DVD Review: Stewart Francis Live - Outstanding in His Field
In his latest stand-up DVD ”Outstanding in His Field” Francis is back as his usual affable, casual self with his trait satirical rapid-fire cadence. As always, he’s armed to the teeth with an arsenal of oral origami one-liners, deceptions and puns and although everyone thought it would be hard to surpass such a joke-filled first DVD, his second offering sustains a much higher hit rate.
The DVD is candidly set up with a great nostalgic introduction from The Great Soprendo and a rendition of the Crackerjack one hit wonder “I Could Crush a Grape”. The under 30s won’t have a clue what’s going on here but the clip itself is just so much fun no one loses out.
Once Francis struts out on stage like a cowboy at dawn, there’s just no stopping his barrage from start to end. The comedy circuit greedily obliges comedians to come up with a whole new hour of material each year. This is a really big ask, particularly as Francis’ jokes are all compressed into snippets only lasting seconds. More often than not this tends to lead to an inevitable trade-off in quality but this isn’t the case here. In fact it’s so admirable that he can come up with so many one-liners with rarely a dud punchline in sight. It’s no surprise he won this year’s DAVE best joke of the year at this year’s Fringe with his Beckham one-liner (although he follows that joke up with an even better Posh and Becks joke on the DVD). Francis very rarely fires blanks in the entire hour and even when he does throw out the odd slice of flimsier material it is more than made up for with the more intelligent gags.
It is such a great joy to hear each set up, with Francis literally having the audience on their toes waiting to see how each pun plays out. There really is no way of telling which direction he’s going to go and that’s the real secret to his success. Just as in his first DVD, Francis likes to get provocative, often joking about relationships with family members and as crude as the idea may sound his word play swiftly kicks any audience disgust right out of the door. Comedians like Frankie Boyle go down the crass route whereas Francis’ take on “provocative” material is both intelligent and quick witted.
Despite comparisons to the first DVD, it does seem that Stewart has changed a few tactics. Firstly, he has taken to lengthening out a few of the jokes and they work really well. This could be for one of two reasons – either for further comedic effect and a result of his experience working on Mock the Week or to poke fun at a certain reviewer who claimed he wasted time for the sake of wasting time on his last DVD (with one joke specifically aimed at said reviewer). Whatever the case, he’s definitely upped the ante by widening his subject material from his usual neutral, impersonal statements to take shots at popular TV targets. This is most likely the result of his time on shows like Mock the Week. Coupled with this, something Francis pulls off really well are his vitriolic impressions, with highlights such as his impersonation of Janet Street Porter/Loose Women and his description of Ed Miliband who he says looks just “like a security guard who’s just heard a noise in the warehouse”. The whole set is replete with a healthy showering of these funny voices and impersonations coupled with musical aids and Phil Cool-esque facial expressions to break up the one-liners, all skillfully placed throughout the hour.
Many a critic had their doubts that Francis could deliver the goods a second time round as they thought his first effort was the result of a lifetime of gag writing. How more wrong could they have been? When he’s on-form, his one-liners are best in show, and he’s on tip top form here. As long as you’re ready to pay full attention for the running time you’re in for a great ride. If not, I believe Peter Kay has a re-re-re-re-released DVD on the shop shelves this Christmas.
Outstanding in His Field is available on DVD from Amazon.