Kramer killed his set, chock full of celebrity karaoke (Arnold Schwarzenegger singing "Ice Ice Baby"; Lady Gaga covering her own song with "Butterface") and made the startling connection between Popeye the Sailor and Dave Mustaine, frontman for Megadeth ("Symphony of Destruction" will never be the same for anyone who heard that). While I've always thought Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder sounded like he was sitting on a paint shaker, Kramer has since convinced me that he is actually banging a sheep.
Headliner Pablo Francisco brought the LOL in his trademark ADHD-inspired fashion, spitting jokes and impressions at machine-gun pace with a sniper's precision. Whether it was opening his act with a beatbox marathon or cracking on his own bald spot in the voice of famed movie announcer Don LaFontaine, he kept the crowd rolling all night (although the joke about Michael J. Fox performing cunnilingus was the misstep you'd expect).
Prior to seeing him, a friend of mine had asked me a rather dangerous question (twice, actually, but he was drunk the first time and seemed to have forgotten): is Pablo Francisco still relevant? I had talked to my buddy, Matt, about the Q&A I did with Pablo (shameless self-promotion) and, while we were drinking before Friday night's rain-cancelled Scream on the Green at Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown, mentioned I was seeing the show Sunday night. I was a bit preoccupied with my can of Young's Double Chocolate Stout and didn't really have a good answer for him. Relevant?
That's not the type of question I expected to be asked, nor is it one I would think should be directed to another person rather than being decided on one's own. Matt is one of the few friends to whom I have not endlessly whored my writing, so I was caught off guard when asked to make a cultural judgment call. As a critic, I do it all the time when tearing the shit out of bad movies like Paranoia (in theaters through the end of the week, maybe), but I've never really applied that critical eye to a live stage performer. Relevance is a fine line to walk in the stand-up biz, and could be the make or break of an entire career. Some comics have a more timeless quality to their act while others turn over new material every tour because of the cultural timestamp on their acts.
After seeing Pablo do his thing Sunday night, yes, Matt, he is still relevant. Yes, he still uses the LaFontaine voice more often than his own speaking voice, but it's not the Little Tortilla Boy all night long. Whether riffing on the idea of Subway mascot Jared having groupies or the difficulties of having sex to blues music, Francisco still keeps it fresh. It's Tony Montana on social media, it's the absurdity of the fleshlight. It's the spot-on observation that Owl City's "Fireflies" sounds like a fucking tampon commercial.
Pablo Francisco is the same guy he was 15 years ago. He has the same style he's had his entire career. Maybe that's stale for some folks, but his material is still fresh as the tortillas on the corner and the veteran standup still leaves a lasting impression (yes, I know, that's getting old; I'm proud of that one so deal with it).