The Festival has been and gone. Jason Manford can tell: nobody is doing Shakespeare on a bouncy castle on the Royal Mile. Instead, people are going to work and stuff.
So, too, is Manford. He points out more than once that he’s done more than 100 shows on this tour and it shows, for better and for worse. It’s a polished, professional two-and-a-half-hour set which leaves a busy – if not sold out – Playhouse crowd apparently well pleased.
Manford is an everyman comic who cites his own favourites as Michael McIntyre and Peter Kay, so universal subjects like supermarkets, babies, family, gender roles, driving and so on are tackled nicely. There’s no pretension at breaking new ground and the familiar routines mostly work, although there are some bits that sound like even he is tired of repeating them.
Maybe a bit more quality control is needed – some truly dull stuff near the end about the difference between cats and dogs a prime example.
The audience interaction was generally excellent, but with one striking exception as the question “have you ever been burgled?” got an understandably muted response. It seemed especially ill-judged when the routine turned out to be a weak gender riff on how the man of the house is always the one nominated to go and investigate strange noises downstairs.
Manford is self-effacing throughout, especially when he talks about spending time with servicemen and doing gigs for Help for Heroes. There is a sense, though, that he is still burned by his experience of the tabloid glare brought on by the infamous incident which, for the time being at least, denies him access to the same kind of TV profile and audience as the likes of Kay and McIntyre.
Towards the end, Manford himself cites another reviewer who described him as an all-you-can-eat buffet of comedy – not all brilliant, but there’s loads of it – and that’s about right. He’s not done the Fringe for a while. Maybe he should, with something new – the gourmet hour which he is undoubtedly capable of.