Leigh Francis
Keith Lemon (8464862242) (cropped).jpg
Birth nameLeigh Izaak Francis
Born (1973-04-30) 30 April 1973 (age 49)
Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
MediumTelevision
Years active1995–present
Genres
Spouse
Jill Carter
(m. 2002)
Children1

Leigh Izaak Francis (born 30 April 1973) is an English comedian, actor, writer, director, and producer. He is best known for creating Channel 4's Bo' Selecta! (2002–2009) and portraying Keith Lemon in several ITV shows including Celebrity Juice (2008–present), Through the Keyhole (2013–2019), and The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (2015–2016).

Early life

Francis was born in Beeston, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, on 30 April 1973,[1] and was brought up on a council estate in Old Farnley, Leeds. His father died aged 47 of cancer,[2] whilst his mother, Pat, is still alive.[3]

Francis attended Farnley Park High School (now The Farnley Academy). He later studied at Jacob Kramer College and received a qualification in graphic design. Before making his major television breakthrough, he was discovered and encouraged by television presenter Davina McCall, performing in-role stand-up comedy in a southern comedy club.[4]

McCall landed Francis his first television role on Dom and Kirk's Nite O' Plenty, where he portrayed Bobby Stark, a man who gives tips on how to win over the ladies. The series aired on Paramount Television from January to July 1996.[5] Francis' second television role was as Barry Gibson, a music paparazzo, featured on the early series of Channel 4's Popworld. Francis also starred as various characters, including Gibson, Keith Lemon and Avid Merrion in the series Whatever I Want, which aired late night on ITV in 2000.

Career

In his early career, Francis did a series of shorts for Comedy Central (then known as Paramount Comedy) called Stars in Their Houses. Some of the shorts can be found on YouTube.

His major television breakthrough occurred when Channel 4 offered him a £250,000 deal to produce a series based on his television characters, such as his previous roles as Bobby Stark and Barry Gibson, and in 2002, Bo' Selecta! was born. The series featured Francis portraying a series of celebrities by wearing face masks to impersonate them, as well as portraying the main, non-celebrity character, Avid Merrion. The programme lasted for five series, airing between 2002 and 2006, however, the last two series were only loosely based on the original three. Series 4 was subtitled A Bear's Tail, and was based on another of his characters, The Bear. Series 5 returned to Avid Merrion and was called Bo! in the USA.

Following the axing of Bo' Selecta!, Francis took one of the series characters, Keith Lemon, and created a brand new show, Keith Lemon's Very Brilliant World Tour, which aired on ITV2 in April 2008. The show was a success, and subsequently, Francis created another new show featuring Lemon, Celebrity Juice, which has aired 23 series to date. Lemon also co-hosted Sing If You Can (2011) with Stacey Solomon and Keith Lemon's LemonAid (2012) on ITV. In November 2011, it was revealed that Lemon would make his feature film debut in Keith Lemon: The Film, with production starting later that month.[6]

Francis has since presented and/or appeared in numerous other ITV2 programmes in character as Lemon, including Through the Keyhole (2013–2019), The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (2015–2016), The Keith & Paddy Picture Show (2017–2018), alongside Paddy McGuinness and Shopping with Keith Lemon (2019–present).[7] Francis had a cameo in Rocketman, the 2019 Elton John biopic, playing a shop worker named Pete.[8]

Personal life

On 30 October 2002, at Allerton Castle, North Yorkshire, Francis married Jill Carter, a beauty therapist. In February 2009, their daughter, Matilda, was born.[9][10]

On 4 June 2020, Francis apologised on Instagram, as himself, for his portrayal of various black celebrities on Bo' Selecta!. In the video description he added "Following recent events, I've done a lot of talking and learning and I would like to put this out there. I want to apologise to anyone that was offended by Bo'selecta. I'm on a constant journey of knowledge and just wanted to say I'm deeply sorry. #blacklivesmatter".[11][12]

Characterisation

In interviews, Francis usually adopts one of his celebrity guises, being interviewed as Avid Merrion during Bo' Selecta!'s run between 2002 and 2006, and as Keith Lemon ever since. In an out-of-character interview with On: Yorkshire Magazine, Francis confirmed Avid Merrion's accent and dialects were inspired by his former tutor at Jacob Kramer College, Laimonis Mieriņš. He also pointed out Merrion is a misspelling of Mieriņš, and has nothing to do with the Merrion Centre in Leeds as some may have assumed.[13] Francis has also been interviewed as himself for The Frank Skinner Show, Loose Women, Big Brother's Little Brother, The Museum of Curiosity and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

Characters

Further information: List of Bo' Selecta! characters

Filmography

Television
Year Title Role Notes
2000 Whatever I Want Himself
2002–2009 Bo' Selecta! Himself 5 series
2008 Keith Lemon's Very Brilliant World Tour Presenter
2008–2022 Celebrity Juice Presenter 26 series
2011 Sing If You Can Co–presenter 1 series
2012 Keith Lemon's LemonAid Himself
2012 Keith Lemon: The Film Himself
2012–2013 Lemon La Vida Loca Himself 2 series
2013–2019 Through the Keyhole Presenter 6 series
2015–2016 The Keith Lemon Sketch Show Himself 2 series
2015 1000 Heartbeats Contestant 1 episode
2017–2018 The Keith & Paddy Picture Show Co-star 2 series
2018 Keith Lemon: Coming in America Presenter 1 series
2019–present Shopping with Keith Lemon Presenter
2020 The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft Presenter 1 series
2020 Britain's Best Selling Toys Presenter One-off special
2021 The Holden Girls: Mandy & Myrtle Myrtle Holden 1 series
2022 The Real Dirty Dancing Co-Presenter With Ashley Roberts

References

  1. ^ "Comedian Leigh Francis Leeds Keith Lemon Life Story Interview". 14 September 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  2. ^ Leonard, Tom (12 July 2005). "We grin and he bears it". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  3. ^ Strong, Gemma (17 May 2021). "Keith Lemon shares very rare family photo with fans". Hello!. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  4. ^ "What is Celebrity Juice and Through the Keyhole star Keith Lemon's net worth?". uk.style.yahoo.com. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Keith Lemon's life: Davina McCall's link, his lovely wife, and his astronomical net worth » Brinkwire". Brinkwire. 5 November 2021. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  6. ^ "Keith Lemon coming to the big screen for Keith Lemon: The Film". Flickering Myth. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
  7. ^ "ITV2 to broadcast new series Shopping With Keith Lemon". British Comedy Guide. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
  8. ^ "Keith Lemon Makes A Surprise Cameo In New Elton John Movie, 'Rocketman'". Capital FM. 28 May 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  9. ^ Iley, Chrissy (26 April 2012). "Leigh Francis: 'I'm just not very good at being me'". The Times. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Who is Keith Lemon's wife? See his sweet tribute and other info". Hello!. 16 February 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Keith Lemon issues heartfelt apology for his TV show Bo' Selecta! in wake of Black Lives Matter protests". www.msn.com. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  12. ^ Keith Lemon. "Following recent events, I've done a lot of talking and learning and I would like to put this out there. I want to apologise to anyone that..."". Instagram. Instagram. Archived from the original on 26 December 2021. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  13. ^ "Leigh Francis Interview". On: Yorkshire Magazine. 19 July 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2014.