MANFORD HAPPY TO BE STUCK IN THE MUDDLE WITH YOU
▶ UAE shows put comedian in his element, writes Chris Newbould
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.platinumlist.net
Jason Manford went down a storm with audiences in the Emirates on his last tour