ENTERTAINMENT
12/07/2011 11:47 BST | Updated 11/09/2011 06:12 BST

Show Me The Funny: Jason Manford And Alan Davies On Finding The Next Comedy Superstar

Jason Manford's online infidelity could have been the awkward elephant in the room when we met at the launch of his new ITV comedy talent show, Show Me The Funny, last week.

After famously sending sexy Twitter messages to fans during his time as the BBC's clean-cut One Show host, his stint next to Alex Jones on the red sofa was erased from his bio, handed out at the launch.

But that didn't stop Manford mentioning the embarrassing incident to a room full of journalists - the one that threatened to shatter his public appeal.

Asked what advice he would now give comedians aiming for fame, he joked: "Do be careful on Twitter, it's full of weirdos."

Alan Davies, comedian and QI panellist, who is a judge on Show Me The Funny, agreed: "My advice would be don't bite anyone and number two - be careful when you're online."

I first met Mancunian family man Manford in 2008 while he was hosting Channel 4's Tonightly. The show wasn't a success in the ratings department, but it spring-boarded Manford into the public eye and since then his profile and pay packet have rocketed. Despite his recent fall from grace, it was refreshing to see he's still able to laugh at himself.

Now Manford's back and his latest primetime show is returning him to his first love, stand-up comedy.

Nicknamed The X Factor for comedians, ITV are placing a lot on Show Me The Funny, a comedy talent show which will culminate in a live final, a £100,000 prize and a nationwide multi-date UK tour for the winner.

The 10 comedians taking part in the show have yet to find their big break and feature a mix of fresh-faced newcomers to seasoned professionals, including a serving police officer, a former undertaker and an ex-professional model.

One of the comedians has never been paid for a gig, another recently quit a job to do stand-up full time, and another is taking annual leave from their regular job to compete in the show, while others have been making a full-time living out of the profession for years.

The contestants will be put through some of the most challenging gigs around. Manford explained: "I compered all the gigs to prove they were sort of doable, not just impossible gigs.

"The hardest audience, I think, were the Welsh rugby players, because the room was underneath the stand where there was a bar and they were just absolutely rat-arsed. We were in the room upstairs and we watched them march across the field... they were singing Rangers songs. We had Johnny Vegas to help judge that one."

Comedians such as Billy Connelly and Frankie Boyle have both complained about comedy on TV being too censored, so were Manford's aspiring comedians instructed as to what jokes could be made on Show Me The Funny?

"If you want to be really successful, like your Michael McIntyres and Peter Kays, then you've got to be as appealing as possible.

"You've got 10 minutes on stage, if you make jokes about paedophiles my nana is not going to watch that, you've got to judge a room. As it went on [the contestants] realised it was a TV show as well as a live gig.

"There was one week where someone dropped a C word in there and we just sort of went 'why did you do that? Cause that's not going to make it on telly'."

It's very rare to find live comedy on TV and Show Me The Funny has the potential to fill the void, with its Apprentice style tasks and mainstream comedians adding to the fun of watching people dry up on stage or make wildly inappropriate comments. Some of the best comedy in the show is simply created by them being useless.

Plus the contestants must provide brand new gags each week. You're unlikely to find established comedians that do the same.

Davies was keen to stress just how challenging the show is, compared to the comedy we see on TV at the moment: "You've got deliver it like you go on stage and do it every day of your life,

"People don't realise how heavily edited shows like Live At The Apollo are and how protected comics are, there is not a duff gag or a missed line in TV comedy. Because anything remotely like an actual gig is removed, it's like a football match with every shot on target."

Show Me The Funny starts at 9pm on Monday 18th July on ITV1.