is the same! The same cobblestone, the same McDonalds, the same everything. Everything was designed by the same guy. They must have saved a lot of money when they designed all the cities. It’s always the same thing: McDonalds, Subway, 7-Eleven…
PF: Yeah. And inside that Starbucks is a Starbucks. And inside that Starbucks, there’s another Starbucks. It’s packed like crazy. I mean it’s packed with 7-Elevens, Burger Kings, McDonalds, all in one little strip.
Are Swedish women as beautiful as everyone says?
PF: They’re alright. They’re kind of James Bond-looking girls. But right now it’s so cold that they’re wearing things all over their faces, so I can’t really see! They’re James Bondish-looking, but they can easily fall out of it.(Rocksucker is pretty sure he means that they look like girls from James Bond films, as opposed to looking like James Bond himself, but asks anyway. And then feels stupid for asking.) But to tell you the truth, so far so good.
What does that mean?
PF: I heard the rumours, you know (mimics someone saying “Swedish women, they’re so beautiful and blonde!”) but the only blond people here are the guys. And they all look like Ellen DeGeneres. It’s Ellen DeGeneres world, and it’s all guys! It’s now switched. (Lapses into his spot-on impersonation of film trailer voiceover legend Don LaFontaine) “In the nineties, it was all women being blonde and from Sweden. But now it’s changed: it’s all men looking like Ellen DeGeneres.”
Rocksucker would watch that.
PF: Yeah, all the guys look like Ellen DeGeneres. It’s creepy.
Say Pablo, are you a sports fan?
PF: Yeah I’m a sports fan, you know, sometimes when I’m drunk. All my friends gamble on sports so whenever we watch a game, everyone’s pissed off at the end! Sometimes the commentators speak so quickly, I think you’ve got to be on drugs to listen to them (emits a stream of horse racing commentator/auctioneer-esque babble). Yeah, I like sports sometimes. I like football. I like baseball. When the pitcher and the batter start fighting, that’s the best.
So are you more of an amused observer than a passionate fan?
PF: Yeah, I’m an amused observer. I don’t bet or gamble; that’s the worst thing. I’m basically a…what am I?…I’m a, er, techno/trance listener, techno music listener, DJ-watching, soft-porn-not-looking-at kind of person! Whatever that meant. I’m not into those shows like “hey everybody, gather round the TV, let’s watch The Simpsons!” I’m not one of those guys: “I gotta get home, man, Family Guy‘s on! I gotta race to my TV before I miss the episode of Family Guy!” I’m not one of those guys.
(Rocksucker chooses to ignore the fact that that’s quite probably the most bizarre answer we’ve ever had from anyone.) Weren’t you on Family Guy?
PF: I did a few voices on Family Guy on the third season. Seth MacFarlane was nice enough to put me on there and had me do Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and stuff. And then watching him transform into seven different characters was amazing. Sometimes he’ll get angry and he’ll yell out as a little kid (mimics Stewie from the show) “Hello, yes, will you PLEASE come…(reverts to normal voice)…sorry, I’m sorry. Would you please get the door, it’s open”. That kind of thing. I do Howard Stern once in a while. I did Howard Stern last month. So that was fun.
When Schwarzenegger was elected as Governor of California, did you think “oh no” or were you thinking “yes, this is going to be great for my routine!”
PF: Absolutely it’s great for the routine. Everyone goes “every comedian does Arnold Schwarzenegger”. Yes, they do; but do they do Arnold Schwarzenegger in Brokeback Mountain? (Pablo does a brilliant if rather disturbing impression of a mid-coitus Schwarzenegger, saying things like “Argh! Keep going!” and “I love you!”) Every comedian does it but I think I do Arnold Schwarzenegger in a different kind of way. When he became Governor? Yes, because you could watch his campaigns: (impersonating Schwarzenegger) “What I’ll do is I’ll take the money and I’ll go through time with my lazer gun and I’ll come back with the deficit. But to all you democrats, let me tell you – all you guys are assholes, so vote for me!” So, yeah. I voted for him ’cause I figured he can go back in the future. Put that in the act.
Do you think it’s ironic that what we need now is for someone to come back from the future and save us from him?
PF: (Lapses back into Schwarzenegger) “That’s right, you know. That’s what’s happening right now, ’cause right now Latinos, for some reason, they seem to come into the country of opportunity but they have no future. I don’t get it, I really don’t. They can get into the country, ‘Hey, I have opportunity’, but there’s no future.” So yeah, probably. I could help out.
Would you agree that a lot of comedians, including some Latino ones, play on their ethnicity too much? I’m talking about the ones who have no material at all other than impersonating their mother.
PF: Yeah. “Here’s my wacky aunt: ‘Hello, what are you doing?'” And there’s always a Latino: (adopting a Cheech & Chong-style voice) “Hey don’t call me Latino! I got my mother…I’m gonna complain about white people, even though I’m here, spending their money.” That’s all you ever hear. “Ok, my new album is called Jorge Lopez, I was born Chicano.” Yeah, well, you’re here in America. We get it. “That’s riiight, you got it!” They’ve always got the relative they’ve got to do. “Here I go, I’m gonna do my mother. And here’s my brother. Before I go, I’d like to say – white people, you suck! Goodnight!” (Pablo parps a suitably jaunty theme tune out of mock trumpet sounds)
They should just put their mothers on stage, really.
PF: Ha! That’s funny. Hey, can I use that? (Laughs) I’m writing that down: mothers on stage. I’m gonna put you in the credit for that one, that’s great. “Hey, I’m gonna tell some jokes about my family. Hey mum, come up here and tell ’em!” (He impersonates the mother with a burst of incomprehensible babble ending in a manic ‘Ha ha!’) That’s hilarious. “That’s right, it’s Jorge Lopez – I’m sick and tired of, you know, knocking down white people so I figured I’d bring my mother into it.” (This mother is represented by a different, but also incomprehensible, babble ending with a drooled utterance of “white people”) That’s f***in’ funny! Thanks man, that’s fantastic. I got a good skit out of it.
Rocksucker would be honoured to see it one day. Tell us, do you play any sports?
PF: I played soccer for three years.
PF: Right-wing. Then I played right by the goalie…full-back? I played goalie for about six months but it was just too nerve-wracking. I could be all calm when the ball was down the other side but by the time it got to me, I was like, “Oh sh*t, here it comes!” I’m thinking about playing soccer again because, if I really want to, I can be a cry baby. I love how the soccer guys just fall when they get kicked and go ( does an unnervingly accurate impression of a baby crying). They try to explain to the referee like he’s their mother: “Wah! Did you see what he did?” Then they get back to playing soccer again. We’ll see how it goes.
After he heard you impersonating him, you became close friends with Don LaFontaine…
PF: I knew Don before he passed away. They’re putting some of his equipment in my house next week, as a matter of fact. Don was a fantastic guy. We were getting along real good.
Just how much did he make off doing the voiceovers? He did rather a lot.
PF: Between you and me, put it this way: Don got me a gig to do. He says (Pablo adopts LaFontaine’s inimitable tone whenever he ventriloquises him), “I need you to say this: ‘Nunzia cellular phone’. Can you say that for me?” I went (in LaFontaine mode), “Nunzia cellular phone”, and they gave me twelve thousand dollars. I swear to god! It was amazing. Then I went back to do another one: “That’s right…it’s the new Battlestar Galactica!” – I said that, and this was in Helsinki, and they gave me forty thousand dollars! Don told me, “I do five of these a day…and I live like a king.” You figure a guy who goes into a studio [and says], “Get ready – on the next 24 with Kiefer Sutherland…That’s right, a new DVD box set!” – that probably pays sixty grand.
Surely it’s only a matter of time before someone does a film about his life…
PF: I know, it would be easy: “In a world that spoke the language of movies, it was one man – that’s me…” While I was at his house, he showed me all the movies he’s done. I still can’t believe he’s gone. It’s terrible. He was very intelligent. He used to say to me, “Always save your money, son”. And I said, “Can I start doing voiceovers?” And he said, “You can, Pablo. You can. Don’t worry, we’ll talk about that later.” And then he passed away. He passed away about six months ago, from a blood clot in the lung. It was unexpected. It just happened. I was just blown away by it. He was like, “Pablo, I’ve got something in my lungs, I don’t know what it is.” And I said, “What is it?” And he says, “I don’t know, it just keeps hurting.” And then he left me a message saying, “I’ll come see you when I get out of here.” And it never happened.
Is there anyone who you’d really like to be able to impersonate but can’t?
PF: Yeah. Nowadays there are so many stars on television. What is a good star to do? Hugh Grant? There are all these generic stars now. There’s Dave Caruso…Dave Caruso’s kind of fun: “I know he killed your family…but he won’t do it again.” He says the stupidest sh*t. “I know he shot your children, but he won’t do it any more.” There isn’t really a recognisable personality out there. I’m working on trying to do Nicholas Cage. Christopher Walken: everyone does that. You’ve got Dennis Hopper: “Come on, man, here you go, come on, what’s the deal?” For some reason I can’t do Walken. Everyone does a Walken now. But I do Arnold Schwarzenegger taking it in the butt. (Promptly does so) There you go.
You’re coming to London soon…
PF: Yeah, we’re looking forward to having some fun over there.
Where are you going to be playing?
PF: You know what, I forgot. They keep changing the place. My manager keeps telling me what it is and I keep forgetting. I’m sorry! Go to pablofrancisco.com – check it out. And thanks for bringing up the Mexican mum!
You’re very welcome, Pablo. You’re very welcome.
Pablo Francisco will be performing at the Troxy on the Thursday 22nd Oct for a one off UK show. His new live stand up DVD Bits And Pieces is released on October 26th 2009.