Jason Manford pokes fun at First-World problems

The British comic Jason Manford brought laughs to his stand-up show, joking about everything from halal meat to rivalries between British cities.

Jason Manford at a Comedy Masterclass & Q&A session at University of Salford. Courtesy Nick Harrison
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As one of the predominantly British audience at the concluding show of Jason Manford's two-night run in Dubai, it's easy to identify with the Manchester-born comedian's everyman brand of affable, observational stand-up. As a self-confessing tightwad, he's also filling the traditional warm-up slot on his current 250-show First World Problems Tour, to save paying somebody else "60 quid a night".

Accordingly, the opener segment of his second two-part, two-hour set on Monday at Crowne Plaza, Dubai (he also performed on Sunday), felt like an opportunity to assess the crowd. As the proud owner of a Mancunian accent, it followed that much of this comprised comparing the UK’s disparate subcultures and linguistic twists. Demonstrating the seemingly inexplicable hatred between certain cities, he slipped into a Liverpool lilt to recall hearing a pilot on a flight into Manchester Airport announce: “If you look to your right, you’ll see Ikea, Warrington. If you look to your left, you’ll see the city of Manchester. So I recommend looking to your right.”

Things really picked up after the interval, before which Manford asked the audience to submit their First World problems. Ensuring a unique narrative to every show, it’s a clever device that ­allowed subjects such as maids and items that you can’t import into the UAE to be ruthlessly ­dissected, while always poking fun at the inherent petty ­ridiculousness.

Among laddish banter and likeable silliness, Manford slipped in an insightful take on the recent hullabaloo in his homeland concerning two fast-food outlets that have switched to halal-only meat, sparking somewhat Islamophobic public outrage. He highlighted the knee-jerk hypocrisy with the laser-accurate question: “Did they think we were cuddling our meat to death before?” Elsewhere, almost every onlooker would have related to his breakdowns of everyday life, from call centres to predictive text messaging (his angry tone in one past complaint email, he told us, was slightly hamstrung by his phone automatically altering his sign-off to ­“Jason Mangoes”).

That cheeky brand of humour doesn't endear him to everybody, such as one incident from his stint presenting the painfully anodyne UK primetime-TV programme The One Show. Forced to fill time while covering an infamous incident involving an English woman filmed dumping a cat into a wheelie bin, he recalled that his ad hoc punchline ("but my dog found it hilarious") received 147 complaints from viewers.

For all that, though, and the fact that a good portion of the show was unrepeatable in polite company (complete with a good dollop of scatological humour), Manford isn’t really interested in being controversial. And therein lies his charm.