Jason Manford plans to keep cheery and raise Christmas spirit with acts of kindness
Jason Manford seems almost impossibly cheery… despite being in the second lockdown and losing more work.
Beaming a broad smile down the Zoom line from his Manchester home, the comic appears as bright and bouncy in his bedroom as he does when he strides onstage to make people laugh.
And despite having reason to grumble – he has just had to cancel a packed month of shows – he would rather talk about how excited he is for Christmas and spending time with his children.
It’s the kind of positivity that endeared the funnyman to many during the last lockdown when, after being force to close his touring musical and lay off 100 crew, he happily applied for a job at Tesco, delivered shopping for Iceland and helped drive patients to their hospital appointments.
Jason Manford was a huge help during the first lockdown
(Image: Jason Manford/Instagram)
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A video of Jason serenading a woman isolating on her own on her 80th birthday with the song On The Street Where You Live went viral and cheered up millions at the height of lockdown.
But the nice man of comedy insists he really is the same person in real life. “I’m not one of these people who are pretend nice when the cameras are on,” he says.
“I’m always jolly and friendly. I want people to like me and I genuinely like other people. Here at home we’re always laughing and having fun.”
Big-hearted Jason, 39, who has six young children from two marriages, continues to spread lockdown love by volunteering as a driver helping vulnerable people get to hospital.
“I do a couple a week,” he says. “I’ve got one tomorrow. I just send them my availability and crack on. I’ve had some lovely chats, they’re generally elderly people who don’t know who I am. It’s been really nice actually.”
But he says he won’t be doing any more shifts for Iceland, after one customer’s reaction to seeing him delivering her shopping left him feeling bad.
Iceland offered him a day’s work as a delivery driver in return for a donation to an NHS charity. He says: “I felt really sorry for one poor woman. She saw me coming up the path from her window. Iceland had sent a photographer round, and I think she thought she must have been the millionth customer and I was arriving with her cheque.
“But it was just me with her shopping. She looked really disappointed.”
He is planning to help out again
Determined that the new lockdown won’t ruin his family Christmas, Jason insists his decorations will go up on December 2.
He says: “My dad’s birthday is on the 1st, so I don’t want to take that away from him. But on the next day the decorations will be up and Christmas songs will be being played.
“We’re also doing an advent calendar of Christmas films, we’re going to watch a different film together every day. Christmas has always been the time we all get together, have a big meal and a great time.
“It’s still my favourite time of the year. I think this year of all years, we need to get into the Christmas spirit.”
And he says his garage is already filling up with presents for his kids.
He has four children – twin daughters, a daughter and a son – from his previous marriage, and also a daughter and a son, who he shares with wife Lucy Dyke, who he married back in 2017.
Jason says: “I bought yet another game of Monopoly. My kids like role playing so we got them a little shop and a cafe. My eldest girls just want AirPods, but there’s no way they’re getting those. I’ve got some and I don’t know where the different pieces are, imagine an 11-year-old.
“I’ll try to get the rest of the presents from the little toy shop in our village, who work really hard to compete against online and are now having to shut for lockdown. With the number of kids I’ve got I could go in and get my shopping and he could then close for Christmas.”
In keeping with his love of Christmas and festive films, Jason is joining up with Sky Cinema to find the UK’s biggest fan of the movie Elf, which will air on the channel on December 8.
From today, fans of the 2003 comedy classic, starring Will Farrell, can send in their own spoof videos of scenes from the film, with the winner getting their entire house decorated Elf style, as well as £3000 towards Christmas presents.
The star is excited to spoil his kids for Christmas
(Image: Internet Unknown)
Jason says: “We want people to film and make videos of their favourite elf moments. We’re offering a massive Elf fan to have their house decorated Elf-style – the whole house, candy cane, forest in the garden, Christmas grotto, and equally important, they’ll also come to take it all down!
“I’ve just filmed my own entry, singing in the shower and eating a plate of spaghetti covered in maple syrup and sweets. It was disgusting at first, but I got a taste for it after 14 takes.
“It was lovely to film actually in the middle of all this going on. I turned up at this house to film, walked into a room and it was all so Christmassy.”
Now the second lockdown has started, there’s no more fun film shoots, but at least Jason can watch some classics – although he thinks they’re few and far between nowadays.
He says: “I think people are quite passionate about Elf. It was the sort of last good Christmas film, the last classic. I think we’ll be seeing a lot of funny videos.”
Fans of the comic will have been disappointed to see he wasn’t in the I’m A Celebrity line-up this year, despite a slew of rumours. But he says: “I wasn’t approached, and if I had I wouldn’t have done it this year in the cold! Maybe another year.
“I’ve been asked to do Strictly a couple of times. I was signed up for it 10 years ago, but had to pull out. I’d like to do the first male partnership, me and Anton.”
Jason grew up in Manchester’s Moss Side council estate with his four brothers and sisters, while his mum was from a family of 11. He remembers being bullied at school , he says: “I feel sorry for kids today having phones. When I got bullied at school it finished at half three. At least you’d have the night off.”
Aged 17, he took his first job as a glass collector at the legendary Buzz Club comedy club at The Southern Pub in Chorlton, where he decided to get on stage himself after watching local talent including Peter Kay and Johnny Vegas.
The star worked for Iceland during the first lockdown
Just six gigs later, he won the 1999 City Life Comedian of the Year competition and is worth an estimated £1.5million.
When his brother Colin followed him into stand-up, he decided to use a different surname so he wouldn’t be overshadowed by his sibling’s fame.
“But then it was like, hang on a minute, this isn’t working out, I’m not getting any of the benefits,” chuckles Jason. “He changed it back, and more people came.”
He adds: “My mum sometimes says, why don’t you take your brother on tour as your support act? I would because he’s funny, but the problem is he talks about the same things as me, only differently.
“He’s a lot more rude than me. Whereas I talk about my parents as this slightly dopey couple, he talks about them like some sex crazed maniacs.”
Despite his success, Jason reveals he is plagued with feelings of inadequacy, especially when seeing other comics. “I always feel like I could be better,” he says, recalling a set from Patton Oswalt.
“Afterwards my friend said to me, ‘didn’t you enjoy it? You weren’t laughing very much. I loved it, but I was just sat there thinking, ‘God, I have to improve, there’s a huge gulf between where I am and where he is. It was consuming me the whole time.
He sang happy birthday to his isolating grandma
(Image: Internet Unknown)
(Image: Absolute Radio)
“And I guess that’s how I’ll always be. I’ll never be satisfied, thinking I’ve made it. I’ll always feel that I could be better.”
* Jason was speaking on behalf of Sky Cinema, who has launched a competition to celebrate Elf coming to Sky Cinema on December 8.
Enter now for the chance to win an Elf-inspired Christmas home makeover kit, £3,000 towards festive goodies and Sky Q for a year. For more details visit www.elfeverything.sky.com
His UK tour, Like Me, now kicks off in September 2021.
For tickets and venues visit JasonManford.com.