Stewart Francis heads to Fife for one last time
He’s anything but your typical comedian.
No long, rambling stories, marathon monologues or build -ups, just a simple short delivery that has had people laughing in the aisles for the past 30 years.
With the deadpan delivery that has become his trademark, and as a regular and much-loved star on our television screens over the past decade on shows such as Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo, Stewart Frances is planning to bid farewell to fans and audiences across the UK in the coming months as he calls time on a 30-year career.
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The Canadian comic, who has strong ties to Scotland , told the Press this week that he wanted to go out at the top, as he brings his extensive fourth and final tour north of the border to the country he’s happy to call his second home.
“I’ve countless great memories of it as my grandfather was a miner from Prestonpans, and I spent time in Musselburgh, so it’s in my blood,” he explained.
“I see it as my second home , and have always loved appearing before Scottish audiences.
“I started my career appearing in Edinburgh at the Fringe so Scotland has played a large part in my life ... and I’m even starting to understand the language,” he laughed.
And now he’s coming back for his final tour in what he says is a bid to go out at the top.
But why now?
“I’m on top of my game but, at the age of 60, I feel the time is right.
“I want to be that aging football player that scores the touchdown in the final seconds of the Superbowl before walking into the sunset.
“Hence the ‘Into the punset’ title for the tour, I suppose.
“Anyway, performers want to leave the audience wanting more, and that’s what I’m planning with this last tour.”
While he’s a regular on our TV screens with the seemingly endless re-runs of Mock The Week , it’s now over four years since he last recorded for the popular comedy series and Stewart says he’s used some of that time to work on the material for this last tour.
“The material for tour is the best I’ve ever written and I’m confident audiences will agree.
“I’ve spent the last two years pulling it together, boiling it down and ironing out the kinks.
“I consider it the best work of my career, so I certainly plan to go out with a bang.”
The process is a long one, he says, because he’s not the sort of comedian who retraces old steps or falls into the habit of revsisting old gags.
“Seriously, once a tour is complete those gags are forgotten, “ he explained, “that’s why I surprise myself on the rare occasionwhen I watch myself on TV to hear gags I’d completely erased from my mind.”
However, for the comedian who once scooped the much-revered Dave Joke of the Fringe at Edinburgh, he will make one exception with regular fans able to spot a line within the show that is his sole tip of the hat to his comedy that gone before.
Asked if he had a favourite gag from his vast back catalogue he said that was like being asked to name his favourite child.
“Which by the way is Mandy,” he said, in true comedic style unable to miss the opportunity of an open goal.
“Really, I don’t have one, however, I do have people stop me in the street from time to time, reminding me of their favourtites and which one of mine makes them laugh the most.
“That’s the reward, I love that and I never fail to be fascinated by why that particular one hit the spot for them.”
So, with a clean break come the morning after his final show in London on December 7, what‘s next?
“Professionally the time is right and I’ve got other things I want to do while I still have the chance, one of which is acting, which is another passion I have.”
With appreances in Lee Mack’s Not Going Out and US legal drama Kevin Hill, already under his belt, Stewart is hoping directors take his move as a serious one.
“It’s easy for directors and producers to be lazy when a comedian wants to act.
“Wearing two hats in that regard as both an actor and a comedian can confuse the matter, so a clean break is what’s required.
“I know I can act, I’ve got the chops for serious acting and what to show that.”
Asked how he viewed comedy, both live stand-up and on television, today compared to when he started out, he, without hesitation, pointed to the rise of women in mainstream comedy.
“That’s fundamentally the biggest shift in the last 30 years, and that is incredibly important,” he said.
“On my last two previous tours I had female comedians as the opening acts and you just need to look at the fantastic array of female stars that are rightly dominating television right now.
“It’s taken a long time to get to where we are , but to witness it is heartwarming.
“They are finally getting the breaks and the sort of equality within comedy that has been long, long overdue.”
Stewart Francis - ‘Into the Punset’, at Rothes Halls, Glenrothes on Sunday, September 29. Tickets priced £21.50 (16 and over) available now from the box office on 01592 611101.