Leigh Szaak Francis (born May 30, 1973) is an English stand-up comedian, actor, writer, voice artist, and comedian, best known for his numerous characters (like Avid Merrion, the Bear, and rubber-masked celebrities) in Bo' Selecta! and its subsequent spin-offs.
Francis was born Leigh Szaak Francis in Old Farnley, West Yorkshire, England on May 30, 1973.
He wasbrought up on a council estate in Old Farnley, Leeds. His father died aged 47 of cancer and his mother and sister live in Spain. His grandparents were from the Burgenland area of Austria, hence his middle name, in honor of them. Francis attended Farnley Park High School (which later changed its name to Farnley Park Maths and Computing College and is now the Farnley Academy), formerly Harrington High School in Leeds. He later studied at the Leeds College of Art and he got a qualification in graphic design. Before making his major TV breakthrough, he was discovered and encouraged by Davina McCall, performing in-role stand-up comedy in a Southern comedy club. McCall landed Francis his first TV role on Dom and Kirk's Nite O Plenty, where he played Bobby Stark. The show aired on Paramount Television from January to July 1996.
Francis' second television role was as Barry Gibson in Popworld.
In the series, he portrays many characters (even spoofs of real-life celebrities, which are used with big glasses and rubber masks) including:
- Avid Merrion
- The Bear
- Michael Jackson
- Craig David
- Mel B
- Keith Lemon
- The Osbournes: Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly, and Jack
- Elton John
Francis resides in Camden Town, London.
Francis is known to conduct almost every interview in one of his celebrity guises, being interviewed as Avid Merrion during the run of Bo' Selecta! between 2002 and 2006 and as Keith Lemon ever since. In an interview given in an episode of Comedy Map of Britain, Francis, for the first time out-of-character, claimed that Avid Merrion's accent and dialects were inspired by his former teacher at the Leeds College of Art, Laimonis Mierins. He also pointed out that Avid is a misspelling of Mierins and he's nothing to do with the Merrion Centre in Leeds, which many people assume. Many people don't understand that Avid and Keith are made-up creations, and consequently, Francis' name means very little to the general public. He did conduct further interviews as himself for The Frank Skinner Show, Loose Women, Big Brother's Little Brother and The Jonathan Ross Show.
- ↑ We grin and he bears it. Telegraph.co.uk. (2005-07-12). Retrieved on 2012-05-25.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Leigh Francis: 'I'm just not very good at being me'. Entertainment.timesonline.co.uk (2012-04-26). Retrieved on 2012-05-25.
- ↑ Marriages England and Wales 1984–2005. Findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved on 2012-05-25.
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