It’s not often that a comedy show is tinged with sadness but stand-up legend Stewart Francis’ farewell tour might have you holding back the tears – and not just from laughter.
The star of Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo and Crackerjack will be performing his show Into the Punset as part of his farewell tour of the UK and Ireland at Oakengates Theatre in Telford on April 12 at 8pm.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, the UK-based Canadian gag master has embarked on an epic tour – and it is the very last one.
The tour sees Stewart hold back the tears as he says goodbye to the good show-goers who have made his job such great fun over the last decade or so.
But as a fully-paid up comedian, who takes his vocation very seriously to boot, through the tears is a constant desire to arouse boundless joy in his audience.
So expect some tears, but more to the point expect the veritable barrel of laughs that can be expected of a punmaster of Stewart Francis’ calibre.
Stewart has received international acclaim in the US and his native Canada, as well as here in the UK and Ireland.
Amongst other shows he has appeared on are BBC’s Mock the Week, Live At The Apollo, Celebrity Mastermind and Not Going Out, Dave’s One Night Stand, and C4’s 8 Out Of Ten Cats.
Stewart said he is confident he has a farewell show that will be remembered fondly as he’s been trying it out on the folks back home.
He said: “I’ve been doing it in Canada, my home and native land, where I got to workshop it and get it into my brain. I write solely for British audiences, so I was doing jokes there that I knew full well the Canadian audiences wouldn’t really appreciate. But I had fun with it by stepping back from the joke to tell them what I’m going for in it and when I repeated it, that would generally be a nice moment. There’d be some sarcastic laughs... but what are drunks like?”
Having arrived in the UK over a decade ago, Stewart Francis has cultivated a strong following among critics and audiences. At the Edinburgh Festival of 2012, he won the Dave Joke Of The Fringe Award for this perky one-liner: “You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks.”
He said: “From my perspective, British and Irish audiences are so comedy savvy so I don’t have to pull a big cheesy smile after every punchline to let you know that the joke’s over and you can now feel free to laugh. With my dry, deadpan humour, I can just leave it out there and the audience will connect the dots.”
Stewart admits to feeling no extra pressure to make Into The Punset an extra-special one, and his joke-writing process for this show hasn’t changed.
He said: “I just come up with the gags as and when. I’ve got the template for the show down, so as I come up with a new gag I try to work out how I can put it in there. But for me, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and that’s how I can carry on with my day without being obsessed with writing jokes. I just feel the sunshine on my cheeks and if I come up with a gag, all the better.”
The big question is what comes next for Stewart Francis?
He said: “I’m going to step away from comedy and focus on acting, which is another passion. When you’re a comedian, casting directors can be a bit lazy and think, ‘well he’s just a comedian’ but I’m not. I think I have some significant acting chops and I want to prove that to myself and to the world. But when you’re wearing both hats as a comedian and an actor, you can be taken less seriously; so I want there to be a real separation.”
So, anyone thinking that this ‘farewell tour’ could be one of those fake finales which some bands have announced down the years only to return, you’ll have to take Stewart on his word.
He said: “I saw Simply Red’s last show at the O2 three years ago and they came back out a year later! I have way too much respect for the audience to do something like that. People don’t know me well enough to know how much I value the crowd and how much I appreciate their time. Even if I did want to come back, I wouldn’t do it, I’d get a job doing what I needed to do, because I try to be a man of my word. Sadly we live in a world where there’s all this cynicism and some people might believe that it’s just a publicity thing. It’s not. “Andy Kaufman is dead, he’s not coming back, and this is my last tour.
“This tour is a love letter to the UK and Ireland, thanking them for a wonderful chapter in my comedy career. It’s not a sad moment for me, it’s just all about new challenges and new horizons,” he said.
Tickets cost £24 and there is an age limit of 16-years-old and over. For more information, please visit the Oakengates website at https://theplacetelford.com/whats-on/comedy/stewart-francis-into-the-punset/2806