Jason Manford: Off On Tour We Go, Hammersmith Apollo, London
"I don't get recognised much – well not until recently." So joked Jason Manford of his recent trials at the hands of the tabloid press. If he looked at all peaky tonight, it was more to do with the blue stage lighting than the after-effects of the exposure of his blue Tweets to female fans which led to him stepping down from The One Show. Here was a clubbable man determined to go about his business as usual. And he was duly firm with the inevitable hecklers. "You paid £20 and you brought your own jokes!" Manford riposted, after leaving a silence for his heckler to elaborate on an obvious, albeit well-timed cry of "Twitter!"
Manford was more creative than his detractors, without ever being much more than workmanlike. Like Peter Kay, to whom he is often compared, Manford cuts a solid figure, with dependable material to match. The biggest achievement was that he delivered that material with a sure-footedness that belied the upheaval which preceded this show.
While the heckling helped make this theatre gig feel more like a club night, some credit must also go to the TV star for using his Ordinary Joe quality to befriend the 3,500-strong crowd and draw it in.
With his eye for everyday detail, he paints some nice scenes. For example, there's the man at his local cinema is waiting for his wife to come out of the toilet, before seeing the feminist romp Made in Dagenham. "Women eh?" says the man to Manford, rolling his eyes. "This isn't the film for you mate," replies Manford, adding, "She's told you it's about cars?"
Given the strife that Manford's Twitter scandal has caused his own wife, currently pregnant with their third child, it's not surprising that she doesn't feature in any of his material tonight. The comedian does still have an extended routine on babies, and manages to get a good run of gags out of this familiar material. Meanwhile, the subject of marriage is distilled into a few nice lines about wedding anniversaries. (His parents have just celebrated their 35th, marked with coral. He says that while his mother associated coral with a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, his father had his eye on the bookies of the same name.)
It's at this point that the show's rhythm becomes a little disjointed. A routine about his fame and the success, or otherwise, of his last DVD is about as welcome as an ad break, even if he is self-deprecating with it. Another routine, about testicular cancer, comes across as part public service announcement. then there's Manford's pointed defence of another Twitter victim, Paul Chambers, the alleged bomb-hoaxer who made his feelings about the closure of Doncaster's Robin Hood Airport all too clear online.
All in all, harmless fun, demonstrable integrity, and no small amount of resilience characterised Manford's show tonight. His recent difficulties and response to them may yet see him grow in stature, and join the ranks of those assisted rather than distracted by scandal.
Touring to 29 November 2011 (www.jasonmanford.com)
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