This article is from 2007.
Marissa Burgess finds a very contented Jason Manford living off the spoils of his barnstorming Fringe debut. Piers Morgan is the only fly in his soup
In 2005 the Perrier Award was dominated by newbies when two unsullied Festival virgins snuck past the newcomer nomination to be placed in the main category. Laura Solon took the title while a surprised but chuffed Jason Manford basked in the glow of being shortlisted, and in bagging the Writers’ Guild/The List’s Award for best newcomer, for his show Urban Legends. ‘I’m still living off that one,’ he smiles, recalling the accolades and sitting comfortably in the freshly sculpted garden of his house in Manchester.
In typically laid-back northern style, Manford didn’t use the money for the new patio before hurrying back to the Festival in 2006, instead leaving a sensible two-year gap, only popping up last year to do some of the E4 showcases in the big purple cow. This year, patio sorted, he’s saved more pennies to return with a new show, but if you’re expecting Urban Legends 2, explaining exactly what happened to the girlfriend after her bloke’s severed head was banged on the roof of their car by the hook-handed psycho, you’ll be disappointed. Though comics with a chatty, gimmick-less show full of unadulterated stand-up comedy have a habit of being pilloried at the Festival, this time around Manford is planning an hour of just that. ‘This time I’m doing more of my stand-up, a little bit of what I do in the clubs. I think it’ll be a funnier show.’
The result will be more indicative of the real Manford; displaying the natural talent and easygoing nature that won him awards and plaudits when he started out as a damp behind the lugholes 18-year-old. ‘This time it’ll be a bit freer, a bit more chatty and interactive. I like having a chat and seeing what comes out of people. It’ll be a bit more me as well. I felt it was part lecture when I did a show with screens.’ The structure will be more fluid too. ‘Everything doesn’t have to be about that one subject, it can be about anything you want to talk about. When you theme it you’re constrained to that topic and you have to hang stuff off it and crowbar things in whereas here you can talk about anything.’
That said, the show will adopt a very loose theme stemming from an incident that occurred when he was a guest panelist on Channel 4’s 8 Out of 10 Cats, where he has recently taken over from Dave Spikey as permanent team captain. ‘The show was going to be called Piers Morgan Saved My Life,’ he laughs, recalling the altercation. ‘When I appeared on the show last year he was on it too and kept calling me “fatty”. I just thought: “what’s his problem?” But it started me thinking: “I have got a couple of chins actually, I really need to sort that out.”’ So off he power-walked to the gym. The result? ‘I feel better for it; I don’t look any different though I have lost two stone. I must have just lost weight off my kidneys or something. I must have had heavy internal organs. My toes feel thinner.’
He did eventually stop short of using the Piers incident in the show’s name. ‘I think having Piers Morgan in the title might have put people off,’ he laughs. Though his 2005 Festival visit was an unqualified success, he’s coming to Edinburgh with no expectations. ‘I just want to make as many people laugh as possible. I don’t want to be too clever; well, that said I can’t be too clever.’ Not too clever? Well he hasn’t done badly considering.
Jason Manford, Pleasance Courtyard, the Pleasance, 0131 556 6550, 5–27 Aug (not 13), 9.45pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8–£9). Previews 1–4 Aug, £5.