Stewart Francis: Tour de Francis

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

Canadian comic Stewart Francis is known for the quality of his one-liners – and is getting rather better known for them thanks to memorable recent appearances on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow and Mock The Week.

So no surprises to find the tour that TV exposure has led to is simply an hour of gags. Scores, if not hundreds, of dumb, immature – and frequenty hilarious – one-liners. The unwavering tone of the night doesn’t make for much variety, but the quality of the writing ensures a sizeable collection of wonderfully quotable jokes.

Conversation isn’t something he does. When his radio mike picks up interference from Arthur Smith’s gig next door, it leaves him flummoxed, if unruffled. All he can do is plough into the material until a techie quickly arrives on stage with a replacement.

When he later repeats a gag, an occupational hazard with a fragmented set like his, he has another well-honed joke about the apparent slip that leaves the audience uncertain as to whether it was a mistake at all.

Sound problems asides, it’s an impeccably slick performance from a performer with a highly developed sense of timing. As for the material, it’s impossible to do justice to the jokes without repeating them, which would ruin the element of surprise that makes them so effective. That said, if you have seen him before, all the greatest hits are in this show, and it’s a joy to hear them again. His are not jokes that diminish in the retelling.

At his best, he plays with audience expectations of how a gag will pan out, abruptly switching direction or swerving to another punchline. The very finest have a delayed drop as the audience suddenly appreciate just how clever – in a stupid way – Francis has just been. Occasionally there’s even a smaller sub-joke to the main one, which is particularly impressive to achieve in two sentences.

Of course, with such a mass of gags, not all can live up to his brilliant best, but there’s strength in numbers, and you forgive a couple of more straightforward quips, knowing some precious gold will shortly be along shortly. Few hours pack in so many gags with such a high hit rate.

Review date: 16 Oct 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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