Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 October 2020

Review: Comic Jason Manford brings winning and familiar formula back to Dubai show

The stand-up star opened up the floor to field audience questions – and was left visibly baffled by the often outrageous, irreverent and downright baffling queries which came from this decidedly “Dubai” crowd.
Comedian Jason Manford wittily answered questions from the audience on a range of weird and wonderful topics. Satish Kumar / The National
Comedian Jason Manford wittily answered questions from the audience on a range of weird and wonderful topics. Satish Kumar / The National

“I’m going to play to the majority,” says Jason Manford, after gauging the UAE crowd to be overwhelmingly made up of British expats.

That was no surprise – the comedian is something of a treasure on home soil but it is hard to imagine that many of his 1.3 million Facebook fans come from outside the United Kingdom.

Despite his disclaimer, though, anyone from anywhere would have been able to follow the copiously peculiar twists and turns taken by his masterclass in stand-up comedy.

Performing a one-off special for promoters The Laughter Factory, at Dubai’s Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, the show was billed as “The Best of Jason Manford”. But this was no tired and lazy rehash of familiar routines – the broad banner was just an excuse for Manford to play a smash-and-grab game sparked almost entirely by the audience sitting in front of him.

After a strong opening barrage of decent Dubai jokes – brunch and Wild Wadi made obligatory appearances – Manford opened the evening up to audience questions submitted earlier in writing in the lobby.

From the effortless way he used these as jumping off points to riff, ruminate and raid vintage material, it is clearly a winning and familiar formula. But even he was left baffled by the often outrageous, irreverent and downright baffling queries that came from a decidedly “Dubai” crowd.

Throughout the course of an expansive, 100-minute set, Manford fielded queries on eclectic topics, including his weight, censorship, nightwear, footwear and terrorism, presiding over the disarray like a delirious quizmaster with all of the answers.

Questions verged from the infuriatingly innocuous (“Are you [tired] after your holidays?”) to the bizarrely left-field (“Do you believe in aliens?”) to the abruptly misplaced (“Brexit: discuss” – thanks Ben).

“I’m not sure all of you have quite understood the idea of this,” quipped Manford, after fielding a marriage proposal and a query about whether he “ate” footballer Michael Owen, a breath apart.

Manford is a devout Manchester City fan, and football was a recurring subject – most stingingly when he dismissed recently departed England manager Roy Hodgson’s touchline demeanour as that of an “old man in a nursing home”.

Referring to the comedian’s hometown, audience member Twiggy asked: “What’s the biggest difference between Manchester and Dubai?”

“Everybody here has got a job,” Manford replied.

Rachel from Manchester, and a man who proudly stood-up to identify himself as “Jez Doncaster from Doncaster”, both decided the most pressing matter to discuss was Manford’s recent decision to wear Crocs on holiday.

“The holes are where your dignity leaves your body,” was his retort. This mix of quick wit and amiable charm helped Manford navigate the wackily unpredictable, alien terrain with ease, and frequent hilarity. No heckle was too small or too silly to be indulged – and somehow the joke was always on the one telling it.

Like any good stand-up, Manford established a series of comedic foils in the audience – so we frequently heard from Terry the Scouser, the Nameless Australian and poor lonesome Glaswegian Bob – who by the end of the evening was set up with a front-row seat (and a celebratory bottle) alongside fellow divorcee Andrea.

Yet perhaps the most amusing joke of the evening was one that even Manford could not have written. On his last visit to the country, his first-half set closer was a salvo about the sinking feeling of returning home to an unmade bed – which, in Manford’s words, only elicited “a few titters” from a UAE crowd that had presumably grown overly reliant on home help.

So what did we find on our chairs upon entering the venue? A flyer advertising a “dial a maid” service. You just cannot make this stuff up.


Updated: August 27, 2016 04:00 AM

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