TV Times magazine talks to Bradley Walsh and Jason Manford about the new series of ITV1’s Odd One In (Saturday evening) and why it’s never been tougher to make it in comedy…

What is different with the show this series?
Bradley: “We’ve made a couple of tweaks to the format and the show is in pretty good shape. Jason makes me laugh a lot and the marriage between him and Peter (Andre, opposing team captain) is very funny – they’re like a bickering old couple!”
Jason: “I feel uncomfortable calling it a marriage! Pete is hilarious and he’s a lovely, genuine fella. Every so often he relaxes into such a state where he thinks, ‘I’m going to do a joke’, and that’s the best bit!”

How would you describe the show?
Jason:
“If you could put this show in a box, wrap it up and sell it at Christmas, it would be the perfect game because kids and old people can play it – and everyone in between. The audience really gets into it and we want people at home to join in, sitting next to their nana saying, ‘I think it’s number two’, while she’s saying ‘Don’t be daft, it’s number four!’ It’s just fun. It’s not cerebral – no one comes away thinking, ‘That’s made me think about a lot of issues in life.’ It is just 45 minutes where you can sit down with your kids and have a laugh.”

Is it as spontaneous as it looks?
Jason:
“Yes, I don’t have to be here until a couple of hours before so when the audience sees the line-up, that’s the first time me and Peter see it. If I got here in the morning, I’d spot something that I’d think was funny but by half past six, I’d have convinced myself it wasn’t funny any more!”
Bradley: “The spontaneity helps the show. The way Jason’s mind works is brilliant for this type of programme and that shows up constantly on screen. There’s nothing worse than staged dialogue in comedy or over-rehearsed stuff.”

Are you serious about winning?
Jason:
“Yes it’s quite competitive. Sometimes part of me is thinking ‘Right, do a funny joke because that bloke looks a little bit like Omar Sharif’, but the other part of me is saying, ‘Which one is it? I want to win this!'”

What do you think about the state of British comedy?
Jason:
“We’re at a really healthy stage because comedy has a boom when the country is low and during the recession people like to find something to cheer them up. At the same time, you’ve got huge acts like Michael McIntyre and Peter Kay doing big stadium tours. They open the door for people like me and John Bishop to do arena tours, because people go to their shows and think, ‘That’s something I’d like to see again.’ Then you’ve got TV programmes like Live at the Apollo and Comedy Rocks which make people say, ‘I fancy just watching some bloke making me laugh.'”
Bradley: “It is also much harder these days. If you want to be a family comic now, it’s very difficult to find a place to ply your trade. Seaside comics finished years ago and there’s nowhere to put young acts. People like Jack Whitehall can come on shows like Odd One In as a new comedian, but we only do eight shows in a year. Des O’Connor Tonight used to be on every Wednesday and Des would build you up, plus there were new comic slots on the Royal Variety Performance. That’s how I started in 1993, but now there isn’t that arena to play in.”
Jason: “You have to start off edgier than you want to be now. I began on C4 panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats doing satirical gags. I worked with brilliant comics, but there were a lot of mean jokes knocking about whereas I’ve always positioned myself in the middle – there are 11-year-olds and 80-year-olds in my audience. Graham Norton is the best example of someone who can do naughty, half-past-ten-at-night sort of comedy, but then host Eurovision and be fun and charming – that’s the trick. I would love to host a quiz show, but there are lots of comics now who think it’s beneath them and it’s what ‘old comics used to do.'”