WITH six children at home, comic Jason Manford could be forgiven for forgetting their favourite school subjects or friends’ names.
But after becoming a full-time parent and part-time teacher since the first lockdown in March, he has become an expert.
In an exclusive interview, Jason, 39, said: “After this year, I think we all need a break from each other. But at the same time, the lockdown was definitely time that I would never have given myself off.
“So I have actually enjoyed getting to know the kids, in a way.
“Obviously, I know the kids, but now I know the names of all their friends and their favourite subjects.
“They’ve started high school, my two big girls, so I’m learning the extra- curricular stuff they’re interested in.
“I’ve actually been focused on my kids, because that was the only thing I’ve had to focus on.
“It has been a real sort of kick up the bum to go, ‘This is actually what matters’.
“I’m literally non-essential in the real world. But in this house I am essential.”
And while the Manchester-born comic enjoys spending time with his family, trying to home-school has left him feeling like the dunce of the class.
He said: “I didn’t realise how thick I was. I thought I was pretty clever and then had to try to learn Year Seven maths, and that’s not my strong point.
I’d forgotten all that for some reason, but it was actually all right.
“I have a new-found respect for teachers. On the first day of term when they went back, I felt like just standing in the playground clapping for their whole day, six hours.”
Jason did get brief breaks from teaching, he was moonlighting as an Iceland delivery driver.
He donated his wages to The Children’s Adventure Farm Trust, near Manchester.
He has said about the job: “I just send them my availability and crack on.
I’ve had some lovely chats, generally with elderly people who don’t know who I am. It’s been really nice.”
While he is still doing deliveries, Jason is relieved schools have stayed open in the second lockdown.
‘I’M HAPPY TO MAKE THE KIDS CRINGE’
Instead of trying to keep up with their studies, he has enjoyed embarrassing his kids at every opportunity back in the real world.
Jason said: “I am more than happy to embarrass them, to start singing in a supermarket or something just to make them cringe.
“I took my daughter to school last week in my pyjamas for pyjama day. She was like, ‘That’s not what it is’. And I was like, ‘Well it is for me’.”
Even his work on TV leaves the kids squirming now.
Jason, who has twin daughters, 11, and a daughter, ten, and son, eight, with first wife Catherine and a girl and boy toddlers with wife Lucy, said: “I think I’m on the cusp of TV work becoming a bit embarrassing.
“I do some stuff because I know they’ll watch it. I did The Cube the other week and I just filmed a little bit on Crackerjack! for CBBC.
“This is stuff that I wouldn’t normally do, but I just know the kids love it. Sometimes it can backfire though, like The Masked Singer.
“I didn’t tell the kids I was on it because it was all part of the secret of the show. It was in the agreement not to tell anybody.
“Then during the final, my daughter was on a sleepover with her friends. And they were all going, ‘That’s your dad. The Hedgehog is your dad’. And she was like, ‘I think I would know if that was my dad’.
“Then of course, when the mask came off, she was livid, absolutely livid. She rang me at ten o’clock at night.”
When venturing outside with his family, Jason has faced an unexpected problem — being a gang of eight with the rule of six.
He said: “We’re already breaking the rule of six by being a family.
“If we go to a restaurant we’re going to get some looks.
“I have to go, ‘I know there’s eight of us, but it’s OK because we’re in the same bubble’. It’s a bit of nightmare.”
At least they don’t have to worry about anyone missing Christmas, as they all live together.
Jason is set for a relaxing festive season as he will not now be preparing for his Like Me tour, as it has been delayed until September.
He said: “Christmas is my favourite time of year. We start on December 2, when everything goes up, decorations. Christmas songs begin and we start a little bit of an Advent calendar of Christmas films.
“We’ll try to watch one a day. What’s odd is obviously most years I’ve been busy all the way through the year, then Christmas is the time that we all get together and hang out and stuff, but we have been hanging out all year.
“It’s trying to find those moments that are special, I guess, and I think, with the backdrop of 2020, Christmas spirit is going to be needed more than ever.”
The event that has dominated this year, the coronavirus pandemic, had a direct impact on Jason in April, when he too caught the disease.
He said: “I lost my taste and smell for, like, eight weeks or something. It was crazy.
“I would think, ‘Oh, I can’t taste anything, I’ll manage to eat some vegetables’.
“I didn’t do that. I just carried on eating rubbish, even though I couldn’t taste it.
“I was basically eating memories, because I could remember what stuff tasted like. Then I got into a little bit of shape for Soccer Aid, so I could run around a field.
‘CHRISTMAS IS GOING TO BE FOOD, FOOD, FOOD’
“And then it just went again and now I’m like, ‘Right, let’s not waste this lockdown too’, because obviously, once we get to Christmas as well, it’s going to be food, food, food.”
One battle Jason is definitely winning is writing his first-ever scripted show, a comedy drama.
He said: “I’m well into it. It’s a bit about my family and my extended family, rather than my immediate family, and a bit about growing up in Manchester in the Eighties. So watch this space.
“I reckon you might be able to see it in 2022 by any optimistic person’s view. I don’t think there’s going to be much getting done in that respect if we’re in and out of lockdown for the next year or so.”
Jason does have some festive work though, promoting Sky Cinema’s Elf competition, to find the UK’s biggest fan of the 2003 Will Ferrell film.
For the promotion, Jason sportingly agreed to scoff some pretty unconventional food, and said: “I don’t know how many takes we did of me eating spaghetti covered in maple syrup and sweets, which I thought was nice — now I’ve sort of got a taste for it.”
- For tickets for Jason’s Like Me tour, visit jasonmanford.com.
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