Bernard Manning, a British comedian who enjoyed mainstream fame in the 1970s but whose jokes about women and ethnic minorities later fell from favor, died June 18 in Manchester, England. He was 76.
Born in the working-class Ancoats district of Manchester in northwest England, Manning left school at 14 and went to work in a tobacco factory. He began entertaining fellow troops while posted in Germany as a teenage conscript.
In the 1950s he made a living as a singer with big bands and began to appear as a standup a working men’s clubs, eventually running his own Manchester club, the Embassy. He gained national fame with the 1971 TV series “The Comedians.”
The show brought Manning a mass audience, and a fortune. But with changing social attitudes and the rise of a new generation of young comedians in the 1980s, Manning’s material began to seem outdated.
He denied he was racist, once saying, “I tell jokes. You never take a joke seriously.” But increasing numbers of people failed to see the humor in his material. He appeared infrequently on television in later years, and in 2002 was barred from performing in an English seaside town by local authorities who feared his act would breach race-hate laws.
Manning is survived by a son.