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).
|Born||30 April 1973|
Beeston, Leeds, England
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.
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. 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.
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. Season 4 was subtitled A Bear's Tail, and was based on another of his characters, The Bear. Season 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 with Stacey Solomon, and, since 7 April 2012, he has hosted his new show Keith Lemon's LemonAid 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.
Since 31 August 2013, Francis has presented ITV panel show Through the Keyhole in character as Keith Lemon. Since 5 February 2015, he has appeared in the ITV2 comedy show The Keith Lemon Sketch Show. As of June 2019, Francis is also presenting his new show on ITV, Shopping With Keith Lemon. Francis had a cameo in Rocketman, the 2019 Elton John biopic, playing a shop worker named Pete.
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".
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. 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.
|2000||Whatever I Want||Himself|
|2002–2009||Bo' Selecta!||Himself||5 series|
|2008||Keith Lemon's Very Brilliant World Tour||Presenter|
|2008–present||Celebrity Juice||Presenter||24 series|
|2011||Sing If You Can||Co–presenter||1 series|
|2012||Keith Lemon's LemonAid||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|
- "Comedian Leigh Francis Leeds Keith Lemon Life Story Interview". Retrieved 4 May 2019.
- We grin and he bears it. Telegraph.co.uk. (12 July 2005). Retrieved on 25 May 2012.
- "Keith Lemon coming to the big screen for Keith Lemon: The Film". Flickering Myth. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- "ITV2 to broadcast new series Shopping With Keith Lemon". British Comedy Guide. 9 May 2019. Retrieved 7 June 2019.
- "Keith Lemon Makes A Surprise Cameo In New Elton John Movie, 'Rocketman'". Capital FM. 28 May 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
- "Leigh Francis: 'I'm just not very good at being me'". The Times. 26 April 2012. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- "Who is Keith Lemon's wife? See his sweet tribute and other info". Hello!. 16 February 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.
- "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.
- "Keith Lemon on Instagram: "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. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
- "Leigh Francis Interview". On: Yorkshire Magazine. Retrieved 2 May 2014.