After an unassuming entrance where he wanders onstage in jeans and a checked shirt, Jason Manford thrust aside his microphone stand and quipped “Alright chairs in here, aren’t they? Do your best not to fall asleep”. The chairs inside the vast EICC main arena may be of a satisfyingly rare quality, but in this entertaining hour of stand-up, sleep is unlikely to be on the cards for all but the most resolutely set-against audience members.
Manford is perhaps not the trendiest of stand-ups: as well as his prior indiscretions, he shies away from the sort of avant-garde conceptual work so in vogue in favour of a straightforward routine. Nonetheless, this set showcases the talent and charm that got Manford on to BBC1 in the first place, as well as discussing the sort of subjects that saw him hooked off it again.
He is a stand-up in a more classical sense, operating largely in observation and stories of mundane irritations all loosely fitting under the title of the show, First World Problems. This is a show that has been touring extensively in presumably smaller and more intimate venues, and even contains a section whereby audiences would have submitted suggestions during an interval had there been one. However Manford handles this scale change well; his rapport is fairly quickly established with a geographically themed opening, toying with regional stereotypes and moving effervescently on to all manner of topics.
Manford plays with the line of offensiveness with a childish glee: his words aren’t especially crass but his language is peppered with elements of toilet humour and querying whether mimicking accents from abroad is offensive (of course, resolving in his favour that it isn’t). It perhaps isn’t to everyone’s taste, but you can’t disagree with the genial quality with which it is delivered. He ad-libs well at points, determinedly involving the audience even when some sat 100 feet from him and has some extremely humorous tales to tell - hearing an account of performing in Afghanistan was especially titillating.
In all, First World Problems is by no means groundbreaking, but Manford is an extremely hard-working comic and even his detractors must admit through gritted teeth that this work pays off into a funny, amiable and accessible show.