Jason Manford: Urban Legend

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

I’d be surprised if Jason Manford ever gets a review that doesn’t mention Peter Kay. Not only does he sound like him, which is obviously no more than geographic coincidence, but he also uses a similar brand of upbeat, one-way banter with one foot in the cheery showmanship of the old school.

He’s clearly a likeable bloke, eager to please and with a puppy-dog enthusiasm for life. He doesn’t come across as one of life’s great thinkers, but more an instinctive jester, always looking for ways to take the mickey.

And for his Edinburgh debut, he’s come up with a simple idea that plays to his populist strengths: the discussion and  demolition of urban myths.

It’s a great idea for two reasons. First up, it means he starts with an array of stories that are naturally fascinating and engrossing – that’s why they endure and  spread so well, as they tap into our fears and prejudices. Instantly the show should, hopefully, hold the interest.

Secondly, though, although billed as truth, the stories are works of fiction, and as such easily debunked. Comedically, all he has to do is point out some inherent flaws, or imagine what happened next, and, hey presto, he has a routine.

It sounds so easy and so obvious, it’s a wonder no one else thought of it. But they didn’t, and  Manford did - and he executes it brilliantly well, with a never-ending sense of playful fun.

He starts off with horror  tales of  murders and psychos before widening it out to include outlandish rumours about stars and films that have come to be believed. Disney is an especially popular  source  of gossip, and Manford’s even brought along video clips to illustrate some of them, as an extra treat.

There’s a gameshow, too, as the audience hollers ‘true’ or ‘false’ to various outlandish stories, which clearly demonstrates Manford’s people skills. He should encounter no difficulty finding work as a radio host, should he want it, so happy is he to talk and  listen, while subtly keeping control of the conversation.

Manford lightly sprinkles the show with bits of social history, suggesting why certain stories come and go. He claims to have done research into many of their origins (though most likely that’s little more than a search on urban myths website snopes.com) and drops in references to classical mythology to please the  more high-falutin critics.

But Urban Legends is not about intellectualising the basis for such parables; it’s a show unashamedly dedicated to good, uncomplicated fun. And as such, it triumphs.

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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