Leigh Francis says he has been sexually harassed multiple times by sleazy fans who mistake him for his sexually forthright comedy alter-ego, Keith Lemon, when they meet him in public.

In a rare break from his flirtatious on-screen character, the 47-year-old TV star says he has been forced to turn down corporate gigs due to the amount of times he has been manhandled and subjected to lewd comments at such events in the past.

For many, Leigh is synonymous with his Celebrity Juice host character Keith Lemon.

And some might be forgiven for forgetting that there is a comedian underneath the outlandish personality as he has fronted the late night show for 12 years and attended TV interviews in character for just as long – blurring the line between character and artist to an extreme level.

Leigh Francis has given a rare insight into his life away from his on-screen character, Keith Lemon

But in a rare moment of candid honesty, Leigh explained that being known for such a brash character has come at a cost.

Speaking to The Sun on Sunday, he said some fans approach him with the wrong idea.

He explained: “I project this sexual beast on Celebrity Juice and they think they are allowed to come up to you when you are having your dinner and touch you where they shouldn’t.

"People say naughty and inappropriate things to me all the time. When I am with friends they are surprised and go, ‘How dare they come up to you and say that’.”

Leigh is known to many only as Keith Lemon after playing the role for 12 years and rarely breaking character when in public

The TV star says that if he were a woman, the people making the rude comments and making the unwelcome physical contact wouldn’t be able to get away with it.

The harassment has been so bad it has impacted his ability to enjoy nights out – and to take up lucrative side-projects.

Explaining one scene, Leigh recalled “lots of ladies” grabbing him inappropriately when he was in the audience of a Matt Goss concert, and he had to suffer through people saying “very sexual things to me about my penis and stuff.”

The surprisingly shy star went on to say he is more than happy to meet fans and pose with them – but explained that he has been inappropriately touched on many occasions.

Leigh has opened up about the awful sexual harassment he has endured at the hands of sleazy fans

He said: “I just don’t like it when they try to touch my bum. That’s happened a few times. Often it was at corporate gigs because they all get drunk and do that. So I don’t do corporate gigs now, ever.”

Elsewhere in the frank discussion, Leigh said he will miss Holly Willoughby after she called him to announce she was quitting Celeb Juice after 12 years as a team captain on the show.

He also explained he has found lockdown hard, but has enjoyed making amusing face masks in his spare time and reconnecting with old friends in Leeds who he speaks to for hours at a time.