John Pinette, Pablo Francisco - US Comedy DVDs in Review

Mark Oakley 15/12/2009

John Pinette: I'm Starvin'/Pablo Francisco: Bits and Pieces

Both of these live DVD performances demonstrate a fundamental difference between American and UK stand-up: decibel levels.

In the UK, I can think of plenty of comedians for whom rage is a key part of their act, Frankie Boyle being perhaps the most well known currently. But while our acts will raise their voices when necessary and for impact, too many American comedians don't appear to have grasped the fact that louder doesn't necessarily mean funnier.

Take John Pinette, a mainstay of the US comedy circuit and also a Broadway and movie star having appeared in Hairspray on stage and various films on screen including, Lord save us, Junior with the mighty Arnie himself. Pinette is a large man, something that is key to his show I'm Starvin' which is all about the importance food plays in his life.

Pinette is also a really, really loud man. Every joke is told at breakneck speed and bellowed at the audience in a no-holds-barred approach to making people laugh. Which is a shame as beneath the deafening screams are a collection of very witty one-liners and tall tales. Pinette is a good storyteller and I would have loved to have heard more, but my ears started to bleed halfway through the DVD so I had to switch it off.

The other problem with I'm Starvin' is that one fat joke is funny; two, not so much. By the twentieth joke about food and fat people I was getting tired of Pinette's delivery and subject manner. A shame as I can see he has real talent and the audience on the DVD certainly seem to find him hilarious. I just wish I was in on the joke.

The DVD comes with various bonus clips, out-takes and backstage footage but after 80 minutes listening to Pinette shouting at you, I doubt you could stomach any more.

Pablo Francisco is another excessively loud performer and Bits and Pieces is a DVD of a live show performed back in 2004. He's clearly ridiculously overconfident which imbues his show with a pace and execution that can be seen in North-American comedy clubs all over. It's brash, in your face and frequently dips in quality as a result. He also has a tendency here to drag a joke out until its initial impact is utterly lost.

However, Francisco is an adept performer and he does bring you in to his world with his hallmark impressions and gift with vocal effects. Not all of his impersonations and voices hit the mark but he has enough in the locker to raise belly laughs on more than one occasion and it's hard for me to criticise the guy for the sheer amount of effort he puts into his show.

Is Francisco a man who deserves to be on your comedy radar? Probably not. There are countless better, more intelligent comedians doing the rounds right now and I'd stick with them if I were you. However, having never heard of him before watching this DVD he is a man I'll be watching out for in future.

As for extras here, there is a frankly bizarre screen saver, an unnecessary commentary track and a bonus CD of the entire show so you can listen to the big shouty man on your way to work.