Jason Manford:
Grassington Festival

In a new show Salford-born Jason Manford explores what it’s like to raise middle-class kids after climbing the social ladder

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Jason Manford’s climb up the social ladder is addressed in his new show, Muddle Class, which tours nationwide until early next year. Amid a heavy schedule of theatre performances, the Salford-born stand-up comedian is also a headliner at Grassington Festival – an eclectic 15-day programme of music and arts in the Yorkshire Dales, which also features appearances from Sir Michael Parkinson and author Joanne Harris.

The show’s title summarises Manford’s dilemma of having been born working class before finding fame and subsequently raising middle-class children.

“I’m in the middle of these two worlds, and I don’t really feel like either of them anymore, so I invented a ‘muddle’ class. It’s surprising how many other people fit into that category. I’ve really enjoyed delving into it and having a laugh with it,” says the father of five.

Fittingly, the show also compares his middle-class parenting with that of his working-class roots.

“We’re the first generation of parents to over-love our children. We say ‘I love you’ as a question because we want to hear it back,” laughs Manford, who himself is one of five siblings. “We’re trying to permanently convince ourselves that we’re good parents. We need to hear that we’re doing the right thing, whilst it seems like our own parents were just, like: ‘Are they still alive?’”

Manford comes from a family of entertainers. His grandparents were a folk music duo who immigrated to England from Dublin in the 1950s before making their profession multi-generational.

“They had 11 kids who all learnt instruments and singing. They became this big family show band who was very popular on the club circuit in the North West,” he explains.

“All the grandkids, nieces and nephews learnt to sing and entertain too. It was a sort of factory, really, of entertainers that came through. A lot of my cousins are singers – there are a couple of writers and actors too – so everyone is still involved in entertainment in one way or another.”

In recent years, Manford has showcased his own singing talents on stage during performances of The Producers, Sweeney Todd and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. This led to the release of his album, A Different Stage, which features operatic show tune covers. However, despite his vocal talents, he felt his microphone could be put to better use.

“I always thought that maybe singing would be my job but stand-up just became the thing that I loved. It was so exciting and you do your own material, which was a big deal. I can’t really write songs, so that was a big factor, but I love singing and I love the fact that people are surprised when they hear that I can actually sing.”

As his comedy career nears two decades, Manford continues to enjoy performing. But does he ever worry that inspiration for new material will diminish?

“When you do stand-up for so long you do get to a point where you think: ‘I’ve talked about everything and there can’t be anything else left.’ But when you’ve got kids, and the world around us is changing so much, you can always find something to make fun out of.”

Grassington Festival is on 15-30 June. Jason Manford performs on 26 June (grassington-festival.org.uk).

Muddle Class visits Hull City Hall, 13 June; King George’s Hall, Blackburn, 14 June; Manchester Apollo, 15-16/22-23 June; Preston Guildhall, 20 June; Liverpool Empire, 15 July (jasonmanford.com)

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