Jason is an award-winning comedian, broadcaster and actor. You may recognise him from 8 Out of 10 Cats and Live At The Apollo as well as his numerous stage roles, including the multi-Olivier Award-winning production of Sweeney Todd, an acclaimed UK tour of The Producers, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. We are super excited that he will be hosting the Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard and to celebrate, have rounded up 10 things you probably didn’t know about him.
1. His first school teacher predicted his future career
The Salford-born star loved cracking a joke or two at school. So much so, in his first school report his teacher wrote: “He’s always telling jokes. Perhaps he should become a comedian.”
2. He began his stand-up career as a teenager
Jason’s first comedy opportunity came at the very early age of 17. Working at the Southern Hotel in Manchester in 1999 as a glass-collector and pot-washer, he had no idea what his future would hold. When a performer didn’t arrive for an evening set at Buzz Comedy Club, located downstairs in the hotel, Manford filled in for the absent comic and never looked back!
Just 16 gigs later, Jason was crowned The City Life North West Comedian of the Year in 1999, an award previously won by Caroline Aherne, Johnny Vegas and Peter Kay.
3. Fellow comedian Peter Kay is one of his biggest supporters
Peter Kay offered plenty of advice and contacts to Jason in the early stage of his comedy career. He recommended the Higher National Diploma in media and performance at the University of Salford, and despite not having the required A Level grades, Jason was accepted. He later upgraded to a full degree. More importantly, he went on to make his name as an entertainer, working in local radio, going on to stand-up and winning the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival.
4. He can sing opera
In 2011, Jason won ITV’s charity talent competition, Born To Shine after learning how to sing opera. The comic sang Maria and Brindisi alongside 14-year old chorister George Clarke, who had been his mentor for the show. The man of many talents then went on to release an album of show tunes called A Different Stage.
5. He was on the 2010 Channel 4 list of the Greatest Stand-Ups of all-time
Jason finished in an impressive 65th position. That was behind Billy Connolly, Ricky Gervais and Roy Chubby Brown, but ahead of Ronnie Corbett, Freddie Starr and Ken Dodd.
6. He is a huge musical theatre fan
In 2012, Jason showed off his new-found singing talent on tour with Alfie Boe and alongside Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in Sweeney Todd in the West End. Other musical credits include roles in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Producers and a concert production of Guys And Dolls.
More recently, he has just finished playing the West End role of detective Frank Cioffi in the hilarious whodunnit West End production of Curtains and will be reprising the role as the Tony-Award winning musical heads off on its UK Tour.
7. He is the voice-over on the Churchill insurance adverts
If you’ve ever seen the original Churchill insurance adverts… ohhh yes, (the one with the nodding dog!) you may or may not have noticed that Jason is the voice-over summing up the ad at the end! Who would have known?
8. He set up the ‘Charity Ninjas’
In 2014, Jason jumped on board to help cancer sufferer Stephen Sutton reach his £1 million target for Teenage Cancer Trust. Besides donating £10,000 to the cause and organising a last-minute charity gig which sold out within minutes, Jason also launched the Thumbs Up For Stephen campaign which went on to raise over £2.5 million for Teenage Cancer Trust! Since then, he has gone on to set up Charity Ninjas, a team of mystery do-gooders who anonymously come to the rescue of people around the UK, raising thousands of pounds and helping many many people.
He makes us laugh, acts, sings AND does a bucket load of charity work. What a hero!
9. He is the host of a brand new BBC gameshow
First & Last is a brand-new six-part series that puts eleven contestants through a chain of funny, play-along-at-home games, all of which have one golden rule – they must avoid coming first or last. If they do, they will be eliminated!
Catch Jason in this hilarious show on BBC 1 on Saturday night at 8.30pm.
10. He will be presenting the Olivier Awards with Mastercard for the third time this year
Having previously hosted in 2017 and 2019, the much-loved comedian, actor and singer will return to the Royal Albert Hall for the glittering Olivier Awards 2020 with Mastercard ceremony on Sunday 5 April.
If you want to join this celebration of the very best in British theatre, tickets for the Olivier Awards with Mastercard ceremony will be on public sale from Friday 24 January. In the meantime, you can check out the highlights from 2019!