Russell Howard: Wandering

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

Relentlessly chipper Russell Howard is even more excited than normal, if you can believe that possible. The other night Ron Weasley was in his audience - or, we guess, the actor who plays him in the Harry Potter movies; Howard's never that precise about separating fact from fantasy.

They would make good bedfellows, as Howard is surely the boy wizard of the comedy world, with an energetic, juvenile enthusiasm and a spellbinding delivery that's truly magical.

He's a cheeky, attention-deficit jackanapes, full of impish mischief and the joys of life's simple pleasures. He's the sort of sweet-natured, uncynical person who gets a genuine kick out of seeing a monk with a skateboard, or assuming a false identity when travelling simply because of the world of possibilities it offers. Hell, he can even charm a tale of a vomit-splattered tramp into an uplifting, unpatronising fable about finding pleasure in even the most unfortunate life.

Yet for all the warmth of his all-enveloping good cheer there's depth to Howard, too. This year he split from his long-term girlfriend, which provided cause for reflection, as well as a couple of moments of heart-tugging pathos for his show, which are deftly handled to be neither mawkish nor self-pitying, just honest.

It's the crux of his message: that while life can sometimes deal you a bad hand, there's so much more to enjoy if you escape wallowing in misery. Howard is skilful enough not to labour the point, leaving it implicit among the fast-paced japery.

He recounts hilarious personal tales, most brilliantly in his confessional about his sexual experiment with Rolo yoghurt that went spectacularly wrong, as well as quirky and original observational material about anything from teenage romance films of the Eighties to the pensioner war protester in his home town of Bristol.

Added to this is a premier-league audience rapport, which allows him to flit effortlessly between punters, conjuring good-natured jokes and witty, playful asides to contribute to the show's easy, irresistible dynamism.

In short, he is the full comedy package, who's come of age with this unfailingly entertainingly show. His if.comeddie nomination was certainly well deserved.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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