"the most influential comic I ever saw was Billy Connolly."

Which comedians did you watch when you were growing up?

I watched all the comics my Dad watched, old-school people like Les Dawson, Tommy Cooper and Dave Allen. We shared the same sense of humour, so when he started watching Alexei Sayle, The Young Ones and French and Saunders, I watched them, too. But the most influential comic I ever saw was Billy Connolly. Dad and I would watch him all the time, and even now I believe he's the greatest comedian this country's ever produced.

 

How did you get into comedy?

When I was 17 I worked at a local pub, setting the tables and the like. Sometimes we'd do funeral wakes during the day and then there'd be a comedy club at night in the same room. It was really surreal - you'd be in the same uniform watching people die at both ends of the day. I got to watch all these brilliant comedians up close, like Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas, Eddie Izzard and Lee Evans. Then one night a couple of acts couldn't make it because of bad weather. I could hear the promoter desperately calling local comics and I just went up and said: 'Listen, I've sort of prepared about five minutes and I've tried it on my mates and they think it's funny. Can I have a go?' And that was it.

 

You're a northerner born and bred - how do you think that's influenced your comedy?

I think it's played a big part - I mean, a lot of the comedians I mention above are northerners, and we do have a good heritage for producing funny people. They say northerners are friendly and I think that goes some way to explaining why we make good comedians. I've always been friendly and that comes through in my act.

 

How do northern audiences compare with southern audiences?

There isn't a massive difference in what they laugh at, but the further north you go, the more 'interactive' an audience becomes! There's a lot more heckling in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle, and by the time you get to Glasgow it's like being in a double act..!

 

You've turned your hand to acting and singing recently - should we expect a complete career change?

No way. Stand-up will always be my first love, but it's nice to try something different. I love singing and I'm getting better all the time - starring in Sweeney Todd alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton was a dream come true and I do have my eye on another couple of opportunities, but it'll never take over full time. 

 

How are you feeling about the upcoming tour? What should we expect?

I can't wait to get back on the road. The last two tours were great fun and I met some lovely audiences. I always put everything I have into a show, and I'm just making the finishing touches… I just need my Dad to say a few more stupid things and it'll be ready! 

 

Do you still get nervous before going on stage? 

Of course - it's terrifying! But you just have to remember that you've done it before and it went well. Generally, I put the gig out of my mind all day, but then two hours before I go on I can't eat, I'm pacing up and down, the butterflies start to creep in and then I'm nervous until that first laugh.

 

You grew up near Manchester - what are your favourite things about the city?

The people are great - friendly, funny and helpful. You never need to worry about asking for the time or for directions. The city's modern but with some great traditional areas like the Northern Quarter, and we have some brilliant attractions like the Science and Industry Museum, and the Manchester Museum at the university. Plus, we have amazing restaurants and the greatest football team in the world: Manchester City.  

 

Finally, what do you like doing when you're not working?

I'm always working! But on the rare occasion I'm not, I love spending time with my kids and taking them out swimming or to the park. I play tennis at a local club and I enjoy a good pub quiz with my Dad. I live a pretty simple life!

 

To find out when Jason's touring near you with his new show, First World Problems, visit jasonmanford.com/tour2013

 

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