Jason Manford - Manchester’s comedic son

WHEN HE was eight Jason Manford and his father went to see Billy Connolly perform in a local theatre. The Scottish comedian was to have a profound effect on the young boy.

After that night Manford became determined to pursue a life on stage as a gag merchant and would watch videos of Tommy Cooper, Eric Morecambe, Les Dawson, Jasper Carrott, and Dave Allen over and over again.

In his mid teens Jason saw local comedian Peter Kay on stage and finally decided to give stand-up comedy a go. He worked as a glass collector in Manchester’s longest running comedy club The Buzz. When one of the scheduled acts didn’t show up for a performance Jason stepped up to the microphone. Six gigs later he was awarded The City Life North West Comedian of the Year and on his way to stardom.

In 2005 at the age of 24, Jason was nominated for the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe and within a year made his first television appearance on 8 out of 10 Cats. A year later he replaced Dave Spikey as team captain on the show and has become a firm favourite with viewers.

On Wednesday November 11 at 8.30pm, Jason makes a much-anticipated visit to Galway to play The Laughter Lounge at Róisín Dubh.

Manford grew up in a creative home and his parents had a keen interest in music. His father listened to punk, reggae, and rock and his mother was a fan of Irish trad, folk, and country music. As such, Jason had access to an extensive record collection that featured everything from Bob Marley to Big Tom.

“I’m actually related to a big Irish traditional music band in Salford called The Ryan Family,” he says. “I was surrounded by that vibrant Irish culture of music and storytelling in south Manchester when I was growing up. All my cousins are in bands and I still have loads of family in Limerick and Tipperary.”

In the early 1980s Salford was at the epicentre of the alternative rock scene that included Factory Records’ Tony Wilson, poet John Cooper Clarke, The Happy Mondays, Joy Division, and New Order. The Smiths (from nearby Moss Side ) were pictured standing outside Salford Lads Club on their 1986 album The Queen Is Dead.

“Salford and the city of Manchester in general is one of the those places where you can’t help but be influenced by all the creativity around you,” Jason says. “It helped a lot when I did a radio show on XFM because you could literally do a three-hour show and not play any music from outside Manchester. I always found that they were some of the greatest shows.”

Aside from music and comedy, the other great passion in Jason’s life is Manchester City FC. These past two years have been particularly exciting for the long-suffering fans of City as players of the calibre of Robinho, Adebeyor, and Touré have joined the club. With Abu Dhabi United Group money behind them football transfer deadline day has become a lot more exciting at Eastlands.

In one particularly funny routine Manford compares the signing of Robinho in September 2008 with watching porn.

“It was a bit of an anti-climax this year so I’ll have to drop that gag a bit,” Jason says. “It was a very surreal day when Abu Dhabi took over and some of the players we signed were phenomenal. The weirdest thing about supporting City these days is the level of dislike that are directed towards us.

“We never had to defend ourselves against that before because we were always seen as the lovely losers. Saying that though I’d much rather win something and have everybody hating us than being the club that lose all the time. We’re not the first club trying to buy a trophy and we certainly won’t be the last.”

In the late 1990s Manchester City were struggling in the lower reaches of English football and their biggest claim to fame during this period was having Oasis’ Noel and Liam Gallagher as celebrity fans. However a few weeks ago Noel announced he was leaving the band. Jason is an Oasis fan and was shocked by the split.

“I’ve got brothers and of course we fight sometimes but nothing like those lads,” he says. “They come from Burnage though which is a quite a rough area so that might explain some of it! I’ve seen some gigs with Noel playing on his own and they’ve been really good. I’m quite looking forward to Noel’s first solo record. It’ll be interest to see how it plays out over the next few months.”

Jason’s comedic style of delivery takes the form of good-natured banter and this has seen him compared to Bolton’s Peter Kay.

“I only take exception to it really when it’s done in a derogatory way,” says Jason. “You’ll get a lot of London journalists lumping all the northern comics in together. Michael McIntyre is similar to Peter, not through accent or delivery, but he’s got a similar comic eye and to be honest I wish I was more like that. If someone says in a genuine way they like Peter Kay, and I’m a bit like him then that’s OK. What Peter does is brilliant and I find it very funny”

Jason is looking forward to appearing in Ireland in the coming months. “These gigs I have coming up in Ireland are mainly club gigs so it’s almost like starting over again,” he says. “I’m looking forward to going over there and playing to new audiences.”

Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.

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