I have never laughed as hard as I did when I saw Bernard Manning perform. He dared you to laugh at him, and he always surprised. Manning, who died today, was a genius of comedy, but had become reduced to a relic. I first saw him at his Embassy Club in the 1980s when he whipped up the audience to a jingoistic frenzy, introducing "a couple of army lads just back from the Falklands", how the crowd roared, some standing to their feet in fist waving approval. "Pedro and Carlos, they're Argentinian," he said.
The last time, a couple of years ago at Mere Golf Club, and after many many debates over his racism and supposed hatred, he was as sharp as ever, but more reflective. He didn't use the P word or the N word, which I was pleased about at the time as it showed he'd realised the offence he caused. He'd never admit he'd toned it down though. He told the joke about the old Jewish guy on his death bed that was on the news tonight - "Becky, you're a curse" - and he worked the room for a good couple of hours.
He was a comic genius, Peter Kay is but a cleaned up version with tamer references to his Nana. The world moves on, quite how much is perhaps exemplified by the delivery of the news of his death; sandwiched as it was between the furore over the award of knighthood to the inpenetrably pretentious Salman Rushdie, and reports that Serbian football is supported by, and played by, a particularly nasty type of racist.
I have to say though, I had him in our death sweep at work, but some chiselling crook changed the rules without telling me.