Ipswich: “I played Pirelli. It was a great part, I was dead by half eight.” Comedian Jason Manford comes to the Regent

Jason Manford, at the Ipswich Regent next week

Jason Manford, at the Ipswich Regent next week - Credit: Archant

Jason Manford doesn’t need me singing his praises, after an acclaimed run in smash hit West End musical Sweeney Todd alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton he can do that himself.

“I played Pirelli. It was a great part, I was dead by half eight,” laughs the comedian. “It actually paid so little money it ended costing me to be in it but I just absolutely loved it.”

The winner of ITV1’s Born To Shine, who also joined Alfie Boe on tour before joining Sweeney Todd, saw online that the producers were looking for somebody to cover for the current actor so rang his agent.

“I’d always wanted to do a musical, I was in them all the way through school, college, university... but that was the first time I’d done it professionally and I’d love to do it again.

“I said ‘can you get me an audition’. That went well, I got a second audition, that went well and they offered me the part. It could’ve gone to anyone - it wasn’t like ‘get me Jason Manford’,” he laughs.

“I loved singing every night and being on stage with other people, that doesn’t happen to me a lot of the time. [It’s a different type of pressure] having people waiting for a line you’re about to say, remembering the right things... it was really odd. When I’m stage I do what I want in whatever order I want.”

Manford’s in the middle of finishing a sit-com for ITV when I call, later he’s off to Bristol for a gig. The show, a pre-watershed family comedy, is about a dad surrounded by daughters.

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“It’s not unlike my own life... that’s where I’m getting the humour from.”

He hopes to star in it.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” he stresses. “You’ve got to write for yourself.”

A perk of the job?

“Yeah,” he laughs. “Unless you get into it and then they go ‘we like it but we’re going to recast it’... that’d be a bit harsh.”

The tour, his first in a while, has been going great.

“I’ve been surprised, a year ago I thought this is going to be hard work and I mean it is, the travelling and stuff; but I genuinely thought I’ve not got enough funny things in this show. Now, I actually think it’s the best one out of the three tours I’ve done.

“I’ve called it First World Problems, but to be honest I don’t get too hung up on themes and things like that; it’s two hours of jokes, funny observations and stories really.

“I always say if you’ve seen us before and you like me you’ll really like this show; if you’ve seen me before and you didn’t like me you won’t basically,” he laughs, because it’s not that different.”

Not that he minds hecklers.

“It’s part of the job really, it doesn’t happen as regular as you’d think. I get heckles from people who wouldn’t normally heckle; because I’m quite friendly on stage and it’s a warm, jolly show some people forget themselves I think and just join in, it’s not like they’re being horrible.

“Last night I got heckled, destructively, but it doesn’t massively bother me; I don’t think ‘oh they’ve got in my way’. It’s annoying when it’s incoherent or they’re drunk or quiet; if you’re going to heckle be forthright and go for it,” he laughs.

A word of warning though, the comedian always wins.

“The lights are facing me, I’m the only one who’s lit, I’m the only one who’s got a microphone, I’ve not had a drink, the audience have paid to see me; all the things are in my favour...”

Manford loves being back on the road, calling stand-up his proper job with TV, theatre, radio and all those other things the extra bits you have to do to get people to come see him live.

“The thing with stand-up is you’re your own writer, producer, editor, Ofcom and you’re in charge which means the risks are all yours. When it doesn’t go well that’s your fault. When it does you don’t have to thank anyone else,” he jokes. “It’s an amazing feeling when it goes well.”

Any message for the fans coming to see him at the Ipswich Regent on December 4-5?

“Put your worries at the door, you’ve had a long day... and don’t heckle,” he laughs.