YOU bring your tour to Southampton for two nights later this month. Are you looking forward to it?

“Yeah, it’s the thing I do best, I mean I’m not saying I’m the best in the world, but it’s what I’m most confident in. I’m looking forward to that immediate reaction you get from a live audience, which you don’t get on TV shows.”

Tell us a bit about the show…

“If it were up to me the title of the show would be ‘Funny things that I think of’. It’s about me being on stage talking about things that make me laugh, which is why they couldn’t think of a description for the adverts for the show, plus it was too expensive.”

Do you find the audiences more supportive in the north than the south?

“In essence we all go to the gig for the same reason, which is to have a laugh, so I don’t really notice a difference. I think that some acts that I’ve done in the north have been slightly more supportive because I’m from Manchester. Although saying that, wherever you gig in the UK, late nights are always tougher, if you’re on earlier then everyone’s up for it.”

Do you still get nervous before each performance?

“Oh yeah, big time! I’ve been doing a few warm-up dates, sometimes to about 12 people. Those smaller ones are always harder, when you can see the whites in their eyes.”

Any pre-performance rituals we should know about?

“I don’t really do anything before I go on.

maybe I’ll sit around and watch a DVD or just have a bit of quiet time, I don’t say a prayer or light candles.”

Who initially influenced you to become a comedian?

“I was working at a comedy club in Manchester. I’ve always followed and respected the great acts such as Peter Kay, Steve Coogan and Lee Evans. Funnily enough, it was all the rubbish acts at the comedy clubs that speared me on to do stand up. After their pretty poor performance you just think; if he can do it, then so can I!”

Did you always know that this is what you wanted to do?

“Well I’ve been gigging since I was 17. I was lucky because I didn’t really have the chance to get a 9-5 job. I got into acting during school, and then I went on to study drama and performance at university. If I didn’t get into comic performance I don’t know what I would have done, I’d probably be a train driver.”

Before your success and fame, were there times when you felt like giving up?

“Oh yeah, about every 18 months or so. Don’t get me wrong, gigging is brilliant, but in the early days it was so much harder to be on the road.

I’ve had people just sit and stare at me at shows, which is always disheartening. It was very hard travelling on my own, waking up in my car outside Travelodges and being away from my family. You risk a lot pursuing this job, and there were a lot of times where I felt like giving up. I’m glad I didn’t.”

How did the opportunity to captain in 8 out of 10 Cats come about?

“In a way I was really lucky. I was in Edinburgh and beyond at the time, and they would do these runthroughs with unknown comedians appearing as guests on the panel. I owe my career to Piers Morgan, who was a guest on the opposite team. We were having a playful argument where he was having digs at me, calling me ‘fatty’ and having a go at the north. In the end I just pummelled him, which got me a job as a team captain.”

Where would you like to be in five years time?

“I’d hope to elevate to being able to afford to fly down to London rather than get the train. I want to try and do things for myself, and I don’t want to be in the public eye all the time. I don’t want people to get sick of me.

There’s a sitcom in development with the BBC at the moment, which will probably keep me occupied for the next two years at least.

I’ll always do stand up though, it’s something that I really love doing. I never want to dread a gig though, I want it to be something I’ll always look forward to.”

Jason Manford appears at Southampton Guildhall next Friday and Saturday (September 23 and 24).

Tickets: 023 8063 2601 or visit southampton