Funnyman Pablo Francisco returns to Pittsburgh’s The Improv for a handful of shows June 18-21

Pablo High Res Steet Point 2011By Michael DiVittorio

Legendary funnyman Pablo Francisco promises something special this week when he returns to The Improv in the Waterfront.

Francisco has brought his arsenal of characters, spontaneous outbursts, spot-on impressions and clever insights to Pittsburgh this time of year for at least the past six years.

This weekend’s performances will feature new material and an East Coast debut of Francisco and comedian Steve Kramer’s cartoon project, tentatively titled “Pablo’s Cartoon Cartel.”

The first show at 166 E. Bridge St. is Thursday at 8 p.m. Other performances are Friday at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m., Saturday at 7 and 9:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 and are available by calling 412-462-5233 or online at improv.com.

Francisco took some time in between shows in Las Vegas last week to talk with Pittsburgh In Tune about his upcoming stop in Homestead.

“We’ve got this cartoon we’ve been working on for a long time,” Francisco said. “(It has) Gary Busey giving people knowledge and some advice. We’re going to show it. The Pittsburgh room is a big room, kind of hollow. We’re going to show some ‘Dog the Bounty Hunter’ clips we did. It’s going to be a little different. The test run in Australia went good so we brought it back here.

“It’s like a Dave Chappelle meets cartoons. That’s what it is. The reaction for the cartoon’s been really good man.”

Francisco said Kramer provided a ton of work on the cartoons including perfect impressions.

“He’s the master of voices,” Francisco said of his collaborator. “He’s the master of figuring them out. He can hear a voice and get it way before I can and gets it right on the mark too. He’s a one-of-a-kind to see. He’ll be at the show all the way through Saturday. You’ll miss him Sunday.”

More information about the cartoons and other projects is available at stevekramerentertainment.com.

Along with the cartoons, Francisco said he has a new twist on some classic comedic topics.

“We definitely have to go back to psycho girlfriends,” he said. “It’s the only place where guys can talk out through me. I’ll be your voice. It’s basically ladies, you gotta make up your mind. Stop basically saying, ‘I want a guy with class and everything else,’ when you like gang member ghetto guys. I don’t get that.

“We’re going to talk about psycho chicks, psycho boyfriends and all kinds of things. We’re bringing more of the stupid stuff and making it funny. Bring a date. Bring two dates. We’ll do all the talking when the lights go down.”

Francisco had a suggestion for his Pittsburgh fans on how they should spend their weekend.

“Go to The Improv, get buzzed then go to Dave & Buster’s,” he said. “How bout that? Therefore you can fight with a video game afterward. Go to Club Erotica for the food.”

Francisco credits his grandfather, Gerbracht Francisco, for starting his love of the Steel City.

“Steelers are my favorite team so what’s up?” Francisco said.

Francisco said he will tap into Pittsburgh talent to help get the crowd going and comedian Sean Savoy may return to the Waterfront as well.

“He might be there he might not. He’s always fun to be with. He’s a cool cat,” Francisco said. “We’re going to give some locals some time to jump aboard the show. Pittsburgh got some good guys up there.”

Francisco has been involved in comedy since the 1990s. He appeared on numerous TV programs. His Comedy Central specials and DVDs — “They Put It Out There,” “Ouch” and “Bits and Pieces” — continue to be in high demand. Francisco’s worldwide fan base continues to grow with more than 137,000 Facebook fans and thousands of Twitter followers.

A portion of all proceeds from Francisco’s merchandise sales goes to the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit dedicated to helping injured soldiers.

More information about Francisco is available at www.pablofrancisco.com.

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Monster Jam returns to Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center Feb. 13-15 with Pablo Huffaker behind the wheel of Grave Digger

Grave Digger

Fan favorite Grave Digger tops an impressive lineup of trucks appearing in Monster Jam Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center Feb. 13-15, 2015.

By JEFFREY SISK

The Pittsburgh Penguins will thrill hockey fans on home ice dozens of times this season, not counting the playoffs, and country music superstar sold out a whopping six shows Feb. 5-8, but I’ll wager Consol Energy Center will never be louder in 2015 than when Monster Jam rolls into town this weekend.

Backdraft

Backdraft

Monster truck lovers of all ages will flock to the Pittsburgh venue for shows Friday, Feb. 13 (7:30 p.m.), Saturday, Feb. 14 (2 & 7:30 p.m.) and Sunday, Feb. 15 (2 p.m.) to see the legendary Grave Digger take on a host of competitors in racing and freestyle events.

In the racing event, drivers go head-to-head in a breakneck lap around the dirt track before going airborne to cross the finish line. The contestants are whittled down, bracket style, until the final two trucks square off for the title.

In freestyle, each truck gets a set amount of time to complete as many tricks, jumps and stunts as possible. Judges rate their performances and the driver with the highest cumulative score is crowned champion.

Backwards Bob

Backwards Bob

In addition to the trucks, Monster Jam events include four-wheeler racing, motocross exhibitions and assorted surprises.

Tickets for the Pittsburgh event are still available at the Consol Energy Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com, and via telephone at 800-745-3000. Tickets are $25 for adults and just $12 for kids, making Monster Jam an affordable outing for the entire family.

Local enthusiasts will get to witness the Pittsburgh debuts of Backwards Bob, Fox Sports 1 Cleatus, Doomsday and Hurricane. Those trucks will be competing against Grave Digger, Storm Damage, Backdraft and Instigator.

Pablo Huffaker

Pablo Huffaker

Monster Jam veteran driver Pablo Huffaker will be behind the wheel of Grave Digger in Pittsburgh. The 2007 world freestyle champion has been on the monster truck circuit for a whopping 33 years and is one of the sports living legends. In addition to Grave Digger, Huffaker has driven Black Smith, Captain’s Curse, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Blue Thunder trucks in Monster Jam World Finals events.

The Tomball, Texas, resident recently took some time to talk with Pittsburgh In Tune about Monster Jam’s massive popularity, his own career and this weekend’s festivities in Pittsburgh.

“The changes (in the sport) over the past 33 years are absolutely incredible,” Huffaker, 51, said in a telephone interview last week. “It’s been as much of an evolution as from horse-drawn carriages to the modern automobile.”

Cleatus

Fox Sports 1 Cleatus

For the uninitiated, Monster Jam trucks are approximately 12 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The custom-designed machines sit atop 66-inch tires and weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds apiece. To help endure the pounding the vehicles endure, trucks are equipped with extra-long shock absorbers filled with oil and nitrogen gas.

Monster Jam trucks generate a mind-numbing 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower and, though designed for short, high-powered bursts, are capable of speeds up to 100 mph. The vehicles have flown distances of 125-130 feet and 35 feet into the air.

As you might expect, the appeal of these larger-than-life trucks attract millions of fans annually to events all over the world. Huffaker says the enduring popularity of Monster Jam crosses multiple generations.

“Our key demographic is boys 7-12 years old,” he explains. “They can’t drive themselves to events so they bring their parents and everyone keeps coming back. People who discovered the sport as kids are now bringing their kids. From children to parents to grandparents, it’s a very diverse group of people at our shows.”

Instigator

Institgator

Even those with only a passing knowledge of Monster Jam have heard of Grave Digger. Far and away the most popular truck on the circuit, Huffaker says it’s an honor to be part of Team Grave Digger. With that prestige, however, comes added pressure and expectations that drivers of other trucks don’t have to deal with.

“It comes with the territory for me, and I expect it of myself,” Huffaker says of the pressure to perform. “There is a pressure knowing that the crowd expects me to be the top performer at every event. But it’s pretty cool knowing you’re (always the fan favorite).”

As always, fans will have an opportunity to get up close and personal this weekend. The Monster Jam Party in the Pits is Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15, at 11 a.m. each day. Purchase of a $10 pit pass enables fans to meet the drivers, get autographs, explore the obstacles the drivers will encounter and pose for photos alongside the trucks.

Huffaker and his fellow drivers are closing in on Monster Jam World Finals XVI, the year-end spectacular March 26-28, 2015, at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev. Last year, Grave Digger the Legend beat Max-D for the racing crown, while Metal Mulisha took home top freestyle honors.

Hurricane Force

Hurricane Force

Considering that some of the Monster Jam drivers weren’t even born when Huffaker first climbed behind the wheel, he’s understandably a guy that his fellow competitors look up to and admire.

“I am honored that I get the respect (from the younger drivers),” Huffaker acknowledges. “It’s nice to know they look up to you. But, you, know, there’s a lot of young guys coming up these days that can show us all a thing or two.”

After more than three decades of competing, the fire still burns inside Huffaker. He says there are no plans to retire in the foreseeable future.

“I live for the minute and a half (for freestyle) each night or the couple seconds of racing,” he enthuses. “That’s the thrill of it for me. That’s the charge I get out of it.

“And I think I have few good years (of competing) left in me. I was the oldest guy in the field at an event in Houston, Texas, and won racing. I guess I’m not washed up yet.”

For more information, visit www.monsterjam.com.

Digger

Grave Digger looks to soar at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center this weekend, with shows Friday, Feb. 13; Saturday, Feb. 14; and Sunday, Feb. 15.

 

 

Harlem Globetrotters renew hoops rivalry on Friday, Dec. 26, at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center

Scooter Christensen of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters shows the form that helped him set a Guinness World Record for longest duration of time spinning a basketball on his nose. Christensen and the Globetrotters will play the Washington Generals at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center on Friday, Dec. 26, at 1 and 6 p.m.

Scooter Christensen of the world famous Harlem Globetrotters shows the form that helped him set a Guinness World Record for longest duration of time spinning a basketball on his nose. Christensen and the Globetrotters play the Washington Generals at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center on Friday, Dec. 26, at 1 and 6 p.m.

By JEFFREY SISK

The Harlem Globetrotters have spent the better part of a century entertaining millions of people in all corners of the world with their unique brand of basketball wizardry. They’ll kick off their 2015 tour — the 89th consecutive year of touring for the Globetrotters — on Friday, Dec. 26, at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.

For the past several years, football crazy Pittsburgh fans have flocked to Consol Energy Center for what’s become a day-after-Christmas basketball ritual.

Scooter Christensen of the Globetrotters helps a young fan spin hone her basketball-spinning skills. Christensen and the Globetrotters return to Pittsburgh on Friday, Sept. 26, at 1 and 6 p.m. for the launch of their 2015 world tour.

Scooter Christensen of the Globetrotters helps a young fan spin hone her basketball-spinning skills. Christensen and the Globetrotters return to Pittsburgh on Friday, Sept. 26, at 1 and 6 p.m. for the launch of their 2015 world tour.

On Friday, the Globetrotters play a pair of games against the Washington Generals — at 1 and 6 p.m. — giving local audiences two chances to see them compete in an exciting, family-friendly atmosphere. Tickets prices start at $20.50 and are available online at www.ticketmaster.com.

The projected Globetrotters lineup for the Pittsburgh tour stop includes Scooter Christensen, Big Easy Lofton, Moose Weeks, Crash Beaty, Sweet J Ekwormadu, Hacksaw Hall, Too Tall Hall, Flip White and Buckets Blake.

Christensen, a 10-year Globetrotters veteran who holds the Guinness World Record for longest duration spinning a basketball on his nose (5.1 seconds, in case you’re wondering), recently spoke with Pittsburgh In Tune about the upcoming tour stop and his experiences with the most famous basketball team in the world.

“I feel so very fortunate and blessed to be a part of this organization. knowing that the guys before me paved the way for me and my teammates to keep the tradition alive,” the 36-year-old Christensen says of his time with the Trotters. “My intentions were never to be a Globetrotter. I wanted to be the best basketball player I could be. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

“It’s something that definitely developed after my college years (at the University of Montana). I played for a couple of minor pro leagues and then I became an assistant video coordinator for the Phoenix Suns and through that, the Globetrotters found me and invited me to training camp. I became a Globetrotter (for the) 2004-05 season.”

Scooter Christensen douses the official and a handful of courtside fans with one of the most famous Globetrotter routines — the water bucket.

Scooter Christensen douses the official and a handful of courtside fans with one of the most famous Globetrotter routines — the water bucket. Christensen and the Trotters kick off their 2015 world tour at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center on Friday, Dec. 26, at 1 and 6 p.m.

Christensen, a 6-foot-1 guard, has played thousands of games for the Globetrotters over the years and considers himself blessed to have experienced all sorts of people, places and things he never could have imagined.

“My most memorable experiences have been playing for the troops in Baghdad,” he says. “I also had the opportunity to play on an aircraft carrier where F-16s were coming down on a moving ship.”

Scooter Christensen, a 10-year veteran of the fabulous Harlem Globetrotters, modeled his ball handling wizardry after the legendary "Pistol" Pete Maravich.

Scooter Christensen, a 10-year veteran of the fabulous Harlem Globetrotters, modeled his ball handling wizardry after the legendary “Pistol” Pete Maravich.

Growing up in Las Vegas, Christensen said he admired the ball handling magic of “Pistol” Pete Maravich. As such, he modeled his game after the Hall of Famer.

“He had a lot of ball tricks that helped his competitive game.,” Christensen recalls. “So I copied and mimicked everything that he did to handle the ball which, ironically, definitely helped me become a Globetrotter.

“I still have to work hard to keep my ball handling skills up to par. That means countless hours and hours and hours of practice and, of course, I’m always working on new tricks.”

As much as he enjoys his experiences as a Globetrotter, Christensen admits that the grueling tour schedule — which results in long periods of time away from home — can take a toll.

“If there’s one thing that is definitely hard when it comes to the Globetrotters, it’s time spent away from your family,” Christensen says. “But having your teammates on the road with you going through the same thing makes it easier for one another. We’re like a family on the road and to know that your brothers and sisters are with you traveling, playing and practicing, makes life a lot easier.

“Another thing that makes it easier is our fans. Because as soon as we step on the floor and they give us energy, we give them that same energy back.”

This year’s tour has been dubbed the “Washington Generals’ Revenge Tour” in honor of the Globetrotters’ storied nemesis.

Louis “Red” Klotz was the longtime mastermind behind the Generals as a player, coach and owner for more than 60 years. Klotz died last July 14 at age 93 and the Generals are dedicating the upcoming touring season to his memory.

Louis "Red" Klotz, the longtime player/coach/owner of Globetrotters nemesis the Washington Generals, passed away last July at the age of 93. The Generals are dedicating the upcoming season to Klotz's memory with the "Washington Generals' Revenge Tour." The tour kicks off Friday, Dec. 26, at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center.

Louis “Red” Klotz, the longtime player/coach/owner of Globetrotters nemesis the Washington Generals, passed away last July at the age of 93. The Generals are dedicating the upcoming season to Klotz’s memory with the “Washington Generals’ Revenge Tour.” The tour kicks off Friday, Dec. 26, at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.

“To honor Red’s unmatched legacy, the Washington Generals will be wearing a uniform patch with his signature when playing the Harlem Globetrotters on their 2015 world tour,” current Generals general manager John Ferrari explains. “Red’s spirit will live on each time the Generals take the court against the Globetrotters, and each game will represent a renewed opportunity for victory.”

Victories are few and far between for the Generals against the Globetrotters. The squads haven’t faced off in five years and the last Washington victory came in 1971 — when 50-year-old player/coach Klotz sank a last-second shot to seal the upset win.

For more than six decades, Klotz put together a team to face the Globetrotters more than 400 games a year. In addition to the Generals, he organized squads like the New Jersey Reds, the New York Nationals, the International Elite, Global Select and the World All-Stars. On March 13, 2011, Klotz became the first non-Trotter to have his jersey retired by the Globetrotters.

Though the Generals have some added incentive this year in honoring Klotz’s memory, Christensen doesn’t expect the Globetrotters to lose to Washington in Pittsburgh — or at any other tour stop.

“It’s certainly not going to happen in my lifetime,” he recently quipped to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “(The Generals have) got a couple tricks up their sleeves, but they’re messing with the masters. We’re the masters of trickery.”

Christensen doesn’t plan on hanging up his high-top sneakers any time soon. He says he still loves playing the game of basketball and having the opportunity to touch so many lives as a member of the Globetrotters.

“As long as God continues to keep me healthy and I have the opportunity to make people smile, I’ll be a Globetrotter,” he insists. “After my Globetrotter days I’ll probably be coaching somewhere or maybe running camps or even being a motivational speaker. I’d like to inspire someone to reach their dreams just as I have.”