Valencia Local Heroes: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree — Valencia’s Mild Man Of Comedy Jesús Manzano

When Eugene Costello went to meet nationally renowned comic Jesús Manzano in El Carmen, he expected to laugh. What he didn’t expect, though, was to meet a deeply reflective, wise man whose love for his city shines through like the sun hitting a hidden square in the Old Town…

Jesús Manzano is a multi-talented man. He is a comic, with regular slots on Spain’s national Comedy Central channel, writes and directs stage plays, is a director for radio productions and is a noted comic improv artist thanks to his quick-wittedness and charm. Add to this a gentle, reflective and philosophical outlook and what we have is not so much the wild man of comedy as the mild one.

I am to meet him outside the Cultural Centre in El Carmen, a centuries-old former convent, outside a shaded bar in the honey-coloured and cobbled streets.

Once he arrives, it is obvious it is him – the bartender immediately  recognises him and the two start laughing and joking about the fact that they are both working far too hard. Quips Manzano: ”My God, I am exhausted – we need another lockdown.”

If he were a stick of rock and you cut through him, it would say Valencia all the way down. Born in the Consuelo area, with grandparents from Ruzafa, he is a youthful 46 with an unruly shock of curly hair, and is styled in a pair of black jeans and a T-shirt that I recognise because I have the same one. “Yes,” he says, “Primark, they saw me coming – it cost me at least €2…”

So how did he end up doing what he does?

“Well, from an early age, around 12, I started playing music. One day, while being on stage, I started to talk but then I had a panic seizure, stage fright, call it what you will, so I enrolled in theatre classes, to beat that wall,” Manzano says with refreshing honesty.

“But I realised that even attending amateur theatre classes was not going to be an easy task. In fact, the first time I went, my fear stopped me from going in and I just walked past the door,” he confides.

But after several attempts to dominate his fear, he went in and never came out the same guy again, he says. 

“After my initial fear, I really got into it and went twice a week after work – I was by now an architect but it really wasn’t for me – and as I approached the age of 30, I realised I had a huge opportunity to change my life and liberate myself, and I grabbed it with both hands,” he says disarmingly.

And why does he live in Valencia? He flashes a smile, and says: “I live in Valencia because I was born here, I am really, really lazy and I lack imagination.” 

But seriously, he says, for him Valencia is the perfect city. “My work means that I spend a lot of time in Madrid and the palpable sense of relief I feel when I return is enormous. For me, Valencia has the perfect combination of everything, from history to architecture, gastronomy, leisure, city and beach. And wherever I go, people think their home city is the best.” He checks himself, and says: “Well, perhaps those from industrial towns in Norway don’t but you know what I mean…”

He lived between Valencia and Madrid for nearly a decade. “I worked in Madrid Monday to Thursday as a scriptwriter, stand-up comic and sketch character on El Hormiguero 3.0 on Antena 3 TV, and with the two kids and wife from Thursday to Sunday,” he says with a sense of a man who had the best of all possible worlds. 

“I was playing around with the idea that, wherever you go, there’s always going to be an arsehole near you. And if you can’t spot them, it means that you are the arsehole.”

— Jesus Manzano

His career is thriving even in the pandemic, with various presentations, stage plays in Valencia and, of course, his TV and radio work. So why is he a comic? Is life irrepressibly funny? Does he have religious beliefs?

He falls serious for a moment. “I am one of those wishy-washy people who say, ‘I believe in something but I don’t know what’. I have to believe there is some sort of force or unifying principle, even if it is not a god in the traditional sense. I laugh at life because if I didn’t, I would find it unbearably sad and tragic and would cry instead.”

He pauses for a moment, and looks sad. He says: “You know, my father died at the age of 44, two years younger than what I am now. He had been a teacher, like Mum. And that made me realise that there’s no point in doing something you don’t like doing. That there is no point in waiting until Sunday to enjoy your time with the ones you love, only to be thinking that you have to go again to the same office, tomorrow at 8am simply to pay your bills. I don’t care about not having a lot of money. But we should try to be happy as many days of the week as possible.”

I make some contrived joke about the apple not falling far from the tree – Manzano means “apple tree” – and Jesús is polite enough to smile, though I am sure he has heard a version of this gag a thousand times in his life.

For him, not only did humour help him through these dark times, it has changed how he responds to the world. “Sometimes,” he reflects, “I bang my head against the wall because the Ayuntamiento does precious little to support the arts scene. But if you say you are putting on a puppet show in Valenciano, you tick that box. And suddenly they will shower you with cash. It’s crazy.”

I ask him where in Valencia he lives and he tells me that he lives right next to El Jardín Botánico.

I become animated and say how much I love that place and go there often. That it is an oasis of beauty but also of peace and tranquility. And neglected by Valencians because the admission fee is a couple of euros and what a shame that is.

I ask him what he thinks of it. He looks at me straight and deadpans: “I don’t know, I’ve never been there. What do you think I am, nuts? I’m not paying €2 to go to a park when you can go to the Rio for free.”

I ask him to recommend a restaurant in Valencia, and he deadpans again. “Oh, we go to both types – burgers AND pizza.”

He adds: “Being a father with kids between the ages of six and ten, Diego and Marco, doesn’t leave much room for the gourmet palate.” 

His favourite way to relax is to “work” – playing the guitar and composing humorous songs. “For example, I was playing around with the idea that, wherever you go, there’s always going to be an arsehole. And if you can’t spot them, it means that you are the arsehole.”

He says he has another interview to do. He has generously given me an hour and patiently poses for a few photos outside the cafe. Then he calls out a cheery goodbye to the barman again, and they banter a little. Then he puts his hand in his pocket, and strolls nonchalantly down the cobbled street whistling.

Watching him sauntering round the corner into a sun-drenched square, he reminds me of the old quote. “I once knew a man who was so poor that all he had was money.”

Jesús Manzano is a comedian, actor and screenwriter who appeared for nearly a decade in the sketch show ‘El Hormiguero 3.0’ on Antena TV;;

One thought on “Valencia Local Heroes: The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree — Valencia’s Mild Man Of Comedy Jesús Manzano

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get our latest news & Offers
Verified by MonsterInsights