'I LIKE TO MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH, I DON'T NEED TO'
When: Friday, October 26, 7.30pm.
Where: Hull City Hall, Queen Victoria Square, Hull.
Tickets: £18.50. To book: 01482 300300.
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"I was a trampoline salesman – off and on."
"My therapist says I have a preoccupation with vengeance. We'll see about that."
"I quit my job at the helium gas factory. I didn't like being spoken to in that voice."
Canada Post's loss was comedy's gain. Stewart Francis tells Will Ramsey about his life on the road
Stewart Francis wasn't the world's most dedicated postal worker.
"I spent more time trying to make people laugh than sorting mail," says the Canadian comedian.
And if it hadn't been for his girlfriend, a career in stand-up might never have materialised.
The Mock The Week star, who has lived in Britain for the past six years, was pushed, gently, towards the stage.
"She got tired of me watching comedy on TV and saying 'I could do better than that'," he said.
So, without his knowledge, she entered him into an amateur stand-up night at a club in Niagara Falls.
"I don't know if I would have had the gumption to do it myself," he said.
"It was an hour's drive from Toronto, so if I failed I could still live a normal life.
"As it was, it was the highest I'd ever felt – there was just this great sense of accomplishment."
Twenty or so years later, the affable stand-up has embarked on his latest tour, Outstanding In His Field.
It is, he says, a continuation of the familiar – the finely- tuned puns that first made his name.
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it," says Stewart.
"The way I write is a lot of talking to myself, twisting everyday phrases – it is playing with the English language.
"As a kid you hear a lot of puns and that registered with me. Having a good sense of humour I appreciated the beauty and horror of a pun."
Written during the past 18 months – following the completion of his last tour – the new show sees the comedian return to the five-night-a-week gigging schedule, with Mondays and Tuesdays put aside to potter around his garden.
And while the stage might not be his natural habitat – he originally harboured dreams of being a cartoonist – he says it allows him to express himself.
"Comedians either like to make people laugh, or need to make people laugh," he said.
"I like to make people laugh – rather than need to.
"I wanted to be a cartoonist, which would probably have been more suited to my personality, but I don't have any fear of being on stage.
"I've performed in front of 10,000 people with no problems. But by the same token, I don't need 10,000 people to pat me on the back.
"My hero was Johnny Carson – he was properly shy, almost reclusive, yet on stage he was a genius."
Stewart is no slouch himself. At this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival he was awarded the accolade of the "funniest joke" for his quip "You know who really gives kids a bad name? Posh and Becks."
As a comedy fanatic – thanks to his British parents he grew up watching many of our classic sitcoms – he is a diligent student of what makes a joke work.
"It is in the approach," he says. "Over here, you can be dry and subtle, in North America you need to spell it out. In Canada it is an amalgam of both, because while we have British ancestors we also get a huge amount of US TV."
There is a keen awareness of cultural difference for this Canuck, who enjoys living and working this side of the pond.
"I cannot get back over to Canada often enough but I am very proud to have been a British citizen for the past six years," he said.
"My heart is over there, my working life is here."