Recently I went to see my third stand-up comedian of the year, the wonderful Jason Manford. I’ve been a fan of his for a long while, for reasons that I explained in my review of the show, so it was great to see him live at long last.
So in preparation for that, I naturally rewatched all of his great stand-up DVDs as well, much like I did with Sarah Millican’s collection when I saw her live recently. So I hope you enjoy these little reviews!
In this show from the Manchester Apollo, lasting 85 minutes, Jason covers an enjoyable mixture of topics, including places like Manchester, Liverpool & Newcastle, as well as public toilet etiquette, his hands-free weeing invention, sex toys, his Mum meeting Derren Brown, a man who lives in the middle of a motorway, his Dad’s jokes and humorous lies, call centres, road rage & driving tests, his brain, noises at night, winding up his parents and brother as a kid, his grandad pretending to be a policeman, becoming a father for the first time, masturbation & Brokeback Mountain.
There are also some very amusing interactions with the audience, including a couple of teenagers he notices near the start, a chat about being mugged where a guy catches Jason out with a joke of his own, and people’s nominations for the worst pains you can have (such as pregnancy and being kicked in the groin). Jason has also since revealed that there was one person in the audience who he noticed didn’t laugh, apart from at one moment, so they got revenge in the edit by using that clip of his solitary chuckle several times!
The DVD is then rounded out with a few short extras. Jason’s brother Colin interviews him for 14 minutes, where they talk about performing stand-up, and recall amusing memories about their childhoods and other family members. That’s quite fun, as they get on well and there’s some nice banter there. There’s also a 7-minute behind-the-scenes featurette, with enjoyable footage from a warm-up gig in Bury, and backstage clips from the Manchester Apollo. And finally there’s a spoof interview with Moonchester, the mascot for Manchester City FC, lasting just 4 minutes, which is nothing special but is mildly amusing.
This 80-minute show was recorded at the Manchester MEN Arena, and there’s an MP3 version included on the disc as well. It again includes a very enjoyable set of routines, where topics include reserved seating, his children, outdated baby names, noisy toys, children’s TV, watching a testicular cancer check on This Morning, malapropisms, hecklers, trying to talk to other celebrity guests on a chat show, his Dad’s logic, noises at night, grocery shopping, local newspapers, trying to secretly watch a porn video as a teenager (different to the Stephen Merchant routine about it on his DVD I mentioned recently but just as funny), swearing, showering with the wrong products, a job interview, cats and dogs, appearing in Shameless, pigeons and the Royal Variety Performance.
There are a couple of short extras on the disc as well. There’s a nice 11-minute chat where he answers questions from audience members, about other comedians who he enjoys and has been inspired by, other jobs he could have done, strange and embarrassing moments at gigs, programmes he’d like to be in, developing his comedy material, his weight and hair, and his favourite venues, footballers and alcoholic drinks. And then the 5-minute Access All Areas featurette gives a brief glimpse into the setup and filming of the show, which is nothing surprising or amazing, but it’s nice to see.
First World Problems (DVD)
This show, also 80 minutes long, was filmed at the Liverpool Empire. The term First World Problems basically refers to relatively trivial everyday issues, that are recognised as being nothing compared to the hardships faced by people in third world countries. And naturally there’s a lot of humour to be had from the silly things that people get fed up with and like to complain about. Jason mentions some of his own, naturally, but the most prominent part of the show is when he reads out lots of suggestions that the audience have written down, which he had a look through during the interval to pick his favourites. And I can see why he’s happy for it to be a long section, because it’s a goldmine of comedy material, given the myriad of topics that people come up with. So there’s a lot of banter and laughs, and even a guy doing an impression of Michael McIntyre skipping along in front of the stage.
He does cover a lot of other material as usual though, including the differences between people from Liverpool and Manchester, gigging in Afghanistan, funny moments while touring in Blackburn and London, buying paracetamol for the tour, call centres, being unhealthy, the complaints that resulted from a joke he made about the cat in a bin story on The One Show, good and bad things about being a parent, effective punishments or ways to improve your child’s behaviour, funny moments at school when he knew he wanted to be a comic, and non-racist terms for the hole at the end of the penis. It also looks like fellow comedian John Bishop is in the audience at 3:50, which wouldn’t surprise me as they are good friends.
There’s also half an hour’s worth of bonus features. The longest is a 16-minute compilation of deleted scenes from the show, including more of the audience’s first world problems, hecklers that Jason has to deal with, and additional comedy material including his comedy inspirations, corny Dad jokes, and the embarrassment of saying the wrong words. Then there’s a 7-minute behind the scenes featurette, where we see him chatting and preparing for the show backstage, plus audience members tell us a few more of their first world problems, and Jason meets some of the crowd at the stage door to sign autographs and pose for photos with them. And then finally there’s a 6-minute featurette of highlights from his trip to Afghanistan, with clips from his show there and a short interview. So it’s a nice selection of extras to complete another fun DVD.
Muddle Class (TV)
This show, filmed in February 2020, hasn’t been released on DVD, but it’s worth briefly acknowledging. Jason very kindly donated it to the BBC free of charge, who then broadcast it in June & August 2020, and again on New Year’s Day 2021, to give people a lift during the Covid pandemic. A lot of people tuned in, quite rightly, as it was a very funny show all about growing up as a working class person, and gradually becoming partly middle class as the years go on. And he had a lovely message of support for people at the end as well, which we all needed to hear at that time in addition to a good laugh, and it will still resonate with people today – “Just because you’re struggling, it doesn’t mean you’re failing”.
He doesn’t plan to release the show on DVD or online and, at the time of writing, it’s not currently available on iPlayer any more either. But hopefully it’ll be repeated at some point, as it would be a shame if it was just a one-off, never to be seen again.
A Different Stage (Album)
Jason is a very gifted and powerful singer, having appeared in several West End musicals, and this album illustrates that perfectly, so it also deserves a mention. It features show tunes for the most part, along with a few other tracks. I haven’t yet seen any of the stage shows from which the songs are taken, but that doesn’t matter, because they’re often recognisable anyway, and they’re beautiful compositions in their own right.
If I had to pick favourites, Stars from Les Misérables and Anthem from Chess are a stunning double to open with, the latter coming to a spine-tingling finish with the choral backing, while On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady is a jolly toe-tapping number, and It’s Impossible is beautiful. As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard, This Is My Life, and The Impossible Dream from Man Of La Mancha are captivatingly powerful as well. Carrickfergus is a lovely way to finish the album too. But all of the other tracks are wonderfully performed as well, and he’s got a great orchestra backing him up.
It’s a world away from his comedy, that’s for sure, but it’s still very good. There’s an interesting track-by-track interview where he talks about every song on the album, as well as a shorter promotional video that shows him performing with the orchestra, and a glimpse of the photoshoot.
And there you have it, that’s my look at the multi-talented Mr Manford, I hope you enjoyed that. He just come across as a top bloke who wants to help people escape from the world through his comedy, music, acting and presenting careers, and he achieves that easily. So I’m really glad I’ve finally seen him live in person, and I will definitely be looking to do so again on his next tour.