“Somebody said to me on my Facebook fan page, “it’s been ages since you’ve toured”, Jason Manford tells us. “I thought “no way, it was last year wasn’t it?” Anyway, long story short, they were right, it was years ago! I just got fooled cos I’ve been on tour doing musicals and the last tour is repeated on Dave ja Vu 13 times a day!”
Yes, it has been a fair while since Manford set out on a solo tour – but that’s not the most significant measure of the passage of time for Salford’s favourite son. When the nationally-acclaimed stand-up, TV and radio personality brings his new show Muddle Class to the De Montfort Hall stage on 15th March, he’ll be bringing with him a story of how, through his incredible rise to multimedia, genre-straddling superstardom, he’s found that staying true to his roots hasn’t stopped him becoming a bit middle class by accident.
“I’ve been looking at how my life and how it’s changed over the years, how the world has changed and how my parents haven’t changed a bit!”, explains Manford. Indeed, his humble beginnings growing up in Manchester’s charmingly-named “Triangle of Death”, rife with crime and gang activity, are rather belied by his household name status, which has included regular appearances on 8 out of 10 Cats, Live at the Apollo and The Royal Variety Performance, as well as his own show on Absolute Radio.
But perhaps the best indicator of Manford’s social mobility is how he’s spent the years since his last tour. Having stepped in for a month-long stint as Pirelli in Sweeney Todd at the Adelphi Theatre, Manford was bitten by the musical theatre bug, and has since starred in a UK tour of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, as well as splitting a role in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with Lee Mead. This crossover has been matched in his TV gigs, with chances to flex his intellectual muscles on Have I Got News for You and QI popping up alongside his more routine stand-up and panel appearances.
It’s hardly a surprise that this success might have changed Manford’s fortunes somewhat, but his self-awareness and willingness to take a sideways look at how it’s all played out guarantee that Muddle Class won’t be a collection of a rich man’s grievances, but rather a friendly stroll through the journey of a good mate who made it big like we always knew he would – delivered with Manford’s typical amiable charm. “It’s going to be a great tour and I can’t wait to see everyone there”, he adds – and for a change with a star of this magnitude, you get the sense he really means it.