Stewart Francis: interview

Posted: Thu May 6 2010

He's supported Ricky Gervais on tour and become a fixture on British TV, but can Stewart Francis get through a whole interview using only his trademark one-liners? Time Out sets 'em up.

Not to be confused with the legendary Stu Francis, host of cult kids' show, 'Crackerjack', Stewart Francis is Canada's fourth most sought-after export - after maple syrup, Molson beer and, of course, warbling angel Celine Dion. Before taking the big sky bird across the ocean and setting up home in the UK he had a successful career writing for 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' and acting in American sitcoms 'Kevin Hill' and 'A Canadian in America'.

His CV has continued to grow impressively since his move, with regular appearances on shows like 'Mock the Week', '8 Out of 10 Cats' and 'Michael McIntyre's Comedy Road Show'. And now, after supporting Ricky Gervais on his latest mega-tour, Stewart is heading out on his first major solo excusion, 'Tour de Francis'. But what makes this king of the surreal one-liner tick? Who is the real man behind his poker-faced persona? And what secrets can he tell us about Ricky Gervais?

Due to your deadpan style and well-crafted use of the one-liner you've been compared to such comedy greats as Steven Wright and Woody Allen. Who would you most like to be compared to?
'June Whitfield.'

As a Canadian living in England what do you miss most about home?
'My inhaler.'

One of your regular opening lines is, 'Don't worry, I haven't heard of you either.' With a successful tour under your belt and umpteen appearances on TV is it now difficult to use that line?
'I'm always trying to be progressive. I've replaced that line with a new catchphrase: “Ooh, I could crush a grape!”.'

Is it difficult to remember so many one-liners?
'Fortunately I have a good memory, which I get from my mother - no, father, uncle.'

Because you're more of a gag man than an observational comedian does that put you under more pressure to make every gag count?
'Am I really considered to be more of a gag man than an observational comedian? I hadn't noticed.'

How early in your career did you develop your distinctive style?
'It was 10.30am, no, 11.00am, uncle.'

As a deadpan comic have there ever been occasions when you've been in danger of laughing at your own jokes, thus breaking the illusion?
'No. I'm not a fan of my work.'

Are there any jokes you've written that you personally find hilarious but just haven't connected with an audience?
'Every now and then and it drives me crazy. I don't know how Lenny Henry copes.'

What's been the best thing about being a stand-up?
'As a bad speller, who doesn't like working, it has to be the short whores.'

You were a very successful comedian, writer and actor back home so why up sticks and move to Blighty?
'Because people who play pick up sticks are more accepted here.'

What was it like being Ricky Gervais's warm-up guy on his last tour, 'Science'? Do you enjoy playing those enormous rooms?
'The only thing that separated the audience from a really good time was me; at least that's what they kept yelling while I was on stage.'

Any gossip about Ricky?
'No, he's just a normal cannibalistic, bed-wetting hermaphrodite.'

Rock stars playing arenas often make a lot of outlandish backstage requests for things, like a bowl of blue Smarties or a monkey dressed as a butler. When you played Wembley Arena did you have any particular outrageous riders?
'Just a drunken Winona.'

Back in Canada you hosted the game show 'You Bet Your Ass' which had rounds named 'Piece of Ass', 'Up Your Ass' and 'Ass on the Line'. The only other round was called 'Dirty Dozen'. what happened to the 'ass' theme?
'In showbiz it's common knowledge that five asses are too many. See Take That.'

Stewart Francis's show 'Tour de Francis' is at the Bloomsbury Theatre, Sept 2 & 3.