Comedy's not always a laughing matter for Salford's Jason Manford
PUBLISHED: 02:18 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:44 20 February 2013
The laughs started for Jason Manford while glass-collecting in a local comedy club and he's hardly looked back since. But Emma Mayoh discovers there's a serious side to the popular comedian and television star
Jason Manford doesn't fit the traditional stereotype of a comedian. The teetotal 27-year-old turns down party invitations in favour of watching football at Manchester City with his dad and brothers. He's also saving furiously to buy a house, any spare minute he gets is spent with his family, including wife Catherine and he also pops his head into his younger brother's school to give talks in assembly. Not exactly rock star material.
'I've never got into drinking. There used to be a stereotype associated with comedians for being hard drinkers but if I accepted every drink that was offered to me I'd surely be an alcoholic,' explained the straight-talking comic. 'There are lots of us teetotal comedians now.'
But it is easy to stay grounded when your formative years as a teenager, and your first foray into comedy, happened while collecting glasses at Buzz Comedy Club in South Manchester where Jason now lives. One of the acts had not shown up and the manager was left with a 15-minute gap. Jason, then 17, immediately jumped in to fill the slot.
Salford-born Jason, a Comedy Store regular, remembered the several 'low key' gigs that helped him hone his talents including several in Cheshire and Manchester.
He said: 'Some of my first gigs were for 12 people and a dog. Not the easiest of audiences. I've had others that were so scary. I do like the smaller more intimate gigs but it was a bit hairy at times.
'The first time I got paid I got 15 for doing a set. There were only about eight people there. It was awful but I got away with it.'
Times have changed now and he is currently in the thick of his own tour which has been extended to meet the demand for tickets. He's won many comedy awards and for a time was a presenter on the breakfast show for Manchester-based radio station, XFM. He's also carving himself a niche in television presenting. Last year he had his own show, Tonightly, and also joined the panel on the hugely popular Channel 4 series, 8 Out of 10 Cats, with fellow comedians Jimmy Carr and Sean Lock.
But despite this success the Salford University student admitted he still gets the jitters, particularly when meeting other comedians.
He said: 'It's still a scary thing having to get up in front of all these people and I still feel sick when I'm about to go on stage. I'm alright though once I get the first laugh out of the way.
'Jack Dee is a comedy pro and I was doing Live at the Apollo with him. I was terrified. I like Lee Evans, Tommy Cooper and Les Dawson. Peter Kay has been a big influence. They all focus on family entertainment which is important for me.'
All this attention could eventually mean a move to London, something Jason hopes to avoid. All his relatives are from the area and he helps numerous charities including Manchester Children's Hospital, Comic Relief, Children in Need, Victim Support, Prince's Trust and Migraine Action. He's also a patron for Save Babies UK and is focussing all his efforts on them for the time being.
He said: 'I love it around here. It's where I've grown up and all my family live here. I miss them enough while I'm away so it would be awful living away from them. I've always had a strong sense of home and family life has always been a big thing for me and a lot of the charities I have supported are family related.
'Any spare time I get, which isn't a lot, I spend with my family. We're very close and there are a lot of us so there's not much time for anything else. I really enjoy going watching Manchester City with my dad and brothers. I treated them all to season tickets when I got the 8 Out of 10 Cats job.
I've been lucky and it meant a lot to me to be able to do that for them.'