Review: Stewart Francis – Pungent

righthandpromo_pungenttour[First published on Quays News 04/11/15]

STEWART FRANCIS performed his latest stand up show Pungent at The Lowry last night. I was in the audience…

Stewart Francis, recording his show for his third live stand up DVD, delivered a high end comedy show. His set is extremely well written and his dead pan delivery of puns exudes professionalism. His show merits connoisseurs of comedy to fill theatres, however, last night there were a sprinkling of empty seats in The Lowry’s Lyric Theatre.

Allyson June-Smith greets the audience first in the difficult role of supporting act. She struggled to rouse the audience, her initial ten minutes receiving little laughter. Her material does become increasingly creative however, as she shows off her impressive singing voice by impersonating the likes of Shakira and Britney Spears. Towards the end of her set, she’d done her job as the audience were warmed up, but it did however take the full half hour.

Following the interval Francis strolls onto the stage with a profound confidence, showing no sign of nerves, even on the night of his DVD recording. His one-liners, as expected, are well thought out, not one being a cheap unoriginal laugh. His smooth dead pan delivery allows audiences to follow his jokes easily. It’s this style which allows the laughter to flow in a distinct rhythm, rarely leaving a sustained silence and creating an enjoyable atmosphere.Stewart-Francis-at-The-Lowry-702x336

Short jokes that land successfully are often unpredictable, and Francis understands this well. His astuteness allows him to lull the audience into thinking the joke is heading in one direction, then once deceived, he flips the joke on its head with an unexpected line to land the joke. He also has a great ability to squeeze several punchlines out of the same set up which acts to prolong the laughter.

There were a range of topics which Francis derived his jokes from, some silly such as his array of toilet jokes, others more controversial, venturing into subjects such as Parkinson’s disease and then targeting Bill Crosby and Abu Hamza. These jokes aren’t without forethought and as the humour originates from wordplay, little offence is caused.

Francis, trying to add variety to his show, uses a large screen positioned behind him, first to joke about subliminal messaging and then to point out implied meanings to his gags. The largest laugh is a quip about tax avoidance in which fellow comedian Jimmy Carr appears on the screen behind. It’s a nice detour from his unillustrated wordplay, and by using it moderately, he makes sure it never becomes monotonous.

There’s no need for the front row to avoid eye contact with Francis, his show one of military precision with little room for improvisation with audience members. Despite this, he did trip up on the odd occasion, having to save himself with some funny recoveries before retelling the joke. Heckles were vacant throughout the night. Perhaps this was out of respect, but more likely a result of the intimidating cameras and the risk of their humiliation being available from all good retailers sometime next year.

A prominent feature in this show, and a comedic device rarely used as effectively, is repetition. It’s often the case with comedians that the jokes are in isolation, often forgotten by the audience as the comedian moves on swiftly. Francis on the other hand, seamlessly harks back to punchlines used earlier in the show on multiple occasions, each recall getting funnier and more outrageous. His encore was packed with these repeated punchlines, all overlapping, creating roars of laughter.

Francis is a clever manipulator of language and shows off his skills in this tour built up entirely of new jokes. He has full control of his audience and by rightly predicting that they will do some of the work by jumping to punchlines themselves, he creates eruptions of hilarity by outguessing them with unexpected lines. Overall, Francis delivers a night packed with playful jokes you won’t have heard anywhere else.

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Upcoming Gig Reviews

So I’ve done one review on this blog so far, hopefully you checked it out, if not you can do so here. I just wanted to let you know what I’ve got coming up at The Lowry in Salford, so if something interests you then you’ll be able to pop back to check it out.

Andy Hamilton 26th October
Andy_Hamilton_cropped

After watching him on a whole host of panel shows I’m looking forward to seeing Andy’s stand up. He seems an intelligent chap so I’m expecting his new show, Change Management, to be well thought out. He hasn’t performed stand up for a number of years and might be a little rusty, but he’ll surely know what he’s going into, so I presume he’ll have prepared his show meticulously. His strength is in his comedic writing, having worked on many famous sitcoms, most recently Outnumbered and Ballot Monkeys. His show looks back on all the changes that have occurred to us over the last 60 years. I expect it to be both insightful and funny.

 

Sean Kelly 29th October

I can’t wait for this. For those who don’t recognise the name, he’s the auctioneer from storage hunters, and if you still don’t know what I’m talking about get watching it on Dave immediately, it’s bound to be on. As it’s his first tour over here, he won’t be as familiar with a UK audience compared to his usual American audience, but this also means we wont be familiar with him, allowing him to serve up his best material amassed over his 16 year career. He was born in Germany (yeah I research) and has held a number of jobs before becoming a comedian, so I expect his material to be varied. Admittedly I struggle to relate to american comedians, despite this I have high hopes for his show.

 

 

Stewart Francis 3rd November

One of the few pun maestros on the circuit, his gags are always well thought out and he squeezes his material to create several punchlines from the same set up. His popularity has slowly grown in the last few years and to keep up with demand he’s added extra dates to his Pun Gent tour. You know what you’re going to get good jokes with Stewart Francis and you know it’ll be funny, but I hope he ventures into something a little different.

 

 

Dave Gorman 10th NovemberDave_Gorman

One of my favourite comedians at the moment and I’m not his only fan. His show on Dave, Modern Life is Goodish, in which he expertly explores our day to day life, spotting quirks and nonsense that we all fail to notice, has amassed a huge following. His recent stand up shows are accompanied by a powerpoint which, for him, works incredibly well as it illustrates his sometimes quite convoluted routines. My face resembled his picture when I found out I was seeing him.

 

For each of these shows I’ll be writing a review for my Universities’ website Quays News which will be published the following day. Of course I’ll post it on here as well, adding a bit more detail.

Thanks for coming and please call back soon. If you’d like to share on your way out as well that would be most helpful.