How can comedy help us make sense of the world?

Staff writer Colin Armstrong catches up with English comedian Jason Manford ahead of his show in the capital to talk about psychotic comics and escaping reality through laughter

Jason Manford 2017pg

What was the last thing that made you laugh?

I like laughing at silly things, like when people get out at the wrong floor on the lift and try to pretend they meant it. I laugh at daft things. Anything that makes people trying to be cool look really silly is my favourite thing. I like to laugh at everyday things like that and things that my kids find funny. It’s not a clever sense of humour I have.

Do you have to be crazy to do stand-up or does it just help?

It’s not part of the norm of society to get up in front of a load of people and get them to listen to what you think is funny. That is kind of weird when you think of it like that. But at the same time, as a comic you are sort of at the edge of society looking in; you’re kind of holding a mirror up to society and showing people what their lives are like. Fundamentally, you’re to make them laugh, you’re a clown, You want to entertain them for a few hours. But I’ve certainly met a few psychotic comics in my time.

How significant is comedy to help people make sense of a scary world? 

I think comedy is always important, but it’s interesting because sometimes comedy is trendy and other times it’s not as much. What happens is when the world feels scary and you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, comedy does really well. I think it’s because people know they can come for a few hours and not think or worry about the things that are going on in the world or in their own personal lives. That’s something I really love, to help people escape for a few hours and relax.

It’s an international audience here in Abu Dhabi. How do you tailor your show for that?

You do have to adapt it to a certain degree but even the expats aren’t always up to date with what’s going on back home, so you need to pick and choose your reference points carefully. To be honest, a lot of my stuff is universal; it’s about relationships, stories of things that have happened to me in my life. It’s not a massive rewrite job because you’re always thinking that at some point you’ll tour with the show, so when you write it originally you’re thinking about that.

So, what can we expect from your show in Abu Dhabi?

The show is called Muddle Class and it’s about the stage I’m at with my life, and I know for a fact a lot of people in Abu Dhabi will feel the same. I come from a working class background but from work I’ve done alright for myself, so my kids are sort-of middle class leaving me in the middle, because I’m not comfortable saying I’m either one of those things now. That’s what the show is about: the fusion of those two worlds, the mixture, and a lot of people seem to relate to it.

Jason Manford performs with The Laughter Factory at Park Rotana on 5th January. Tickets are available from AED 350 at abu-dhabi.platinumlist.net. Doors open at 7pm, show starts at 8.30pm. To find out more, visit: thelaughterfactory.com

WORDS Colin Armstrong

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