Leigh Francis seems to be the type of comedian who masks his sexism and racism behind various cartoonish characters including that of “Keith Lemon”. Judging from his continual one-dimentional comedy however, it’s conveniently impossible to tell where Leigh Francis ends and Keith Lemon begins. Even as far back as his appearances on Big Brother as Avid Merion as well as his various celebrity characters in Channel 4‘s Bo Selecta! you could see a worrying pattern in his comedy; a penchant for out-of-date, crass, and all round cheap jokes regarding race, sex, and sexual orientation.
During the godforsaken decade known as the noughties, Bo Selecta! was incessantly watched by all puerile prats and every lover of prejudice. Along with Sacha Baron Cohen, Leigh Francis’ hyper stereotypes were lapped up by all and the public’s excuse for the obvious bigotry was somewhere along the lines of satire, irony, and the idea of “pushing the envelope” (which seemed to be continually pushed towards people of colour). Francis’ characters in Bo Selecta! included Michael Jackson (and the rest of the Jacksons) jive-talking, Trisha Goddard shouting “rice and pea” with a horridly generic West Indian accent, and Oprah Winfrey showing her love of fried chicken whilst speaking in an uneducated non-specific southern American accent. It was quite strange that only the characters who were of colour seemed to conform to stereotypes, that was of course unless they were gay. The stereotypically homophobic characterisations of George Michael (searching for “crack” in public toilets) and Elton John (saying he loves to “bum” boys) were particularly offensive, although the way Elton John seems to condone this type of crap (as he did with Eminem) I’m not surprised there wasn’t more widespread criticism of Francis’ prejudice.
To be fair, a few people did call out Leigh’s characters for being offensive even during the openly hateful noughties, he then defended his apparent unintentional racism in a 2006 Guardian article. His illogical comeback in this interview has to be read to be believed, if you check out the article you’ll witness him strangely stating that it wasn’t him being racist but instead it was the “people who are worrying about it, they’re the racists!”. Amazing logic there, I’d like to see him explain that bullshit on a whiteboard. In the same article he also said that his so-called unintentional racism “didn’t kill anyone”, a great excuse, but Bernard Manning’s comedy never killed anyone either, but it didn’t stop all his crap being racist did it?
These days we have Francis in perpetual Keith Lemon mode and Leigh seems unable to detach himself from his latest character. Essentially Francis is now Lemon 24/7, from the tacky panel show Celebrity Juice, the rebooted Through The Keyhole, not to mention his appearances on various talk shows. On the topic of Lemon’s various shows it has to be acknowledged that The Keith Lemon Sketch Show is the most repetitive, most unfunniest, painfully humourless, most amateur-looking, shittiest shite ever to be broadcast on British television! Sorry about outburst, on with the write-up…
The character of Keith Lemon gives Leigh Francis the excuse to tell recycled 70’s jokes about ethnic stereotypes and the objectification of women, it’s either “mock the foreigner” or “let’s gawp at some woman’s bangers”, are we sure we’ve not been transported to the worst part of the seventies? So in recent years on one channel we have shows like It Was Alright In The 1970’s mocking and deriding the past as though society today has evolved into a bigot-free land of amazingness, and on the other side there’s Keith Lemon telling 1970’s throwback jokes. These days we have to contend with society barking at us, harping on about how we’re so mature whilst his oafish twat simultaneously mocks people of colour whilst giving a bad name to northerners, what a great example of our contradictory contemporary society.
Despite Keith having bigger tits than Holly Willoughby or for that matter being a bigger tit than those he ogles, his audience seems to be in some post-modernist hypnotic daze whereby they think all his backward crap is somehow refreshing. On Celebrity Juice in particular we have to endure him making a “hedadadedado” noise every time the Italian-British Chef Gino D’Acampo speaks, and let’s not forget that he routinely shouts “potato” whenever he encounters an Irish celebrity. But mocking foreign accents isn’t the only thing Lemon does, he once made a joke about “putting olive oil and tomatoes on everything” on the last episode of series 14 of Celebrity Juice. Now if a joke like that was told about a Chinese or Indian guest (you lot put curry powder on everything for example) followed by him making a “butabatatud” noise, wouldn’t he be called a racist? Saying Gino can’t be from Sheffield by outlining his accent and mixing that with a little irony about his overtly British parents is like mocking a Jamaican and saying he can’t be from somewhere like Birmingham because of his “foreign” sounding accent.
I hate these imbeciles who stay quiet when prejudice is targeted toward them, these Irish and Italian “celebrities” could counter Lemon with a caricatured Leeds accent or maybe make some joke about him being a fat ginger wanker who washes in gravy whilst scrubbing his freckled arse with a Yorkshire Pudding as he sits in a bathtub filled with lard, but no, they just sit there and laugh like most minorities today, fine with being the target of a one-sided prejudice joke.
Keith Lemon is of course a character, so the tired-arse defence of satire is brought up yet again, a great never-ending mitigation and rationalisation of people like Leigh Francis, Sacha Baron Cohen, Sarah Silverman, and Natasha Leggero… weird how people of colour never “satirise” white people these days. And on that note, what exactly is Keith Lemon satirising? He wears a bandage on one hand, a shark tooth phallic symbol round his neck, he dresses in gaudy outfits, he’s openly prejudice, and he looks like a chubby Hamlin Rule from the Wonder Woman TV Show, but what’s all that shite supposed to represent? All I can deduce from his garish clothes and horridly tacky jokes is that he’s a convenient non-specific character which allows Leigh Francis to hark back to the days of publicly condoned or overlooked prejudice. I have to reiterate, it’s 2016 and for at least the last several years we’ve constantly been told how “we’ve moved on so much” and “how far we’ve come”, but with people like Keith Lemon on television what’s really changed in the past forty years?
Looking like Richard Attenborough if he’d suffered some kind of brain injury and sporting a hair-do that resembles a cotton mop that’s been dragged though a puddle of piss, Keith Lemon is the most annoyingly overrated and most under-criticised creation of Leigh Francis. Constantly seen wearing a “K” necklace, I’d love to know what it really stands for; Keith, Krass, or Kunt?