Russell Howard: Skylarking

Note: This review is from 2005

Review by Steve Bennett

Russell Howard chose the name Skylarking for his show to conjure up images of tomfoolery and japing, so he was understandably a bit put out when he found out it was also Jamaican gang slang for cruising around looking for gay people to kill. But too latem  the posters had already been printed

This pretty much sums up his attitudes. He’s a joyful person, almost childlike in his enthusiasm for innocent, uncomplicated fun – yet always kyboshed by the harsh realities of the rest of the world, of which he is petrified because it’s full of misery, depression and aggressive behoodied teenagers out for some happy slappings.

In many ways, he’s the boy comic who never grew up, still getting excited by pirates, monkeys and football in the park. He has, of course, read all the Harry Potter books, and when no one shares his eagerness, he’s crushed.

But that seems an unlikely scenario. He’s so untouched by cynicism that it’s instinctively endearing; you wish you could share in that unfettered playful glee.

He extends the same attitude to the audience, happy to chat away, genuinely inquisitive about the people he meets. It’s almost his undoing this night, when an American wants to tell him where he buried his dead dog (it was, I should stress, germane to the story Howard was telling, not a completely random, sinister heckle). Howard gets caught in a digressionary conversation that knocks ten minutes of his show, but still fun and spontaneous. He is nothing if not banterer.

Howard also adds a love of archaic language to his comic repertoire. The set is littered with words like ‘frump’, ‘hick-jiggery’ and ‘needy tinkers’, giving it a certain Dickensian charm.

For an Edinburgh show, though, Skylarking lacks big themes and ideas. There’s some suggestion it’s meant to be darker, hence the dead pet tale, or offer some sort of commentary on our thuggish society, especially the thugs who his beloved football seems to attract.

But it’s not, it’s just a series of routines. Unfailingly jolly and upbeat, occasionally genuinely funny, but overall just a bit of extended light-hearted tomfoolery. But what do you expect from a show called Skylarking – unless you’re a Jamaican gangsta?

Review date: 1 Jan 2005
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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