Jason Manford: ”˜I’ve always been a smart arse. Now I’m a professional one’
By Ruth Huntman 15/08/2010
The 8 Out Of 10 Cats funnyman and new presenter of The One Show, 29, on being sacked from Burger King for being a know-it-all, wanting to be a West End star, and having a run-in with Bette Midler”¦
What was your first impression of your new One Show co-presenter Alex Jones?
Jason Manford: She’s lovely, a right laugh. I first met her when we were doing the screen tests. I was doing about five a day with different people ”“ they put a lot of work into finding the right person ”“ and it felt really comfortable with Alex. It was all about finding someone who was fun, but who would also play by the rules of TV and help do the serious stuff. Not that I’m a loose cannon or anything, but if I’m having a bit of a mess around, she can keep me on track. There were some big names who auditioned for my co-presenter, but I’m not allowed to tell you who they were, sorry.
After Alex got the job, you joked on Twitter that Aled Jones was going to be your co-host. Was that wishful thinking?
JM: Ha ha. That would have been something, wouldn’t it? He’s a Welsh legend. I would have insisted on doing The Snowman duet with him ”“ it would have been a wasted opportunity not to. But sadly I’ve never met Aled.
What scares you most about doing the live show?
JM: I dread getting a difficult guest who just doesn’t want to be there, like the Parkinson and Meg Ryan episode. And I worry about getting a guest who swears and then I’ve got to apologise. That’s going to be weird. I mean, how am I going to apologise for someone swearing when I come from stand-up? Slight double standards, isn’t it?
Who are your dream interviewees?
JM: I’m gutted, because they’ve had most of them on the show in the last few weeks ”“ Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Will Smith. But I’m still hoping my hero Billy Connolly might come on. I saw him at Gatwick airport a few years ago and I was too nervous to even go over and say hello. I thought about it, but in the end I just sat and stared at him. I mean, what would I have said? It would have been a bit pathetic to say, ”˜Hello, I’m a comedian as well”˜, like I’m comparing myself to this guy who basically started stand-up. It would have been like a nobody artist going up to Vincent van Gogh.
Is it true you do the voice-over for the Churchill nodding dog insurance ad?
JM: I don’t do the dog, I do the bit at the end that explains how much money you can get off and stuff. I’m not very good at getting my own insurance, though, I just go on those comparison website things. But I used to work for an insurance company in a call centre, so I feel like a bit of an expert. I was doing a 60-hour week in that call centre, trying to earn some money before I went back to uni. They were long weeks, just sat on the end of a phone getting shouted at by people.
Was that the worst job you had before becoming a stand-up comedian?
JM: No, I worked in Burger King in Manchester ”“ just for a weekend. That’s all I could hack. And let’s just say it was a mutual termination. I didn’t even get to work my way up to the grill, my job was to put the burgers in the microwave before they went on the grill. It’s not that I cocked it up, it’s just I was a smart arse. I still am, but now I’m a professional smart arse.
There must’ve been comedy value in some of the punters you had to deal with”¦
JM: Oh yeah. I’ve done a lot of material about working in customer relations. I also worked for a cinema chain and you’d get some right idiots ring up really annoyed because they coudn’t work the automated phone system. The best one was this woman who asked if the film Gladiator had anything to do with the TV show. When you’re on minimum wage you don’t really care, so I just said to her, ”˜Yeah. Wolf, John Fashanu and Russell Crowe are all in it.’
Has anyone ever stormed the stage during a gig?
JM: When I was doing the Manchester Apollo during my first tour, this fella asked if he could come up on stage. I gave him the microphone and he proposed to his girlfriend. That was a really nice moment, as I’d just got married myself.
Talking of which, you’ve got twin daughters (and he’s due to become a dad again), but you’ve never revealed their names. Why?
JM: I share so much of my family with stand-up and Twitter and stuff that I just want to keep a bit of it private. The fame side doesn’t interest me and I’d rather not have that. It’s lovely being recognised, and people are really nice when they come up to chat, but my job isn’t my family’s choice, so I like to keep them out of the spotlight.
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Although your fame must have brought you some great perks”¦
JM: Well, Twitter’s quite useful. I tweeted something about Domino’s Pizza once, so they sent me a voucher for a free pizza and that was good. Although I’ve tweeted about Rolex and Rolls Royce but nothing. Also, I’m a massive fan of The Saw Doctors and I didn’t even realise they were on Twitter, but out of the blue they tweeted and invited me to a gig. That was amazing.
You love your Twitter ”“ can we expect live tweets from The One Show?
JM: Yeah, probably. It’ll be great to tweet stuff like, ”˜OK, let’s have your questions for Lionel Richie’, or whoever’s on.
Do you ever use any of the tweets you get in your act?
JM: Well, I’ve got about 130,000 followers and some of them come up with the funniest things. A few weeks back I had a bit of a go at Ryan Air, because they’d charged me Â£40 for not checking in online. Someone tweeted, ”˜It should be called Rhino Air, cos they charge for everything.’ Nice joke.
Talking of charging, what’s this about Bette Midler going for you?
JM: Ha ha. I was mortified at the time. It was during rehearsals for The Royal Variety Show and I went up and asked if I could have a picture with her. She just went a bit mad at me and it was pretty horrible, but then I probably caught her at the wrong time. She was probably a bit nervous about performing in front of the Queen, I don’t know. I like to think there was some reasonable explanation. That’ll be weird if she comes on The One Show, won’t it?
We hear Tony Blair is lined up to be one of your guests”¦
JM: Yeah. I’m looking forward to that. Because it’s a light show, rather than going down the Iraq war route, I think we can be a bit more fluffy and have a bit of a chuckle. I’d like to ask him if he genuinely supports Manchester United (Jason’s a Manchester City fan). But I’ll also ask him what it’s like being a father and husband when you’re Prime Minister.
What’s this about you being a big fan of musicals?
JM: It’s true. Jonathan Ross put me on the spot on his show and I did a song from Little Shop Of Horrors. I did a few musicals at college and I played one of the orphans in Oliver! and I was the copper Captain Smolsky in Bugsy Malone. To be honest, when I finish The One Show I’d love to do a West End musical. I’d love to go down the Michael Crawford route and play The Phantom.
What makes you laugh?
JM: My one-year-old daughters. During the World Cup they wet themselves every time the commentator Mick McCarthy came on the telly. I thought it was hilarious they loved this dour Yorkshireman. See, I’m training them already to have a sense of what’s funny. I’m going to be like the comedy version of the Williams sisters’ dad. Ha ha.
”¢ Jason chatted to us in the car while he and his family were on the way to a wedding in Bradford.
”¢ Half way through our interview he had to make an emergency stop when he thought one of his daughters was choking on a piece of fruit. She was fine.
”¢ His mum used to drive him to his first stand-up gigs in clubs when he was 16, because technically he was too young to get in.
”¢ At school he was the singer in an indie band called Panic. Their biggest gig was when he was 15 at the Whalley Range Tennis & Cricket Club, where the band raised Â£400 for a local cancer hospital.
Jason stars with Alex on The One Show tomorrow, BBC1, 7pm. Jason is on tour with his stand-up show until November 2011. For more info go to www.jasonmanford.com
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