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MADGE'S MAD-ONN-ME!; (Yes, that's him bulging out of his vest and pants!) How I make Madonna squeal with delight, by BERNARD MANNING.

Byline: KATY WEITZ

SPREAD-OUT on his sagging sofa in a tea-stained vest and baggy Y-fronts, 20-stone Bernard Manning isn't your typical sex symbol.

He's 71, with a dodgy chest and the nearest thing he gets to a daily workout is bending down to put his socks on.

But Bernard has a secret admirer who's put a wicked glint in his eye. "That Madge thinks I'm fantastic," he chuckles. "Can't get enough of me. Mind you, who can blame her?"

So, who is this new lady-friend then, Bernard? Someone you met down the Bingo or queuing for your pension? Er no, actually. It's Madonna. Yep, MADONNA.

For in the most unlikely meeting of minds EVER the super-trendy Queen of Pop has fallen for the clapped-out King of Comedy.

She's become such a fan that's she's booked a private audience with her True Blue hero - at a party for hubby Guy Ritchie later this month.

Madonna, 43, had never heard of the cult comic until she saw him perform at a party for top chef Marco Pierre White last month.

She swanned in with Lock-Stock film producer Guy, 33, wearing her favourite hi-fashion flat cap.

And with typical, silver-tongued charm Bernard, who was in full flow, swept her off her feet, yelling "Who the f*** is this then - Lester Piggott?"

The veteran funnyman slaps his 56-pack stomach with a satisfied sigh. "Instant attraction," he quips.

"Our eyes met across a crowded room and she stared at me open-mouthed. Speechless, she was. Putty in me hands. But then, she knows class when she sees it"

Madonna fell for Bernard after seeing Guy and Marco falling about laughing at the comic's outrageous jokes.

So what does she possibly see in the racist, sexist, foul-mouthed, no-holds-barred Northern club king?

Madonna - nicknamed Madge by Guy - has made no secret of her love for all things British since her marriage to him.

And speaking exclusively to the Sunday People from his comfy front room in Manchester, Bernard, said: "Madonna's a strong woman and she's got her finger on the pulse.

"She knows what a crowd wants - just like I know my crowd."

So is Bernard expecting a new army of trendy young fans with his cool image? "I've changed nowt," he rasps. "My act hasn't changed in 50 years and I'll not start now. I pack theatres and clubs out wherever I work. I just put new gags in and the old ones go out.

"Here's a modern one for you - An old lady goes to a chemist and says: My husband's not performing like he used to. What's this new tablet that's out?

"Chemist says: Viagra.

"Is it any good?" she asks.

"Yes, I take it myself."

"Can you get it over the counter?

"Blimey, I'd need to take six to do that!" says the chemist.

"Heh, heh, heh...that's the sort of gag that'd make Madge go weak at the knees," chortles Bernard.

"Anyway, the same woman goes back to the chemists and asks how much her husband should take. He tells her: There's three strengths - 25 per cent, 50 per cent and 100 per cent. The 25 per cent lifts it four inches, 50 per cent - it's halfway. And at 100 per cent, it's pointing to the ceiling. She says: Give us one for 25 per cent.

The chemist says: But that won't do you any good for sex.

"No, but it'll stop him weeing in his slippers." Manning's laugh bubbles up into a wheezy coughing fit while his eyes twinkle at you, waiting for you to crack up. "Talent never goes out of fashion," he says.

"I don't want to be a cool comedian - someone who doesn't step over the line. There's too many about and they're skint. I don't much mind them - just as long as you don't mix up our wage packets."

The widowed comic insists he's not racist or sexist as his critics say and says he's the perfect role model. He says: "I don't smoke, I don't drink, I don't take drugs and I've never been in trouble with the law. When I tell a joke, it's not to give offence.

"Here's a nice one." And he's off again.

"A Jewish bloke tells his wife: When my brother asks you where we went on our holidays, don't tell him we went to Blackpool, tell him we went abroad and spent lots of money."

"His brother comes in and says: So how did you like Blackpool? She says: Blackpool? Shmackpool! We never went to Blackpool. We went to Italy.

"My Abie was speaking with the Pope in Rome. A nice fellow that Pope - but his wife...

"And here, here's another... There's a project in Blackpool to turn it into the new Las Vegas.

"An American builder asks an English builder: What was that road we just came up?

"The British builder says: That's the M6 motorway.

"The American says: Motorway? We got country roads bigger than that in America, built in 24 hours."

"Then the American asks: What's that?

"That's the Big Ride.

"Big Ride? We've got children's roundabouts bigger than that, built in 24 hours!"

"Passing the Tower, the American says: What's that? The Englishman replies: I don't know. Weren't there yesterday!"

He twinkles with delight: "The old ones are the best! I change my act depending on the audience. For an old folks home I'd do clean jokes like this..."

And he launches into another shaggy-dog story. "A man went to buy a dog, a lovely Labrador and asks how much.

"The seller says it's pounds 500. The man asks: What's his pedigree? Ask the dog, says the seller.

"So he does and the dog says: My great-great-great-great grandfather won Crufts in 1896. My grandmother won it in 1918. My brother won it in 1973 and my sister won it in 1984 and I won Crufts in the year 2000.

"I passed all my A levels as a guide dog, guard dog and sniffer dog. And I've citations from the priest for rescuing old people from burning buildings and children from lakes and canals."

"Jesus, says the guy. What a dog. Why sell it?"

The man replies "Because it's the biggest bloody liar you've ever heard in your life!"

But Bernard is soon back into the jokes he's best known for. "Two Irish fellows are going through the Vatican. One says: You see that fellow over there with the crooked stick, the mitre cap and the long frock coat? That's the Pope. To convince his pal, he asks him: You the Pope? Back came the reply: F*** off!

"So he goes back to his friend who says: What did he say?

"The first replies: He wouldn't commit himself."

An even ruder gag follows.

"Former President Clinton says: Monica's going deaf. I said to her: "Sack my cook!"

Bernard insists his audience don't take offence and as for racist or sexist... "Now go make us a cup of tea, love," he orders. "Milk, no sugar. That Madge makes a perfect brew."A BLOKE walks in to the doctors and asked: "Can you help me out?"

The doctor says: "Which way did you come in?"AN Irish working men's club went on a mystery tour. They had a sweep to guess where they were going - and the driver won pounds 68.Two Jewish guys are lying on a beach in Miami.

Chiam turns to Morris and says: "What are you doing over here?"

Morris says: "I had a fire. What are you doing here?"

Chiam: "I had a flood."

Morris asks: "How do you start a flood?"A Polish fellow went to the opticians.

The optician said: "Can you read that bottom line?"

"Read it? It's the name of the bloke I went to school with."

CAPTION(S):

TWO BIG STARS: Manning reckons Madonna's mad about him Picture: CAVENDISH PRESS (with the help of a bit of computer wizardry); FANS: Madonna with her British husband Guy Ritchie
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Jan 13, 2002
Words:1327
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