Hammersmith Apollo, London
Comedy review: Jason Manford - First World Problems
"Try to get your timing right, luv, you'll have a better time," rejoinders Jason Manford to the wayward laughter of a woman in his audience. Tonight there are plenty of examples that the former host of The One Show is a stickler for timing, his crisp comic asides often belying his largely, and unashamedly, safe material.
For First World Problems, the 32-year-old Mancunian provides his own support act with an extended "introduction". The theme of the show only kicks off about ten minutes before the interval, less of an issue because Manford's opening material fairly quickly goes beyond "...and what do you do's?", joshing latecomers and put downs of ill-timed sniggers.
Though regional accents and rivalries are formulaic stuff, in his first 45 minutes Manford also settles to a neat anecdote about playing to the troops in Afghanistan. Kidding his worried mum that his is "Al-Qaeda's Norman Wisdom", the comic plays under "the only spotlight in the most dangerous desert in the world" to snipers who have to be called away on duty, and who depart his gig like moody teens sent to their room.
With the show's alleged theme next in his sights Manford enlists some audience participation to bridge the end of the first half to the second half. He asks us to supply our own first world problems after name checking a few of is own, including whinging footballers and the seemingly over-eager measures banks have for fraud.
Loo seat etiquette and some more surprising annoyances greet us in our return from the interval. However, with the despatch of this reasonably effective filler comes the unceremonious dumping of the show's theme. The feeling of being mis-sold a concept is abated somewhat by Manford's dexterous routines about family life that mix cheek with tenderness. "It's 6.15am, I don't love you till 8am" he remonstrates with one of his children. Meanwhile, his attempt to instil discipline using the hopeful 'count to three' rule often means "that we are both left wondering what happens at three."
A scattergun medley of an encore is rounded off with Manford's impressive rendition of Tom Jones's "I Who Have Nothing" (which he sung in Edinburgh this year). Before Manford sings it he remarks "let's get this one back", referring to the gig's momentum. The reception overall is warm, but he correctly identifies something is amiss. However, no amount of gusto and oomph can make up for the hastily cobbled together shape of this show, pleasing in parts though it is.
Tours until April 30, 2014
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