The only way is up for Jason Manford, the new host of The One Show, but he still worries he’s turning into his dad.
When Edinburgh Festivals rings to speak to Jason Manford, it’s at the end of what he quite rightly calls a “mad week”. After all, it’s not every seven days that you turn 29, discover that you are about to become a dad again and be offered the job of replacing Adrian Chiles on The One Show sofa.
Thanks to his team captain slot on 8 Out Of 10 Cats, plus appearances on the Michael McIntyre Comedy Roadshow and Live at the Apollo, not to mention his nationwide live tours, the Lancastrian is already well known to comedy fans. Co-hosting the BBC’s prime time The One Show with Christine Bleakley will make him a household name.
Naturally, he’s taking his big break very seriously, but not so seriously that he can resist a gag. “It will either go really well or I’ll take the show down with me,” he laughs.
Manford reckons that his ten years of experience in stand-up will hold him in good stead. “I’m quite nosy. When I’m onstage, I’m always asking about people and asking what they get up to. The big difference is that doing The One Show is not just about doing gags and being funny. The show is more fun than funny, if you see what I mean.”
A light-hearted magazine program, The One Show covers topical news and human-interest stories among the fluffier items. Nonetheless, some commentators have already had a dig at Manford, asking how a comedian is going to be able to deal with serious issues. The implication is that Manford won’t be able to introduce a famine story without an accompanying joke.
“I’m still an actual person,” he says. “I’m human. I’m a Dad and I have the same worries that everybody else has about the world. I’m not always thinking, ‘how can I do a joke about this?’”
It’s almost become a comedy legend that Manford’s stand-up career started by accident. In 1999, he was working as a glass collector at a Manchester comedy club when two acts had to pull out. Manford ambled on stage, stormed it and, within months, was being hailed as the North West Comedian of the Year.
A Perrier nomination in 2005 boosted his career, but, perhaps curiously for such a mild-mannered comic, Manford indirectly owes his current popularity to the mistakes of the genres’ more foul-mouthed practitioners. Manford’s warm-hearted comedy is not squeaky clean, but he’s unlikely to experience a Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand moment.
“There was a point when I had been doing stand-up for six or seven years, and everybody seemed to want edgy comedy,” he recalls. “That’s what TV producers wanted. At that point, I thought OK, obviously TV is not for me. And then, I don’t know what happened, but people started thinking, “I don’t want to turn on the telly and be abused. “That’s when there was a sudden demand for people like Michael McIntyre and myself. People who just want to make you laugh. That was a big change and I thought “Here we go. I might be alright here.”’
He certainly is alright. Manford plays five Fringe dates in Edinburgh as part of his ten month long I’m Turning Into My Dad tour. Over the duration of the tour, he will play to over 200,000 people. Ask Manford why he thinks he is so popular and he will talk about hard work and the importance of gaining experience but also the value of being a decent bloke.
“I’ve always been nice to people and when I go back they remember me,” he says. “Runners become researchers and they become producers who give you work. It’s a full circle. Be nice to people, just like you would in any walk of life.”
If that all sounds a little too, well, nice, then don’t worry. Manford is not a comedy reincarnation of Mother Theresa.
“I can hold a grudge,” he cackles. “I’ve got a list, although, to be fair, there are only two people on it. They come knocking, it’s not happening.”
I’m turning into my Dad, EICC, 7-11 August, 8pm, From £16.50, Tel: 0844 847 1639