JASON Manford started his comedy life collecting glasses at Manchester's longest running comedy club, The Buzz.
One night when an act didn't turn up, he saw his chance and offered to step in. And the rest, as they say, is history.
“When the opportunity came along I jumped at the chance,” says the 27-year-old. After only five weeks and four gigs, he won the prestigious North West Comedian of the Year Award, previously won by Caroline Aherne, Johnny Vegas and Peter Kay.
The now multi-award winning comedian and star of 8 Out of 10 Cats, Manchester radio station XFM and topical comedy show Tonightly is embarking on his first-ever national tour, which comes to Blackburn next month. But for now he just can’t get used to being recognised in the street.
Speaking to me from his hotel room in Ibiza, where he was enjoying a break after hosting the TV show Tonightly, Jason said he was struggling to get used to being pointed at by strangers.
He said: “So many people have been pointing saying ‘there’s that bloke off telly’. It’s really weird. I’m not use to it at all. At first I was like 'what’s everyone looking at? Have I got something on my face?' I tell you what though, it makes you more careful before you pile your plate ridiculously high at the buffet or remove your T-shirt around the pool. You feel like everyone’s analysing your behaviour. So I’m being very well-behaved. I’m going to get tired of it soon, though.”
If you go to see Jason on his first national stand-up tour, you’ll make a new friend.
He walks on stage and becomes one of your mates down the pub, with his observational humour which he knows everyone in the audience will relate to somehow.
“I am always aware of my audience and try to spark a rapport immediately with observations that people have experienced. They can almost finish your jokes for you. They know what’s coming but that makes people laugh, because it's relating to a funny thing that has happened to them. And I laugh too at my own jokes. Laughing is infectious and it makes you feel good.”
There are not many comedians who have had their own TV show, and even fewer who are also so new to the scene. It was a surprise to Jason himself to be asked to host Tonightly, but something he hopes will return for a second series.
He said: “Tonightly was hard work. I’d wake up and have some breakfast while looking through the papers, then head to the office and get writing before rehearsals. Then we’d film in the afternoon for that night’s show. Then the exact same for three weeks, so it was very tiring and I didn’t see a lot of my wife and we had to relocate temporarily to London.
“I think it was fairly well received by those who weren’t comparing it to the US Daily Show, something it wasn’t trying to be. It was just something different and was really quite brave. There is nothing else quite like it. I’d love to do another but I’d like to have more control over content next time because, if I’m honest, I didn’t find some stuff very funny.”
But there is far more to the northern funny man than his comic mind. He’s actually a budding actor and known among his friends as a talented singer.
“I would love to be in a musical. I’ve done a bit of acting in Shameless and a few films, but a musical would tie in both. I recently sang at my friend’s wedding. My wife said the other day she thought in 18 months I could be Billy Flynn in Chicago. I thought 'great, thanks love.' Then when I looked up who has played the part in the past year I realised in 18 months I’m aiming to be Beppe di Marco!”
l Jason Manford is appearing as part of this year’s You Must Be Joking Comedy Festival at King George’s Hall, Blackburn, on Monday, November 17. For tickets call the box office on 0844 8471664.