▶ UAE shows put co­me­dian in his el­e­ment, writes Chris New­bould

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE -

Man­cu­nian comic Ja­son Man­ford re­turns to Dubai tonight to kick off a mini­tour which will take in Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah. His visit comes hot on the heels of star­ring in the UK’s an­nual fes­tive TV shindig, The Royal Va­ri­ety Show.

Man­ford has per­haps be­come bet­ter known as a tele­vi­sion star in re­cent years, with roles in sit­coms and quiz shows in­clud­ing Ideal, 8

out of 10 Cats and Ques­tion of Sport, but he says he’s en­joy­ing be­ing back on stage with his cur­rent show,

Mud­dle Class. “Live is al­ways bet­ter be­cause you’re in charge,” he says. “There’s no di­rec­tor, no pro­ducer, it’s just all up to you.”

The im­me­di­acy of live shows is a big plus for the en­ter­tainer, too. “You don’t have to wait for view­ing fig­ures or re­views, it’s just al­ways bet­ter,” he says.

The show’s ti­tle sug­gests there may be some kind of theme to the evening. Man­ford ex­plains that it will be a look at the way his life has changed since he found fame.

“It’s about how your at­ti­tudes change,” he says.

“I come from a pretty core work­ing class Manch­ester fam­ily, but now I’m do­ing

OK for my­self and I guess my chil­dren are a bit mid­dle class.

“It’s kind of about how I can’t be ei­ther. I have a foot in each camp. I’ll never re­ally be mid­dle class be­cause of my up­bring­ing, but I can’t re­ally ever con­sider my­self work­ing class again as I’ve done pretty well for my­self,” he con­tin­ues. The co­me­dian spots a dis­tinct lo­cal link to his ma­te­rial, too. “Dubai is the per­fect place to bring it, ac­tu­ally, since that de­scribes a lot of peo­ple out there, too.” Man­ford is no stranger to the emi­rates, hav­ing played in Dubai in Au­gust of last year, and he seems to love au­di­ences here as much as they love him.

“There’s not a big dif­fer­ence from UK au­di­ences,” he says. “I think if any­thing they’re more ap­pre­cia­tive be­cause you’ve come over and made the ef­fort.

“It’s such a mixed au­di­ence, too. You get the British and Ir­ish, and they’re easy as they want to know what’s go­ing on back home, but then you’ve got Aussies, Amer­i­cans, Ki­wis, and even a few lo­cals. It’s fun try­ing to in­clude every­one, and it’s al­ways a great night.” Man­ford prob­a­bly hopes he won’t be stay­ing in the same, tact­fully un­named, ho­tel he was in for his last visit. He says on that oc­ca­sion a would-be-cus­tomer called re­cep­tion to at­tempt to buy tick­ets for the gig, but was put through to Man­ford’s room by a mem­ber of staff by mis­take.

“It was re­ally funny,” Man­ford re­calls. “I was stay­ing in the same ho­tel as the gig, and they put him through to my room. He was just get­ting an­grier and an­grier at my ap­palling lev­els of cus­tomer ser­vice, but what could I do? I didn’t have any tick­ets to sell.”

Dur­ing the tour, Man­ford will also make his de­but in the lit­tle-known com­edy cen­tre that is Ras Al Khaimah, but the co­me­dian ad­mits he hasn’t re­ally done his re­search on the emi­rate yet. “I know noth­ing about Ras Al Khaimah at all. Noth­ing,” he laughs. “But I hear the peo­ple there are just so ex­cited that I’m com­ing, I guess they don’t get a lot of com­edy there, and that just makes me more ex­cited. I can’t wait. I think it’ll be re­ally in­ter­est­ing.”

It’s prob­a­bly ter­ri­ble form to ask a co­me­dian his favourite gag, but we did any­way. His re­sponse is per­haps sur­pris­ing, given his well-known love of care­fully scripted rou­tines and love of sto­ry­teller par-ex­cel­lence Billy Con­nolly. “In real life, I like the jokes that make my kids laugh,” he re­veals.

Man­ford al­ludes to his daugh­ter’s favourite gag at the mo­ment: “Why did the chicken cross the road? To visit the ugly per­son.” It’s not ex­actly side-split­ting just yet, but al­low for a com­edy pause and it all makes sense. “Knock, knock,” Man­ford con­tin­ues, and I give the re­quired “Who’s there?”

“The chicken,” he says. “That’s so clever for a 7-year-old. You have to think about a bit, and she loves it, so I love it, too.”

Man­ford may be a very funny man, but on this ev­i­dence he should stay home and watch his beloved Manch­ester City con­tinue their record-break­ing run.

The lure of the tele­vi­sion au­di­ence hasn’t spoilt Man­ford and he rev­els in work­ing a live crowd

For Ja­son Man­ford’s show dates, lo­ca­tions, times and prices, visit dubai.plat­inum­

The Laugh­ter Fac­tory

Ja­son Man­ford went down a storm with au­di­ences in the Emi­rates on his last tour

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