I went into Bits and Pieces hoping for a delicious Francisco treat, but alas, that trolley had left that station. The bulk of the material is new, at least to me, but just because it's newly-minted and shiny doesn't mean it's any good. There are very few strong jokes, and there aren't really any elaborate setups or gut-splitting punchlines to be found. The most trite cliché in a stand-up review is to quote the performer, and there's not even anything worth rattling off a second time. That's not to say that Pablo's set is devoid of anything approximating humor; it's just that it owes so much to his stage presence. The way Pablo moves, his gestures, his facial expressions, his incomprehensibly vast array of impressions and vocal effects...they elevate material that's mostly unremarkable and make it at least intermittently funny. It's not what he says, but how he says it, that gets a laugh. The crowd is in hysterics throughout, and though he might be a blast to see live, it doesn't translate as well to watching at home where I don't have a two-drink minimum to keep me drunkenly giggling. It just kind of seems like a lot of the same, almost as repetitive as the Mexican music he mimics throughout. He air-humps in seemingly every other bit, and the impressions he does of the women in his life seem to draw from a five-word vocabulary. He does a Viagra bit, fer cryin' out loud. In 2004. Viagra jokes. He might as well riff on pennywhistles and Moon Pies. There are a few bits I liked -- a NASCAR rant, exotic piercings, different ethnic spins on love songs -- but again, it's all in the delivery, and there's nothing all that clever about the jokes themselves. The Don La Fontaine impression still kills, and yes, Pablo's trademark and kinda stale bit, Little Tortilla Boy, is presented in its entirety.
I watched the set a second time with a Pablo fan to get another opinion, and although he chuckled a little more frequently than I did, he came out with a similarly tepid reaction. Pablo's just not working from that strong a set. I really like the concept of what Ad Lib is pushing with their stand-up releases -- tacking on an audio CD is a great idea, and the widescreen video and assorted extras further set their releases apart from the rest of the pack. I wish the material were funnier because I'd really like to give one of their DVDs a much more positive review.
Video: Bits and Pieces is presented in anamorphic widescreen, boasting the same soft, kinda-low-end digital video look as The Problem Is You. The further away the camera is, the softer the image gets. It looks like it was taped at the same venue too, with the background mostly disappearing into a big, murky smear of darkness. Even though Bits and Pieces wasn't shot with bleeding-edge cameras on a meticulously-lit stage, the DVD is technically sound, and I didn't spot any compression flaws or authoring hiccups throughout.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, encoded at a bitrate of 448Kbps, does the job. Pablo and his fistful of impressions and sound effects all come through clearly, and since I don't feel like cramming in any filler to lengthen out this chunk of the review, I'll note the lack of subtitles and closed captions and move on.
Supplements: Like their Corey Holcomb set, Ad Lib is packaging Bits and Pieces with an audio CD of the show to accompany the DVD. Although my review copy didn't have a CD handy for me to be able to say for sure, Pablo's such a presence visually that I'd think an audio-only set would diminish a lot of the appeal. It's still a nice inclusion, and one that might push some Pablo fans towards a purchase. Pablo contributes an audio commentary for the DVD, which I think might be a first in the stand-up realm. It's kind of dry, and I really don't need definitions of terms like "cockblock" or "callback". He tosses in some random jokes, but it's mostly just an explanation about the background of each bit. He does the same in the three and a half minute featurette "Inside the Comic's Studio". Finally, "Holy Frijoles" is a screensaver, available full-frame or in anamorphic widescreen, with plate of rice and refried beans being gobbled up to reveal ...well, that would be telling.
The DVD includes a set of 4x3 animated menus with Pablo's vintage porn music looped underneath. His set is divided into twenty-three chapters, making it pretty painless to skip straight to the best bits.
Conclusion: Pablo Francisco has an incredible stage presence and a gift for mimicry that's tough to top. All he needs is the right material, and that's exactly what's missing from this DVD. I wouldn't recommend it as anything more than a rental.
Related Reviews: I've also written a review of Ad Lib's first stand-up release, Corey Holcomb: The Problem Is You.