"People are saying it's the best show they've ever seen, not just mine. And who am I to deny them of that belief?"
Comedian/master of puns, Stewart Francis came to the UK from Canada around 20 years ago, performed numerous times at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and now he's returning to the festival with Into the Punset which promises to be his final show.
Discussing what he'd like to do next, Stewart revealed to me that acting is high on the list, he also explained to me why now's the right for him to bow out of the comedy and the importance of the Edinburgh Fringe.
You've been touring your final show. Were you always going to return to the Fringe with it?
Yes. Even before I wrote it I knew that I was taking my show to Edinburgh because this is my last kick at the cat as it were because I'm packing it in as of December 7th.
What made you come to that decision?
A whole bunch of reasons, all of them good. It's been a thirty year career, it's given me everything I needed to get from it and that's why it's now time to move on to new adventures and in particular acting. I'd love to do more acting and voiceover work.
How large a part has the Edinburgh Festival Fringe had to play in your career?
As a Canadian comedian, our equivalent was Just the Laughs in Montreal which is a comedy festival in Canada who for forty years have been showcasing non-Canadian comedians... that's me being sarcastic by the way! So as a Canadian comedian hoping to get a look in at Just for Laughs in our own country, I was pretty hard pressed. But that was always what we were chasing as comedians.
Over here, the British comedians were always pursuing Edinburgh so it's not quite the same for me but I fully get the history and how important it's proven to be for a whole bunch of comedians so it's more important to me because I have family two minutes away from Edinburgh so back in the day I had free lodgings!
What can people expect from your final show?
If you're familiar with my work, it's my best tour to date. So if you like to laugh a lot, come. But some people don't. Some people like long-winded stories with little to no pay off. But if you like to laugh a lot, you'll laugh 200-300 times at this show. So if you don't like laughing, don't come to it. It's not for you.
But if you like to laugh and enjoy life and just be happy, this is the one for you. It's my best work. They're all brand spanking new jokes. The venue will have that brand new joke smell to it. It's a glorious occasion and people are saying it's the best show they've ever seen, not just mine. And who am I to deny them of that belief?
Into the Punset as a title is just perfect. How long have you had that title in your head for?
I've been sitting on that since before the last tour but I knew that that wasn't going to be my last tour which is why I came up with Pun Gent. This title just wrote itself, if you've seen the poster it's me with a donkey - the catchphrase is "The last time you'll see this ass" - it's all there.
Someone suggested something else, which is a good second-to-last tour title - The Punultimate Tour - but based on the fact that they suggested it, I couldn't do it. I'm such a purist that even though it was a great title I couldn't use it because I didn't come up with it.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
No. Just make sure my flies are up! That's about it.
What are you most looking forward to about your final Edinburgh run?
Just to be able to deliver a really good show to fans that are huge fans of Edinburgh, It's a savvy bunch who tend to hit the shows there so I'm really excited about that. Especially as it's a good show that I'm very proud of.
That aside, I'm going to be able to see some other shows and some other chums that I haven't had the luxury of seeing because I'm working a lot. The nervous thing is looking at their times because a lot of them are on at a similar time to mine but I've got two Mondays off - although I'm not sure if I want to use a day off to see comedy because a day off is a really important thing to decompress. 23 shows in 25 days is pretty daunting.
What's next for you then? You mentioned acting earlier...
Absolutely. As a comedian you sometimes get written off as an actor and I think I've got some pretty good dramatic acting chops but casting directors sometimes look at comedians and think they won't be able to do this.
I want to prove them wrong - not with any anger, but I'd like to prove some people wrong in that sense. I know I've got it in me so I'm going to give it a go and if nothing comes of it, at least I gave it a go.
That's kind of how I approached comedy. I got into it 30 years ago because I didn't want to be the guy on the porch saying "Shoulda, woulda, coulda", I did it and 30 years later I'm as happy as Larry.
Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?
It is fab u lous.
Stewart Francis: Into the Punset runs from 1st - 25th August (not 12th and 19th) at 7pm at the Assembly Rooms (Ballroom). Book tickets here.