Jason Manford has a rare gift for finding humour in the everyday and ordinary. His brilliant observational comedy concentrates on the areas of life we can all relate to, from family to football, from watching the telly to the perils of eating out (‘You can’t tip an adult a pound. You may as well say “There you go mate, get yourself some sweets”) and it’s all told with just a laid-back smile and a microphone. There’s no requirement for gimmicks or gurning silly faces into the front row. He is what my dad would call a ‘proper comedian’.
Aside from being a natural funnyman Manford is also a keen devotee of the art so, with his Off We Go On Tour ending this Tuesday at the O2 Arena – after travelling the length and breadth of the country for many months making strangers piss their sides - we felt it was a good time to pick his brain about the whole business of funny.
Who are your comedy heroes?
I like the old school comedy of Les Dawson, Dave Allen, Tommy Cooper and Jasper Carrott. But Billy Connolly is the Godfather of modern comedy for me, an innovator and one of the most inventive entertainers this country has ever produced. From the current crop I'd say Peter Kay and Michael Mcintyre are a couple of faves but I also enjoy the comedy of Tommy Tiernan and Stewart Lee, so it's a broad church!
What programme had you howling with laughter as a kid and has it stood the test of time?
I remember getting in from school and watching the Fresh Prince of Bel Air with Will Smith. I used to howl laughing at him and his cousin Carlton, I thought it was the best. I watched an episode recently on some kids channel and it hasn't stood up well. Smith obviously has star quality and completely carries it. As for British comedies, well Only Fools and Rising Damp, as well as the Likely Lads have all stood the test of time and are still funny now.
Is the sit-com dead? If not, would you ever consider writing one and who would be your dream writing partner?
I don't think the sitcom is dead, but it does seem to keep reinventing itself. The Americans seem to be in charge now with brilliant comedies like Modern Family and Community, but every so often we pull a cracker out of the hat. The studio sitcom is the hardest to crack but shows like Miranda and Mrs Brown's Boys show that it is possible.
As for my own, well I've written a couple over the years but it's just having the time to pitch them and make them I suppose. Hopefully next year when I've got a bit of time off, I'll be able to put the finishing touches to something and get one made. I kind of like writing on my own but I have my best mate Steve Edge (who's just written a new show called Starlings for Sky1) and we write very well together.
If someone is in the dressing room playing the Billy Big Bollocks, and then proceeds to die on his hole on stage, well then, who wouldn't have a rye smile?
Is it possible for you to hear a great one-liner from another comic and not think ‘Bastard, I wish I’d thought of that’ or analyse it from a comic’s perspective?
Not one-liners so much, but observations are a bastard! Because, with a one-liner, well it's a well crafted gag which that joke teller has come up with and if he or she hadn't thought if it well it may never have been said. But with an observation it has to have been spotted by more than that comic, so, for example McIntyre's 'Man Drawer’ routine, well of course I've got a Man Drawer too - with all the stuff he mentions - and so, as a comic, you kick yourself for not turning it into the comedy gold that he has.
Is the stand-up comedy circuit as bitchy and competitive as it’s made out?
It's competitive alright, but I wouldn't say it's bitchy. Most comics are very supportive of each other and would rather see someone have a good gig than a bad one. Of course that depends on the comic and his or her ego. If someone is in the dressing room playing the Billy Big Bollocks, and then proceeds to die on his hole on stage, well then, who wouldn't have a rye smile?
Do you have a mate who is funnier than you?
Yeah my mate Steve is funnier than me and of course I'm mates with loads of comics who are at varying degrees of funny! My Uncle Gary is piss funny too but often he doesn't know it. The other day David Beckham came up on screen with his new kid and Gary asked me what his new kid's name was. I said "Harper Seven". He looked at me with surprise and said "Fucking Half Past Seven?' He genuinely thought that after naming a kid after the location of it's concievement they had gone one further and named it after the time they had sex!
Who would be in your fantasy comedy family? Mine would have Felicity Kendall/Barbara Good as my mum, Les Dawson as my dad, Stewart Lee as an older brother, Peter Richardson as an uncle and Grandad from Only Fools as…well, my granddad.
I'd also go with Les Dawson as my Dad but I'd go Victoria Wood for my Mam, Peter Kay as my older brother, Chris Rock as an adopted brother, Bill Cosby as my Granddad, I'd have Uncle Billy Connolly and for my cousin Sarah Millican, and I'd have the kid who plays Manny in Modern Family as my son!
Brung Up Proper: An Autobiography by Jason Manford is now out (RRP £18.99) and is published by Ebury Press
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