Next week JASON MANFORD takes to the stage of St David’s Hall. JAMES RAMPTON recently caught up with the comic who thinks he might be a victim of his own niceness

JASON Manford has not run away to join the opera.

Despite winning ITV1’s charity-based talent competition, Born To Shine, putting his new-found talent into practice by joining Alfie Boe on tour and then starring in the critically acclaimed West End production of Sweeney Todd alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, Jason has not forgotten his stand-up roots.

In fact, you will be delighted to hear, the wonderfully gifted comedian is now returning to his first love and embarking on a huge nationwide live tour with a major new show entitled, First World Problems.

Jason will be playing in a venue near you very soon, but you are advised to book early – extra dates have been added to the tour schedule due to popular demand.

Jason jokes that: “Some of you might think I’ve had a career change, what with all the opera and musical theatre I’ve been doing lately.

Not a chance. I’m excited to be getting back to what I really love the most – stand-up!”

A comedian with a marvellously charismatic style, Jason strikes up a natural rapport with audiences. He also possesses an irresistible amiability and generates a rare warmth on stage. All these talents have combined to make Jason one of the best loved and most in demand comics in the country.

Chatting to me in a TV dressing room – he is about to appear on Jonathan Ross’s ITV1 chat show – in person Jason manifests the same likeable magnetism that draws thousands of fans to his live shows. His winning friendliness is no act. With this particular comic, what you see is what you get.

Jason, who has also performed stand-up on BBC1’s Live at the Apollo and multiple Royal Variety Performances, cannot contain his excitement about returning to live comedy.

The performer; a first-rate observational comic who describes his show as “essentially moaning about everyday life, but with punchlines” says the buzz you get from live comedy is unrivalled. “You can’t give it up!” he beams.

“People who haven’t done stand-up focus on the negatives – ‘what’s it like to die on stage?’ I always say, ‘It’s horrendous, the worst feeling in the world’. But the lows are so low because the highs are so high.”

The stand-up, who has also hosted Show Me the Funny and Comedy Rocks with Jason Manford for ITV1, carries on: “It’s a huge risk, but when it goes right, there is nothing better. It creates a communal feeling that you just can’t beat.

You get all these people laughing and you think, ‘I did that!’ If you make one person laugh in a day, that’s great. Imagine multiplying that by 10,000!”

“Overall TV is much, much easier. A lot of the time it’s just professional reading. It’s reading while trying to make it look like you’re not reading.”

“Stand-up, on the other hand, is much more demanding.

On stage, you’re everything,” he says. “You’re the boss. You’re the performer, writer, editor, director. You’re even Ofcom. You decide what to say. It’s brilliant.”

Jason now has a very wide fan base. “By now, people know that we share a sense of humour. They are aware of what they’re getting, and I’m aware of what makes them laugh. The weirdest thing is fans who remember jokes that I’ve forgotten. Sometimes I say to them, ‘I don’t remember that one. I must put it back in the act – it’s a good gag!’.”

The stand-up, who was a team captain on six series of 8 Out of 10 Cats as well as appearing on QI, Big Fat Quiz of the Year, League of Their Own and Would I Lie to You, adds that: “It’s also really interesting to see the demographic of my audience. I get grannies, their kids and their kids. It’s great to see.”

Jason explains the title of his new show, First World Problems. “I’d seen the phrase online and liked it; it just sums up so much I think the phrase emphasises those times when we moan about the most trivial things.

“It’s as if we invent problems so we have something to moan about. I imagine someone in the third world just thinking that we were all complete idiots!”

Before Jason departs, I return to the subject of his sheer likeability.

Jason smiles. “I’m the same on stage as I am in real life – which can be incredibly annoying at home!

“Jimmy Carr says that because he is quite rude on stage, if he says ‘hello’ to a fan in the street, that will make their day.

“By contrast, because I’m nice on stage, unless I ask a fan if they fancy a brew, they’ll say, ‘He’s a bit rude’. I’m a victim of my own niceness.

Sometimes I wish I’d gone down the Jack Dee misery route!”

Don’t go changing, Jason. We love you just the way you are.

Catch Jason at St David’s Hall Cardiff on September 27 and 28. Call 029 20878444 for details. Jason can also be seen at Bristol Hippodrome on November 15 and 16. Go to