Though no fan of the late Bernard Manning, I did find this Granada T.V. documentary from 1978 interesting. Having shot to fame on 'The Comedians' ( which he then consolidated with 'The Wheeltappers & Shunters Social Club' ), the outspoken comic was offered the ultimate challenge - to try and entertain an audience at a Las Vegas venue. It would be no push-over; American audiences are notoriously difficult to amuse. If they think they're not getting value for money, heaven help the comic! Not long after Manning's Vegas experience, Bruce Forsyth flew to the States - and bombed. One critic said: "Forsyth would be a riot at a daughter's birthday party perhaps, but not on Broadway!". Manning was also an accomplished singer, so if the comedy did not go down well, he always fall back on that. I expect many of the comics whom Manning had badmouthed in the tabloid press - Freddie Starr, Ronnie Corbett, Mike Yarwood - were secretly hoping he would do badly. The latter was quoted as saying: "Poor Vegas! They've had the Mafia for years, now they've got Bernard Manning!".
One thing the programme did well was highlighting the differences between American and British humour. Instead of the Irish, the Americans love to laugh instead at 'Polacks'. Manning walked on to a burst of 'Rule Britannia'. The audience guffawed heartily as he told the same gags he used to tell here, only with the wording changed. Many would probably not be allowed on television now, such as: "Did you hear about the Jewish Kamikaze pilot? He crashed his plane in his brother's junkyard!", and others in similar vein. I did laugh though when he said: "God save the Queen. He should do, we're paying her enough!". He also did a silent comedy routine as a young man standing naked in line at an army medical. It also went down well. Only one gag - about double-decker buses - fell on stony ground. He ended with, not quite a standing ovation, but certainly a better response than he might reasonably have expected.
Manning said afterwards, without the merest hint of a blush: "I was a sensation, an absolute knockout!". Certainly one had to admire his pluck in trying to amuse a notoriously critical audience who had never heard of him. The programme was screened to a mixed response. 'The News Of The World' ( you remember it, don't you? ) complained: "I squirmed in my armchair as Manning let loose some of the foulest 'jokes' television has ever broadcast!". I wonder what that same critic said when alternative comedy got going a few years later.
The programme was repeated in the late '90's on the now-defunct 'Granada Plus' ( albeit in edited form ).
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