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Last Updated: Monday, 18 June 2007, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Obituary: Bernard Manning
The comedian Bernard Manning was one of Britain's wealthiest comics and, many believed, among the most offensive. But his seemingly blatant racism and controversial language - some of which appears below - remained the subject of some debate until the end.

Bernard Manning
Manning remained loyal to his beloved home city of Manchester
People of Pakistani, Indian or African origin, Jews, the Irish, they were all fair game to him.

But in Bernard Manning's logic, jokes about disabled people, or tampons, were unacceptable.

He was born in 1930 in one of Manchester's poorest areas, Ancoats, and throughout his life never liked being far away from the city.

He left school at 14 and worked briefly in his father's greengrocer's shop before becoming a big-band singer and eventually taking over the Embassy Club in Manchester, where he was the chief performer for 40 years, generating most of his multi-million pound fortune.

Bernard Manning became a household name in the 1970s through Granada TV's The Comedians.

But with the dawn of political correctness, his stand-up routine was considered to be no longer fit for the television schedules.

Bernard Manning
The comic was deemed too risky for TV late in his career

On the northern club circuit, though, he continued to play to packed houses, which, as he claimed, often included people from the ethnic minorities.

Bernard Manning did not endear himself to most people. Journalists, male or female, would be obliged to interview him at his home as the 21-stone comedian sat in his vest and Y-fronts.

They would also have to endure a stream of boasts about his Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, appearing with Dean Martin in Las Vegas, his Royal Command performance and meeting the Queen.

He also espoused simple values, with family relationships their core.

"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."

Bernard Manning
Manning ran the Embassy Club in Manchester

Bereavement was another of the brief list of subjects that Bernard Manning considered inappropriate for humour, especially after the pain it had caused him.

His wife Vera died of a heart attack in 1986 and he then moved back in with his mother. But nine years later, he was devastated by her death and by that of two of his brothers.

He said he never swore in front of his mother: "I would have hated her ever to have heard me curse."

His usual foul language and racist reputation made him a high risk for television.

But it was that reputation that led to a Channel 4 wheeze to take him to Bombay and see how he fared in two engagements there. Badly was the answer.

Bernard Manning
He made his name in the 1970s on TV's The Comedians

On Mrs Merton's television show, Bernard Manning supposedly floored Caroline Aherne's alias by confirming that he was a racist.

At least, that was his version, although most viewers felt he emerged a poor second-best from the confrontation.

During that show, Manning managed to extract several jokes from the fire at his Embassy Club and his subsequent insurance settlement.

But when he wasn't trying to confuse Caroline Aherne, he would deny being a racist: "I tell jokes," said Manning. "You never take a joke seriously."

He was furious when two black waitresses, who won damages from a Derby hotel because it failed to shield them from Manning's invective at a Round Table dinner, accused him of calling them "wogs".

"It's a horrible, insulting word I've never used in my life," he complained, while maintaining that "niggers" and "coons" were historical terms with respectable roots.

'An anachronism'

His detractors were convinced he was a bigot, while his family and friends insisted it was all an act to pull in the punters, that Manning was one of the kindest, most charitable, most loving men you could meet.

And while Manning's routine made little attempt to be topical, he could occasionally hint at subversion.

As when, soon after the Falklands war, he told his audience that two soldiers from the conflict were present.

As the jingoistic cheers rang out, Manning embarrassed the audience by adding: "They're Argentinians."

Bernard Manning's biographer Jonathan Margolis concluded that Manning held anachronistic views, just "like most working-class people in their late 60s".

But, Margolis suggested, Manning was simply playing on people's own prejudices.

A look back at the life of Bernard Manning

'The kindest, most generous man'
19 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Manning penned his own obituary
19 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Bernard Manning: Your comments
18 Jun 07 |  Have Your Say
Comedy star Bernard Manning dies
18 Jun 07 |  Entertainment
Can clean comedy be funny?
21 Feb 07 |  Magazine
Comedian banned by councillors
06 Dec 02 |  England

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