Reviewer: Luke Walker
The Public Reviews Rating:
At this year’s Edinburgh festival Canadian comedian won an ‘award’ for the funniest joke of the festival. You may have read it in the paper or overheard it at work: “I’ll tell you who gives kids a bad name – Posh and Becks”. A brilliantly simple and cleverly constructed joke – this is the precision engineered comedy Stewart Francis has excelled in.
Midway through his nationwide autumn tour of this Edinburgh set Francis almost sells out the large Lyric Theatre at The Lowry – an impressive feat in itself for any stand-up comedian. A regular on comedy panel show Mock the Week as well as a slot on Live at the Apollo has made Francis into a household name. He digs in the same comedy plot as Jimmy Carr and the king of puns, Tim Vine. The one-liner is an art form that requires pinpoint accuracy of wordplay.
With a voice reminiscent to the silky tones of the ‘movie-trailer guy’ at the cinema, Francis races through his act, supplying about fifteen punchlines a minute. It is a case of if you didn’t like the last joke or were a little slow on the update then don’t worry because there’s another three queueing up behind. But the likelihood is that you will have liked the last joke anyway! It is the sheer brevity and economy in his craft that is quite astonishing. Francis can create raucous laughter from a few perfectly chosen words: “I haven’t said a silly word in yonks”. Yet such an intelligent comedian as Francis is, he turns it on its head with one punchline being the recital of every American president or another joke about time wasting taking, you guessed it, an eternity to tell. Jokes from earlier in the show even make, sometimes uninvited, cameo appearances in later jokes! Francis’ ability to play with the art of gag writing is wonderful and seems to know no bounds.
Due to the exquisitely exact nature of comedy Francis performs, it is a shame that the show didn’t have an air of individuality to it. There is a wry nod to this in the act but at times the performance felt so slick and rehearsed that there was no room for spontaneity or any banter with audience to breathe. And for a one hour set to be stretched into two hours with the help of a twenty minute support act and long break felt a little cheeky.
This show is a must see for anybody who wants to learn the art of writing jokes. Like with any good comedian the material is difficult to recollect the minute you leave the theatre. I heard one audience member remember one Star Wars pun from the show but suspect he will be repeating the one about Posh and Becks come Monday.