Jason Manford Interview
Comedy editor Emma had the opportunity to interview comedian Jason Manford who is currently touring the UK. You can read an abridged version of the interview in her article Jason Manford Interview on Spoonfed or take a look at the complete transcript below:
E: So Jason, it’s your first big UK tour – how has it gone so far?
J: It’s gone alright we’ve just added a load more dates. It started in September and it’s going to go on till mid March but I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t enjoying it.
E: So you don’t find it too soul-destroying being on the road and doing the same jokes again and again?
J: No it’s been alright, although the skeleton of the show is the same, like the bits about driving or my Dad, but to be honest I ask quite a lot of questions, I’ve noticed this over the last few nights, I’ll ask people different questions and they always have different answers. It’s quite exciting because you never know what they’re going to say, one night it went on for about 60 minutes!
E: Yeah – I read a review somewhere about a gig you did in Birmingham that lasted about two hours with a 45 minute encore – you obviously like giving people their money’s worth.
J: Well, there’s a credit crunch on Emma
E: I think Sarah Silverman should take a leaf out of your book.
J: Yeah, I should give her a half hour!
E: So what’s the show about because it doesn’t have a silly name like most, it’s just called The Jason Manford Tour.
J: Yeah I’m not really bothered to be honest, I thought if I added a title it would be Funny Things That I Think – so it’s just a few mad things and a bit of a funny chat really.
E: Are you looking forward to your London gig because a lot of comedians say it’s a harder crowd to please down here?
J: I don’t know obviously it’s different from my hometown in Manchester but I’ve always had a great time down here, at the end of the day everyone’s there for the same reason to have a laugh and you’re there to give them that. Being Northern is a passport around the world really; sometimes I find that just having a different turn of phrase will get a laugh in London because it’s quaint!
E: Going back to how you got into comedy – your first gig was a bit of an accident wasn’t it?
J: It was. I was working at the comedy club, collecting glasses and a couple of comics didn’t turn up, so I stepped in. I mean I’d been itching to do it so it wasn’t totally unprepared. I was only 17 and I’d wanted to do it.
E: So what happened after that did you just get the comedy bug and decide to do loads more gigs?
J: I just went on the open mic circuit and it went alright, somebody told me early on if you think you did a good gig somewhere then make sure you don’t do it again for free so it cost me a lot of gigs because I thought they gone badly! I carried on doing gigs on the circuit and was lucky enough to win the North West Comic of the Year Award.
E: Yes, because you quickly won quite a few awards didn’t you, like the North West Comedian of the Year and the Mercury and the Perrier nomination in 2005. Did the Perrier nomination open a lot of doors for you at that point?
J: Yes it did but after that it was difficult because you’re only prepared for 7 minutes of stand-up and then people are asking you to play their club for 30 minutes and you don’t have enough material. I took a step back and went to University. I did a course in script writing and acting and that helped, I found suddenly I had half an hour of material. Then I had an idea about urban legends which is something I’ve always been interested in and that’s what I took to Edinburgh and led to the Perrier.
E: What’s Edinburgh like, is it quite terrifying the first time round?
J: It’s not doing the actual gigs that’s scary, it’s the potential amount of money you could lose. Even when I went back in 2007 and did an hour’s show every night; it was 150 seats and I’d just done 8 Out of 10 Cats so it was sold out most nights and in the end I got a cheque for £200! I was like how the heck have I only made £200?!
E: That’s ridiculous – after all the costs and stuff had been added up?
J: Everyone takes their slice.
E: God and you were a successful comic, I can’t imagine what it must be like for newcomers.
E: Did you hear what Doug Stanhope did this year?
J: It was a good idea wasn’t it – one gig for £7,349 (the estimated average amount of money it costs a comedian to take a show to Edinburgh)
E: It backfired when no one took him up on it though! Around that time when you were just getting into comedy, you were hailed as the ‘next Peter Kay’. Are you two friends?
J: Well I know Peter yes but I can’t see it myself, I’m from Manchester and he’s from Bolton and has a broad Lancashire accent so in the North it doesn’t happen as much and people don’t say it. Because I’m not very rude and I don’t swear it’s an easy pigeonhole. I think Michael McIntyre is similar to Peter, not through accent or delivery but he’s got a similar comic eye. To be honest I wish I was more like that because I’d love to be able to pick out those foibles of everyday life and he’s got hundreds! A lot of my stuff is more story-based.
E: What other comedians do you rate apart from him and Michael McIntyre?
J: Well it’s brilliant working with Jimmy and Sean every week because we’re all so different.
E: That must be the best job working on 8 out of 10 Cats – it just looks like you have such a laugh the whole time.
J: It is. It’s like a little family and Jimmy’s got a gag about everything, he’s got a rolodex for a brain! Sean is always original and quite surreal– a lot of his stuff seems to be on DIY I find! It’s a good dynamic the three of us I think.
E: Who’s the worst guest you’ve ever had on?
J: It’s hard to say – probably one of those Big Brother people. They don’t get given jokes or come up with any and some are so full of themselves they become a joke rather than having the jokes.
E: Do you ever get to say who you’d like to have on?
J: Yeah, I phoned the producer today actually and said I’d like to get the fella from FoneJacker on. I saw him on Soccer AM and thought he’s be great.
E: You were fairly rubbish at lying on ‘Would I Lie to You’ – would you say you’re a bad liar in general?
J: Yeah, I’m not very good but that’s a good thing – that show’s really hard! The day before you meet a researcher and they chat to you and you can just talk for ages about your whole life and some of it’s normal and then you can go “ooh there was this one time…” and then you never know what they’re going to use because you give them so much. Then you get given a card with a lie on it and you have to go for it. It’s not like 8 out of 10 Cats when you can prepare and you know what the big stories are going to be from the week.
E: Do you prefer TV or stand-up?
J: Stand-up I prefer because you’re hearing all the laughter and you can see people’s faces having a laugh whereas with telly it’s a delayed response, so essentially stand-up, but they both work together – the pressure of having to come up with topical material for 8 out of 10 Cats then gives you stuff you can use on stage.
E: You did Live at The Apollo in front of 3,000 people. Are you now totally relaxed in front of a huge crowd?
J: Of course you’ve got the live audience to entertain but I think that show has more than 5 or 6 million viewers or something and it’s repeated so it was scary walking out on stage but at the same time I was aware it was on telly. There was one point where I messed up a line and I just let it go and then later on I just did the line again and they edited it back in but the live audience were going ‘he’s just said that!’ When it comes to the live edit however, you think: “Well who’s the winner now?!”
E: Yeah, I think getting it right for 5 million beats 3,000!
E: You finished your radio show on XFM Manchester earlier this year – do you miss it or were you relieved to finally get a lie-in?
J: I miss the interaction and being part of people’s lives in the morning, you imagine yourself in people’s kitchens having a chat, or on the passenger seat on their way to work and you get some really bizarre texts or phone-ins. One of my last shows we got a text saying ‘If you could have any animal the size of a dog – what would you have?’, and I thought a giraffe would be really good – a dog-sized giraffe. Imagine walking that in the park! People’s imaginations get ignited and I just thought that is something I would never have thought of sat round in my living room. I don’t miss getting up at four in the morning, it never got easy and during the first series of 8 out of 10 Cats I would film on the Thursday night in London and then drive back to Manchester to get up for the breakfast show. The first hour would just be me shouting!
E: Have you ever Googled yourself?
J: I have done yeah when I’ve been bored in a hotel room but you can’t let the positives go to your head as much as the negatives, I try to just ignore them all really and if someone leaves me a message saying I enjoyed your gig then of course I’ll e-mail them back and say thank you very much but generally I try to avoid it. I do like how everyone gets stuck in on Facebook though and it’s a good way of being more interactive with your fans. I posted a status update on it before the Secret Policeman’s Ball saying: “Jason is wondering what material to do for the Secret Policeman’s Ball” and people said ‘Oh why don’t you do that bit because I really enjoyed it in Stafford’ and it worked out well, people were very complimentary about it.
E: What’s next on the agenda – because you can act and I’ve heard you like singing – would you like to try theatre or do big films?
J: I think with everyone’s career your horizons become your middle distance, all those things you aim for – eventually a couple you’ll get and then you have to make do. I’ve got a couple of sitcoms in the pipeline and I’ve got a few ideas for stuff on stage, hopefully 8 out of 10 Cats will run and run – you look at Have I Got News and that went on for 36 series and I wouldn’t mind just half of that.
E: That’s the beauty of it – it never gets stale because it’s topical.
J: Exactly as long as the news changes every day we’ll be fine. That runs till the end of November, I’ve got some time off for Christmas and then around March is when TV season kicks back in and you do pilots for whatever pops up, so yeah, I’m pretty busy – if it all goes well anyway!
E: Well thank you very much for talking to me Jason and lots of luck with the London gig!
J: Thanks Emma, take care.