Comic Jason Manford: 'If you’re bored in Dubai, there must be something wrong with you'
Ahead of his gigs in the UAE this weekend, Jason Manford tells us why he never censors himself for a show in the emirates
British funnyman Jason Manford, 38, is a regular visitor to these shores, but the frequency of his trips hasn’t dulled the shine of performing in the UAE for him. He is back in the Emirates this weekend, with shows in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
He has performed in the UAE four times over the years, the last time being his New Year’s Eve show in Dubai in 2017, and Manford seems excited to be coming back. “Gigs there are always great fun,” he says. “There is always an appreciation for what I am doing when I come over, there aren’t as many shows as we have here in the UK, and I appreciate that … so it’s a bit of a love-in really.” For the unfamiliar, a “love-in” is a gathering of people to express mutual love, which is a rather heart-warming call from Manford about the UAE’s place in his heart.
The comedian is bringing his Muddle Class Tour, one that he has been performing over the past year, with more than 250 shows to date. But just because it’s oft-performed, doesn’t mean it will be stale with no surprises.
“You have to play with it a little bit,” he says. “There is always more of an international audience [in the UAE], so you have to think about that, but the show is a personal show, it’s me telling the audience funny things that I have been up to and noticed, so that doesn’t change.”
So, in his time performing in the UAE, has he ever found a crowd hard to win over? “Absolutely not, I’ve never experienced that,” he says.
“The audiences come, generally, because they already like you. And I like them, so it’s never really been an issue,” he adds.
There is also the myth that comedians and performers have to alter their shows when getting on stage in the region, but Manford says that is something he has never had to consider.
“My act doesn’t really need censoring anyway, so there is nothing that I think, ‘Oh I better not, say, talk about that.’ It’s not that sort of show,” he says. “There is nothing in my show that anyone could, really, get upset about.”
After all, Manford has risen to fame, predominantly, on British prime time TV, so don’t expect any quips that come too close to the bone. Until 2017, he was a regular on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Would I Lie to You?, and in 2010, he enjoyed a stint as the presenter of The One Show. More recently, he hosted What Would Your Kid Do?, a family show that investigates how well parents know their own children.
My act doesn’t really need censoring anyway, so there is nothing that I think, ‘Oh I better not, say, talk about that.’ It’s not that sort of show. There is nothing in my show that anyone could, really, get upset about.
And he is certainly a family man. A father to five, he tells us his little ones often join him on tour. “The last few times I’ve been to the UAE, I brought the family out and treated it as a holiday. Although this time is a bit different, I am literally coming out, doing the gigs and going home.
“There is so much to do with kids, the aquarium at the mall, I mean, if you’re bored in Dubai, crikey, there must be something wrong with you,” he jokes.
He balances family and life on the road by making the time for his loved ones over the few months of the year when he isn’t working. He says over the year, he probably spends more time with his children than he would if he had a regular nine-to-five. “I don’t have to commute every day,” he says.
“But being away can be hard – hard for the kids and for relationships,” he reveals. “So you have to make sure the time you have together is quality time, you know, not spent on your phone or Facebook, or whatever, while the kids are running around you, you have to be invested in them.”
Can we expect any of the mini-Manfords to follow in his footsteps? “I would encourage them to try comedy, yes. For me it’s been a wonderful job, it’s given me great opportunities, opportunities I’d never have had in another career, I certainly wouldn’t have got here on academic level,” he says.
“I would encourage anyone, my kids or not, to give what they love a try,” he adds. “I mean, you have to try, not trying is a worse feeling than failing.”
His children, however, can’t believe he is a comedian. “Sometimes they’re a bit like, ‘What, people pay you for this?’ But I do love a dad joke and they just roll their eyes at me.”
He is certainly a busy man, as well as TV gigs and stand-up comedy, he has a regular show on Absolute Radio in the UK. He has also dabbled in music and musical theatre, with an album of show tunes, A Different Stage, released in 2017. From September, he’ll be touring with Tony Award-winning musical Curtains, a whodunit show.
Musical theatre was always his main passion, he says, and he originally thought he would end up in a local band, saying he didn’t think it was realistic to get on TV or have people “pay to come see me live”.
“It’s great, I have been able to take things from the world of theatre and bring them into my stand up, it’s much more colourful now with a lot more characters and stories,” he says. “It’s not just one bloke standing in the middle of the stage. The two jobs complement each other.”
What it all boils down to, however, is stand-up, which is the job he would choose if he had to pick between presenting, acting and comedy.
“It’s the one where no one else is involved, it’s you and the audience, there is no director, writer, producer, editor or Ofcom,” he says. “It is just you and the live audience, and what gets said in that room, you live and die by.”
Jason Manford performs at the Movenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, from 9pm on July 25, and the Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi, from 9pm on July 26. Tickets are from Dh230. Visit www.thelaughterfactory.com
Updated: July 24, 2019 07:06 PM