|Birth name||Bernard John Manning|
|Born||13 August 1930|
Harpurhey, Manchester, Lancashire, England
|Died||18 June 2007 (aged 76)|
Crumpsall, Manchester, England
|Subject(s)||Ethnicity, stereotypes, minority groups|
(1986) (her death)
|Children||Bernard Manning Jr|
|Notable works and roles||The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, The Comedians, The Embassy Club|
Manning gained a high profile on British television during the 1970s, appearing on shows such as The Comedians and The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club. His act became controversial as attitudes changed, with the result that Manning was rarely seen on television in the last few decades of his career. However, he continued to perform at live venues until his death.
Manning was born in Harpurhey, Lancashire, and raised in Ancoats, both poor districts of Manchester, the second of three brothers and two sisters. He had Russian Jewish ancestry on his father's side, as well as roots in Ireland, and was brought up a "strict Catholic". He claimed, in an interview with The Daily Telegraph's Allison Pearson, that his paternal grandfather came from Sebastopol, and changed the family name from Blomberg.
He named his house in Alkrington "Shalom", the Hebrew word for "peace". He left school aged 14, worked in a tobacco factory and joined his father's greengrocery business, before joining the British Army to do his National Service.
Manning had little thought of entertainment as a career, until posted to Germany where, in his self-written obituary (in which he claimed to have guarded Nazi war criminals Rudolf Hess and Albert Speer in Spandau Prison, Berlin, just after the Second World War), he began to sing popular songs to entertain his fellow soldiers and pass the time. This ability led him to put on free shows at the weekends; when he began to charge admission and audiences did not decrease, he realised that there was a possibility of making money from show business.
On returning to England, Manning continued to sing professionally, and also worked as a compère. He was an effective singer of popular ballads and fronted big bands in the 1950s, such as the Oscar Rabin Band, which included appearances at the Ritz Hotel. Over the years he began to introduce humour into his compering. This went down well, and Manning slowly moved from being a singer and compère to a comedian. In 1959 Manning borrowed £30,000 from his father and bought a dilapidated billiard hall on the A664 Rochdale Road, and turned it into the Embassy Club. Rather quickly Manning's income substantially increased. The club played host to many other acts, and Manning claimed that the Beatles performed there early in their career.
After much work in comedy clubs and northern working men's clubs in the 1950s and 1960s, he made his television debut in 1971 on the Granada comedy show The Comedians. He compèred The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, which began in 1974. In this period Manning's material was often accepted as being "harmless banter".
He had a starring role in a comedy quiz show Under Manning, produced by Southern Television in 1981. The series was poorly received and short-lived, and by the 1980s Manning had fallen out of favour with television companies, either because of changing tastes or his failure to compromise with television companies. However his appearances on the northern Working Men's Club circuit continued, playing to packed audiences which he claimed sometimes included people from ethnic minorities.
In 1994 two black waitresses at a charity dinner at a hotel in Derbyshire took exception to Manning's act and appealed to an industrial tribunal against the management of the hotel for racial discrimination. They lost, but later had the decision overturned at appeal; they were awarded an undisclosed sum. Manning felt that the word "wog" was "a horrible, insulting word I've never used in my life" but defended use of the words "nigger" and "coon" as historical terms with legitimate roots.
Manning never toned down his act, but he had a minor television career revival towards the end of his life, including Channel 4 taking him to Mumbai to perform. In October 2002 he participated in a Great Lives programme for Radio 4. He chose to honour the Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa. In 2003 Manning was initially reported to have been booked to play a BNP rally. He denied this, telling the Daily Mirror: "It's a lot of bollocks. I don't know where I'm working. Speak to my agent. I don't know about any BNP nonsense. I would not do it anyway. Do you think I'm fucking barmy?" In 2006 he appeared at the 45th birthday party of chef Marco Pierre White.
From 1999 his son, Bernard Manning Jr, managed the club, shortly after his father had a mini stroke and became deaf in one ear. He considered his father's act inappropriate for bookings and sought to turn the club into an alternative comedy venue.
Race, sex, and religion were all part of the material for many of Manning's jokes. He considered tampons and disabled people unacceptable subjects, although he was challenged on Joan Rivers's show by guest Rupert Everett when he told a joke about a wheelchair user. Manning swiftly responded: "If your brains were dynamite, you wouldn't have enough to blow off your own hat." This left Everett speechless.
Manning's detractors criticised his style of humour, with television presenter Esther Rantzen commenting that "for me, he's always been the villain of comedy". Manning's family and friends said that his controversial ways were all an act. He lived next door to an Indian physician's family, who have appeared in many newspaper articles over the years to defend Manning as a "perfect gentleman". Satya Rudravajhala, the poet widow of Visveswara Rao Rudravajhala, wrote a eulogy that was published in the local paper, the Middleton Guardian, conveying the family's sentiments.
In interviews with journalists, Manning would remind them of his appearance with Dean Martin in Las Vegas and meeting the Queen. He said he was a great believer in family values who never swore in front of his mother, stating: "I dragged myself up by my bootlaces. I don't drink or smoke, I don't take drugs. I have never been a womaniser. I was brought up right with good parents and I have never been in trouble or harmed no-one. And I love my family."
In March 2007, he was ranked 29th on the list of the 100 Greatest Stand Up comedians in a poll conducted by Channel 4. The writer and performer Barry Cryer said when Manning died: "The thing about Bernard was that he looked funny, he sounded funny and he had excellent timing. It was just what he actually said that could be worrying."
Manning's wife, Veronica Finneran, died of a heart attack on 11 November 1986, aged 57. His son Bernard Jr. had already moved out of the family home, so Manning moved back in with his mother. His brother John had died in 1944 at the Battle of Arnhem and in 1995, his elderly mother and two remaining brothers, Jackie and Frank, also died.
Having been admitted two weeks earlier for a kidney complaint, Manning died in North Manchester General Hospital at 3:10 pm on 18 June 2007. He was 76. He wrote his own eulogy, which appeared as an obituary in the Daily Mail two days later.
In 2010, BBC Four commissioned Alice Nutter to write a biographical drama based on Manning's life. The screenplay was completed but cuts to the channel's budget led to the piece never being filmed.
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- "Bernard Manning". The Herald. 19 June 2007.
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- "Greater Manchester Ward and Borough map". Boundary Commission for England. Archived from the original on 1 March 2007. Retrieved 9 April 2007.
- "Greater Manchester Gazetteer". Greater Manchester County Record Office. Places names – A. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 20 June 2007.
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- Under Manning, BFI Website
- "Abuse on the premises". The Independent. London. 13 November 1996. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- "Burton & Rhule v De Vere Hotels". Retrieved 6 January 2015.
- Tasteless Bombay mix, Scotland on Sunday, 23 June 2003
- "Manning to play BNP rally... but he denies the booking". chortle.co.uk. 4 August 2003. Retrieved 18 June 2007.
- Margolis, Jonathan (7 October 1999). "Shut up, dad". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
- 'Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins' Rupert Everett 2006
- "Bernard Manning: Heros of comedy". youtube.com. Retrieved 10 May 2019.
- "Manning was no racist, says Asian neighbour". Middleton Guardian. M.E.N. Media. 28 June 2007. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- "One hundred greatest stand-ups". UK: Channel 4. Retrieved 18 June 2007.
- Harper, Nick (16 May 2003). "Bernard Manning". The Guardian. London: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 18 June 2007.
- "This Is Your Life (1969–1993)". Eofftv.com. Archived from the original on 22 April 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2010.
- Bayman, Hannah (19 September 2003). "Carry on drinking?". BBC News. Retrieved 19 June 2007.
- "Bernard Manning dead". Manchester Evening News. M.E.N. Media. 18 June 2007. Archived from the original on 20 April 2013. Retrieved 18 June 2007.
- "Manning penned his own obituary". BBC News. 19 June 2007. Retrieved 16 October 2019.
- Steve Bottoms, 'Struggling to be Human', in the programme for the 2013 West Yorkshire Playhouse production My Generation.
- Bernard Manning at IMDb
- His page at My Manchester
- Banned from the Weymouth Pavilion in 2002
- Manning's episode of Great Lives on Radio 4 – his admiration for Mother Theresa in October 2002
- Bernard Manning on Chortle
- Bernard Manning's Embassy Club (His Club in Manchester, now an event venue)
- Stars turn out to pay respects to controversial comic Bernard Manning – Evening Standard
- Bernard Manning at British Comedy Guide