If you don't like at least one of us it's your fault says TV funnyman Stewart Francis
Such is Stewart Francis' mastery of deadpan delivery I can't tell at first if he's joking when he tells me there's already been a tour romance, until he adds he can say no more due to the "couple" in question selling their story to a glossy magazine.
The one-line wonder is part of The All-Star Stand-Up Tour, visiting Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion at 7.30pm, June 9. The line-up includes Phoenix Nights’ Justin Moorhouse and Mike Gunn who replaces Jim Tavaré after his serious car crash. The returning compere is Jarred Christmas.
A Canadian by birth, Stewart is a British citizen on account of both his parents being from this country so he’s as concerned about Brexit as the rest of this at this point. “I’m in, you’re stuck with me Britain,” he laughs.
Between our exit from the European Union, US President Donald Trump and the forthcoming general election it’s a golden time for comedians. Not that he subscribes to that type of comedy; continuing to do his “silly one-liners and ridiculous puns”.
“It’s ripe, almost too ripe in the form of the ‘orange one’. What comes out of his mouth is funnier than anything anybody can write; not short-changing our creativity, that’s just how much of an idiot the man is.”
“No refunds”, Stewart interrupts when I bring up seeing him at the Ipswich Regent a few years back and whether his style of comedy is the perfect antidote to constant political satire on our screens and stages.
“It can work both ways; here’s hoping because it’s almost like the voice is the same from comedians ranting and railing against what’s going on in the world. Hopefully I’ll give the evening a little texture. It’s my favourite style of comedy and it’s served me well.”
He says audiences get more bang for their buck. If you don’t like one gag there’s one right behind it. Hopefully it means he’s getting more laughs over the course of a show too.
“A little more work has to go into it, you have to roll up your sleeves and get at it and write as many jokes as possible. That’s what I’m in the process of doing now, even though I’m touring I’m writing for my next tour which hopefully will be out in October 2018... Which is weird in of itself because I’m writing great gags that I want to go into my next tour but I can’t do them on stage; I won’t do that because it’s like delayed gratification.”
He grew up watching American comedians like Rodney Dangerfield and British acts like Les Dawson and Tommy Cooper so gravitated towards quick quips. Not that he was the class clown as a kid.
“I would come in with my humorous asides while the class clown was catching his breath. I was my no means a class clown. It isn’t in keeping with my personality even though I’m going in front of a large group of people... My personality would be a little more subdued than that would’ve suggested. I was a relatively popular kid so didn’t need to use humour as a defence mechanism, which I think a lot of people do cite. I kinda got through unscathed in that sense. I was funny for the sake of being funny.”
He chose comedy because, bluntly, “working for a living was not for me”.
“I’ve done full-time jobs, worked an eight hour shift and it just didn’t sit well with me,” he laughs “as it doesn’t with a lot of people I fully appreciate that. I just knew there were bigger things ahead so I pursued comedy while working full-time.”
Much of that was spent working at Canada Post, the country’s post office; cracking lines and trying to make his co-workers giggle while getting his job done, obviously.
“I was a mail handler which sounds a bit cheeky; I did a little bit of everything... It was a great job, I did it for a very long time. I took a break from college with the anticipation of making some money to go back and 10 years later I didn’t. I don’t think I’m going back is what I’m trying to say,” he laughs.
Stewart can’t speak for the rest of the All-Star Stand-up Tour line-up, but he doesn’t feel in competition with anybody else.
“We’ve known each other for eons so we’re pros in that sense... Every time I go on stage I just to do the best I can, and I’m sure they’re doing the same, to appease the audience. We’re comedians, it’s what we’re good at so there’s definitely levity on and off stage. Like any conversation it might turn to politics, the horrible news over the last couple of days in Manchester. At its core there’s humour, that’s what we are, we’re clowns.”
We need a laugh more than ever now.
“Not to pat myself on the back but we always do - even when times are good who doesn’t want to have a laugh. When things are harrowing we do need that break from reality and just kind of turn off our brains, have a wee chuckle and try to put things right as best we can.”
It could all be academic as Stewart has a big acting audition the next day; chuckling if he gets it he’ll quit the tour immediately and not do his own. He can’t say what it’s for because he’s not entirely sure.
“I just spoke to my agent moments before you. That’s another one of my pursuits, acting. I’m hoping to get more parts, auditions and see how well I do. I’ve got a couple of sitcom ideas that I’m pitching so you always keep as many fingers in the pie as possible but first things first.
The All-Star tour is going from town to town, trying to make people chuckle for a couple of hours. You’re getting four terrific acts, four varying styles of comedy; if you don’t like at least one of us it’s your fault,” he laughs.