Made In Chelsea star Francis Boulle says he’s become hooked on stand-up as he takes his “baby steps” into the world of comedy at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Having performed at last year’s festival and worked on honing his new-found craft with a series of warm-up gigs across the country, the 30-year-old is firmly focused on the career in comedy he’s always pined for.
“It was just one of those things, actually getting out and doing it,” he tells The Sunday Post. “I studied up in Edinburgh and I remember booking myself in for a gig and I ended up not turning up.
“I can’t remember why exactly but something got in the way…”
Francis would eventually do a show at the Fringe last year, partnering with Chelsea buddy Jamie Laing for a live version of their hit podcast Private Parts.
It was the first time the pair had performed for a live audience, and it proved addictive.
“Neither of us were totally used to being on stage and performing but by the end of the tour we both felt very comfortable up there,” Francis says. “My diary segment got a few laughs and I thought I could turn it into something with more longevity.
“As soon as the tour ended I booked my first open mic gig, I did that within about a week or so. I just knew that if I let to go too long I’d have to build up the courage again to do it. That really helped overcome a lot of the nerves.”
After touring the show around the country, Francis felt it was important to keep up the momentum. Since the end of the run of dates, he’s done around 60 gigs himself.
“There were definitely some nerves when I did my first five minute open mic five thing,” he admits. “I was quite nervous because none of your material is tested by that point. You have no idea whether it’ll land or not.
“I describe it as like jumping out of a plane without a parachute, you really have to be a bit nuts. You have to put yourself out there to fail in order to find material that works.
“It’s also a bit like panning for gold, you’ve got to sort through a lot of dirt and rocks before you find some little tiny flecks. Then I guess you try to expand on those.”
Comparing it to a business or product, Francis says there’s nothing quite like stand-up for getting instant feedback.
He adds: “I love the process of it, the feeling that you’re constantly refining it. It’s a very satisfying thing when you change a word here or there and it works. I love it.
“It’s very empowering to be able to be totally responsible for your performance; writing, directing, producing and starring. You have total control over it.
“It’s been a very enjoyable experience and I’m totally hooked. I just want to keep doing it forever now.”
Most people will know Francis from E4 reality show Made In Chelsea, where he was a regular cast member for several years.
But he’s also a successful businessman, currently marketing his own brand of cider, and has also spent time in such varied pursuits as gold mining in Africa and campaigning to help save the endangered pangolin.
And all of this should provide plenty of material for his routines.
“I draw on aspects of my life and different interests,” he says. “A lot of my material is just quite silly and, although I’ve done coming up to sixty gigs, I’m still very new to it.
“I’m still working a lot on my voice and finding that. Edinburgh’s a great opportunity to get so much stage time and really just show off what I’ve been working on. It’s exciting.”
Francis won’t be fully alone, with a selection of comedians coming on to perform with him on stage.
“I’m very excited, both to show off my act but also to share the stage with some household names,” he says. “I wasn’t going to be so presumptuous and jump in on my first year and do an hour long solo show.
“It takes many comedians four or five year run-ups to do that so I’m just taking baby steps, working hard and writing a lot of stuff and hoping at some point someone will laugh!”
One thing he’s made clear is that he wants to attract an audience on the quality of his material and work put into his comedy, rather than on his name value alone.
Francis says: “I’m aware of some people who have maybe had a profile before and they want to do stand-up comedy and go straight in and do a one hour long tour which, unless they are god’s gift to stand-up comedy, I can’t imagine is that polished.
“Because I’ve been a comedy nerd for my whole life and it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do and do properly, I want to make sure that I’m not saying anything I don’t think is funny and I want it to be authentic in what I want to be doing.
“I don’t want to force myself into the position of trying to write an hour of material at such an early stage. It all has to come naturally, I think, and I plan on doing Edinburgh every year. I’m very excited to one day do my debut hour.”
Francis Boulle and Friends is at Pleasance Dome, Ace Dome at the Edinburgh Fringe from 9th – 25th August (not 13th). Tickets from www.pleasance.co.uk