Sharp-witted Jason Manford worth the two-year wait as new material tackles the pandemic

"How long have you been hanging on to the tickets for this show... two years? I hope you haven't gone off me in that time, it does happen."

Jason Manford finally came to Shrewsbury this week
Jason Manford finally came to Shrewsbury this week

No chance. Mancunian comedian, compere, singer and actor, and recently a Hedgehog on The Masked Singer, Jason Manford was well worth the wait.

The genial comic has an easy going down-to-earth charm akin to fellow University of Salford alumnus Peter Kay. In fact, his first step into comedy saw the teenaged Manford follow Kay onto the stage at a northern comedy club only to commit an excruciating stand-up comedy error that almost halted his career before it had really begun.

But 40-year-old Manford has the keen eye and sharp wit of the seasoned observational comic. Spying a few empty seats, despite his two sell out shows at the Frankwell Quay venue on Tuesday, he said: "Those tickets will be on the fridge, they'll go to get the milk and it will be oh ******* hell, we've missed it."

With a major tour planned, including some arena dates, this show titled Like Me was a work-in-progress gig with Manford trying out new material whilst sometimes referring to and making notes, with ticks for the biggest laughs.

So he spent more time on his stool rather than stalking the stage but the material was delivering plenty of ticks and with Manford on stage for around 90 minutes it was value for money.

Especially with the bonus of having the very funny deadpan Sarah Keyworth, on the perils of being a 28-year-old woman who looks like a teenaged boy, providing support.

As one would expect, Manford focusses on the impact of the pandemic, such as home schooling, mask wearing, anti-vaxxers and, with typically self-deprecating aplomb, he explained his community voluntary work during lockdown was more motivated by the need to get out of the house than to help the elderly.

Often it is the unscripted, unrepeatable incidents that make a comedy gig special. These included Tuesday's ongoing verbal battle with a Welsh heckler and, best of all, primary school teacher Megan being encouraged to sing the Spring Chicken Song, complete with actions.

Some of the strongest material was drawn from Manford's parenting experiences as a dad to six which, despite some exasperated digs about 'psychopath' kids and horrid teenagers, is fundamentally warm and inclusive comedy.

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