Creative Review New Music
Stewart Francis returned to Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall yesterday armed with more of the classic one-liners that have made him a household name.
Pun Gent is the Canadian comedian’s third nationwide tour and, although his shows are made up of a consistent stream of short word-play gags, it does not seem like he is running out of material. Francis stated that he prides himself on having an entirely new act for each tour as part of a joke later on in the set, but it is genuinely impressive how he manages to write so many gags.
A show containing as many different jokes as this should be quite hit and miss, but Francis has mastered the art of how to tell a joke, and most of his material drew big laughs from the crowd. Francis’ impeccable timing is such that you get the feeling that he could make an audience laugh even if he told a bad joke.
The 2012 winner for funniest joke of the Edinburgh Fringe held the audience in the palm of his hand as he raced through a whole range of topics from his pet rabbit to Sean Connery. Although he is better known for his lighter material, Francis did delve into more taboo issues with jokes about Bill Cosby and the Germanwings flight that crashed last April drawing gasps from the crowd.
His charismatic on-stage persona meant these gags never felt too offensive and he comfortably managed the transition to black comedy without it ever feeling forced or out of place. It must be difficult to construct an hour’s worth of entertainment out of one-liner gags without a narrative thread, but Francis held the show together with a number of callbacks that ensured the show felt well put together.
During the interval, the audience were kept occupied by a screen on the stage that was flashing up various New Yorker style cartoons illustrated by Francis.However, the jokes missed the Mock the Week regular’s delivery and would have potentially landed better had he incorporated them into his act.
Support was provided by fellow Canadian, Allyson June Smith, who effectively warmed up the crowd with her pleasant humour.
Just before he went off for his encore, Francis joked that the audience would be asking for a refund, but the rapturous applause he received as he walked off stage suggests the people in attendance felt they more than got their money’s worth.