Review – Stewart Francis, Outstanding in his field, Derngate, Northampton, 12th May 2012

Yet another comic act in Northampton that we booked on the strength of the advertising. We hadn’t seen Stewart Francis before but our 16 year old Goddaughter, who is a Mock-the-weeker, said he would be a good bet. I sense we may have failed our Godparently duty if she’s talking about gambling like that.

Stewart FrancisNever mind – she was right. She had told us Stewart Francis is best known for his quick fire one-liners. Well he sure does have a lot of these; in fact there’s wordplay by the punful. It’s all very clever and very funny, and with a supremely slick delivery. He has a very nice way of leading you down the garden path with one way of comic thinking only to veer off suddenly in a completely different direction; and that keeps the whole routine feeling fresh, pacey and lively. I also liked his subtle interaction with the sound engineer, which brought in an additional dimension to his stand-up. There were one or two comedic alleyways he took us down that turned into dead-ends but for the most part it was all great fun.

He gets a very strong rapport with the audience, which I would like to see him develop. But you sense that if he spent too much time interacting with the audience he wouldn’t quite know how to get back to his prepared material. If you’re sensing a slight reservation on my part, I would perhaps comment that I really appreciate comedy that gives some insights into the human condition – and Stewart Francis’ material doesn’t do that. He doesn’t intend to, mind you. His humour is very shallow. That’s not a criticism; depending on the context shallow is good. If you’re happy with being bombarded by linguistic cleverness (and why wouldn’t you be?) he’s your man. But you won’t get any “Ha! I recognise that!” or “That’s just like you” moments. At the end of his act (about an hour long) he gives us a very clever and funny subversion of a typical Q&A ending, which worked really well.

Matt RudgeBefore the interval we have Matt Rudge as a half-hour warm-up. We saw Mr Rudge at a Screaming Blue Murder last year and he was very good although he didn’t go down that well. Playing a larger crowd he really got into his element and gave us some excellent observational comedy. If I’m honest his is the kind of material I prefer. I particularly liked his angst at having to come out to his parents as middle-class. Good stuff!

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