There’s an argument that suggests that your first stand-up DVD is the easiest. After all, in theory, there’s several years’ worth of material you can cherry-pick from, and you end up putting out a disc that edges towards a best-of collection. That may or may not be the case with Jason Manford’s first DVD. What’s certainly clear is that this is an excellent comedy disc, and easily one of the best of the season.
Manford comes across as utterly relaxed here, frequently amused himself by the heckles he gets from his crowd, and quickly getting down to the business of earning a generous number of laughs. It might help that he’s performing in his heartland, but the real credit goes to the material, and its excellent delivery.
Manford has proven to be a real asset to the panel show Eight Out Of Ten Cats, but he’s ever better here. His material – aside from a fabulous comeback line about pain – is steadfastly mainstream, which fits firmly with Manford’s description of his comedy. As such, you’re not going to find anything that the Daily Mail will be getting its knickers in a twist about. But what you do get is a very funny gig, from a constantly improving and utterly engaging comedian. There’s no harshness to his delivery, but he’s clearly finely-tuned his material here, and he hits his punchlines with real relish.
One delightful aspect to the gig that works exceptionally well is when Manford turns to his crowd and starts asking them questions. Granted, this has been done time and time again, but Manford directs slightly awkward questions en masse to the attendees, and proceeds to mine some excellent comedy from it. That’s not to say that things don’t work when he talks to individuals in the crowd, but it’s the broader questions that bring the big laughs. We’re not going to spoil any of that here, but it’s some of this material that single-handedly justifies the buying of the disc.
To be fair, his audience serves him wonderfully well here, playing along terrifically with the material. Interaction with the audience is usually a victim of the transfer from a live gig to a DVD edition, but not in this case. You suspect it’s a mixture of fine editing work and a strong core gig that’s the reason for that. Whether that’s true or not, this is a very good show, and one that transfers well to DVD.
The extra feature material is good too, with an underlying feeling that someone’s gone out of their way to bother. There’s a behind the scenes documentary which features footage from the warm-up gigs Manford did in preparation for the tour, as well as him waiting to go on behind the scenes and getting gradually more nervous. There’s even material showing, quite literally, the recording of the DVD show.
Moonchester, meanwhile, features Manford visiting his beloved Manchester City, and, specifically, spending time with the club’s mascot, Moonchester. He then interviews him. It’s odd, but strangely engaging. It’s also over quite quickly.
Finally, there’s Manford On Manford, as Jason’s brother, Colin, interviews him. They’re clearly both bemused by it, and that adds to the fun. I really enjoyed this little segment, though, and it did also dig up a bit of interesting background on Manford J.
The end result is a fine package, and a great value disc. It’s funny, has interesting extra features, and had us scouring the listings to see where we could get a ticket to see Jason Manford in the flesh. A very good DVD.
The Feature: The Disc:
Jason Manford Live at the Manchester Apollo is out now.