Francis was born in Beeston, Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, on 30 April 1973 and brought up on a council estate in Old Farnley, Leeds. His father died aged 47 of cancer.
Francis attended Farnley Park High School (now The Farnley Academy). He later studied at the Leeds College of Art 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.
In his early career, Francis did a series of shorts for Paramount Comedy called Stars in Their Houses. Some of the shorts can be found on YouTube.
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 15 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.
On 30 October 2002, at Allerton Castle, North Yorkshire, Francis married Jill Carter, a beauty therapist. In February 2009, their daughter, Matilda, was born. Francis lives in North London with his wife and daughter.
Francis is known to conduct almost every interview in 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 that Avid Merrion's accent and dialects were inspired by his former tutor at Jacob Kramer College, Laimonis Mieriņš. He also pointed out that Merrion is a misspelling of Mieriņš and has nothing to do with the Merrion Centre in Leeds, as some may have assumed. Francis conducted further interviews as himself for The Frank Skinner Show, Loose Women, Big Brother's Little Brother and Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.The Buzz (1998)
Bo' Selecta! (2002–06)
The Frank Skinner Show (2004)
Loose Women (2009)
As 'Keith Lemon'Whatever I Want (2000)
Celebrity Juice (2008—)
Keith Lemon's LemonAid (2012)
Alan Carr: Chatty Man (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Take Me Out: Celebrity Special (2012)
Lemon La Vida Loca (2012–13)
Through the Keyhole (2013—)
The Keith Lemon Sketch Show (2015–16)
The Keith & Paddy Picture Show (2017)