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Lots of variety on show

He's one of the hottest names in comedy, so it seems surprising that 28-year-old Jason Manford is already thinking of retirement. The funnyman is planning to leave the world of stand-up to focus on fatherhood, following his upcoming mammoth nine-month tour, now that he's the proud dad of twin girls.

"I love fatherhood. It is the best thing I've ever done," he says, smiling.

"My girls are seven months old, so by the time the tour finishes, they'll be 18 months coming to two years. Being away from home never gets any easier. It'd be nice to spend the next four to five years at home really, taking them to school, doing that sort of thing."

Manford is, as some may say, at the top of his game. He has won awards, played sell-out tours, appeared on The Royal Variety Performance and Live At The Apollo, and is known for being a team captain on 8 Out Of 10 Cats.

He has taken on presenting duties in a new ITV1 show, Comedy Rocks. The one-off show, airing this Friday, will feature performances from Pixie Lott and Scouting For Girls, and appearances from comics Jo Brand, Joe Pasquale and John Bishop and ventriloquist Paul Zerdin.


"There's a bit of comedy, music and we've got a ventriloquist so it's a good mix -- it's like an old-fashioned variety show that's been given an update," he says. "It's just a bit of a laugh on Friday night. There's something for everyone. Other comedy shows are aimed at the 18-30 market, but this is aimed for anyone aged 18 to 60."

Manford admits to having some pre-show jitters.

"I've compered for years and this is essentially a compering job but on a bigger scale, so I have a right to be nervous -- but I'm looking forward to it."

If viewers like it, it could lead to a series being commissioned -- and he already knows who he would like to invite.

"We've got a long list of performers we'd like to work with and mix in the newer people. It'll be great to see the heritage comedians like Cannon and Ball and mix them up with younger comics like Bill Bailey," he says. "In an ideal world, you'd go for Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Izzard, Peter Kay, Michael Buble, and Neil Diamond, but you've got to live in the real world. I think what we've got is pretty strong to be honest."

Manford's path was set when he worked at a comedy club collecting glasses at the age of 17. When a performer failed to arrive for an evening set, he stepped in, kicking off his comedy career.

He may have been unfairly dubbed "the poor man's Peter Kay" when he first started, but Manford doesn't mind the comparison, because he's a fan of the Phoenix Nights star.

"Peter Kay helped me get started with advice and contacts. He was always a lovely fella and he was my favourite comedian. He's so successful, it's awe-inspiring."

Following a cameo in Shameless, he now plans to move into acting and writing for TV.

"I'll stop doing stand-up for a while and start writing, hopefully do more presenting and acting. That's the aim anyway," he says.

"I do enjoy acting. I'm pretty open. I studied drama at university so it was always something I had in mind."

Manford will be putting on his football boots for Sport Relief's Manchester United XI and The Rivals charity football match on Saturday May 1, where he'll show off his skills on the pitch alongside ex-Manchester United players and celebrities like James Corden and Gordon Ramsay.

"It sounded quite fun. To play football in front of 60,000 people is a bit nerve-wracking -- I hope it's just a 10-minute spell at the end. I'll be the super sub," he says, laughing.

Comedy Rocks will be shown on ITV1 on Friday night at 9pm.