Page last updated at 09:08 GMT, Wednesday, 23 September 2009 10:08 UK

Talking Shop: Bo Selecta's Leigh Francis

Cha'mone Mo'Fo'Selecta!
Francis will don his Michael Jackson mask for a tribute show

Leigh Francis is better known by his alter-egos - most recently Keith Lemon, host of the ITV2 comedy quiz show, Celebrity Juice.

He rose to fame as celebrity stalker Avid Merrion, which led to a Channel 4 show Bo Selecta!

Donning a myriad of rubber masks, Francis' take on stars including former Spice Girl Mel B, Craig David and Michael Jackson earned him a cult following.

To pay tribute to pop star Michael Jackson, the comic has put the mask back on for a special one-off show - Cha'mone Mo'Fo'Selecta! - chronicling the life of the late singer.

In a rare out-of-character interview, Francis told the BBC what fans could expect from the show.


Tell me a bit about why you decided to do the tribute.

I'm a massive Michael Jackson fan - if I was a singer I would've liked to have been involved in the tribute concert but the medium I do is comedy so this is the only way I can salute MJ.

I knew I was going to get hammered for doing it too soon, but I also thought I've been doing Michael Jackson for six years on Bo Selecta!, so when he died I felt like I had to put that character to rest too.

It's a chronological look at his life, starting from the Jackson 5 right up to This Is It. We don't do anything about the death as I thought it would be in bad taste. It's a funny and affectionate tribute that's just celebrating his music in a comedic way.

It is very Bo but we've handled it quite sensitively. Hopefully people will laugh and cry at the end.

The programme also features other celebrities doesn't it?

Cha'mone Mo'Fo'Selecta!
Francis has recreated some of Jackson's album covers

Yes, we've done Ken West - which is Kanye West - and Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey... The bear is in it too, and Keith Lemon.

The real-life David Gest is in it, too, as well as Emma Bunton and Peaches Geldof. David Gest didn't know what Bo Selecta! was and I showed him a few sketches and he thought it was funny and said Michael Jackson would've probably found it funny.

He was a friend of Michael Jackson so for me that was my seal of approval. He even puts a nice message at the end.

Are you worried there will be a backlash from Jackson fans?

I feel like I have to defend myself because I know what people are going to think, but I honestly think anyone that likes Bo Selecta! will thoroughly enjoy it.

There will be some people who will be saying it's not the right time, but when is the right time? He died - he's not going to come back alive, so is there a right time?

How do you get away with all the cheeky stuff you do with the celebrities?

Cha'mone Mo'Fo'Selecta!
Francis' Mel B character also features in his Michael Jackson tribute show

I stay in character all the time and they just go with it. If they don't bow down to it, it looks like they don't have a sense of humour so they just go with it. I think they just get carried away with the atmosphere.

Have there been people who haven't taken it on the chin?

Craig David is the one that most famously hasn't. He liked it at first, apparently, and he has quoted lines to me. I thought he actually did like it because he was saying things I couldn't remember, so he's either a good actor or he was into it and got sick of the press saying things like "Where's our Kes?" and "Bo Selecta" to him all the time.

I don't mean to do anything derogatory or nasty to anyone. I didn't mean it to kick back at his career, I just didn't think it would. I would prefer it if he liked it - Mel B likes it and she's depicted as Jim Bowen…

There have been rumours you are doing a Keith Lemon film that is a sequel to 80s Michael J Fox movie, The Secret of My Success.

When I was interviewed about it for the first time, I was in character as Keith Lemon who tells many, many lies. I said it was a mix of a few films and said: "Let's just call it The Secret of My Success 2", but it's not.

I am working on a Keith Lemon film, but it's about him becoming famous. He gets carried away and loses everything, then realises that he was happier when he was not famous and goes back to Leeds.

Do you find it's easier for your personal life to be removed from the spotlight as you have all these personas?

I think I am super normal. People ask me if I have celebrity friends but I say "not really" because they're just my friends. I try and be funny at work and then I go home to my wife and baby and that's it.

You did a Dirty Dancing tribute with Paddy McGuiness for Comic Relief - will you be reprising that too?

Let's Dance for Comic Relief
Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuiness reached the final of Let's Dance for Comic Relief

It's weird, all my heroes are dying: John Hughes, Patrick Swayze and Michael Jackson. I can't do a tribute to Patrick Swayze - if I did then I definitely would have a backlash from people saying I was just doing shows about dead people.

Were you gutted you lost out to Robert Webb?

Yeah, we really wanted to win! When we started we thought it would be a bit of fun, then at the end of the first day we thought it was too hard, but on the third day we were obsessed. I watched Dirty Dancing every day.

You looked surprisingly comfortable in high heels and a dress...

I had it on for two weeks! Those heels ripped my feet up. We learnt that dance from scratch and it was really uncomfortable at first as we could feel each other's bits and bobs on each others thighs - we kept laughing all the time.

Leigh Francis was talking to BBC Entertainment reporter Genevieve Hassan.

Cha'mone Mo'Fo'Selecta! is on E4 on Thursday 24 September at 2200BST.



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SEE ALSO
Bo Selecta back for Jackson show
05 Aug 09 |  Entertainment
Webb dances to Comic Relief title
14 Mar 09 |  Entertainment

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