Russell Howard: Dingledodies

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Dingledodies is a word Jack Kerouac invented to describe life-affirming weirdos he was always drawn to, the ‘the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…’

You can see why Russell Howard appropriated it for this tour. This charming rascal is an evangelist for happiness, finding glee in the strange behaviour of strangers, whether random acts of mischief or lunatic outbursts born of impotent frustration.

He finds glee in everyday life, then spreads the word with a near-religious fervour. And now, thanks to Mock The Week, his congregation is bigger than ever, filling good-sized theatres everywhere.

Not only does he have an almost naïve fascination with unconventional behaviour, on the strength his stories he’s also prone to exhibiting quite a lot of it himself. He’s 28 going on 13 – though with a more active sex life than the average teenager. To this day, this vivacious flippertigibbit giggles impishly at dick jokes, cheerfully inappropriate conduct, or the pub-game mishaps of an unlucky dwarf.

There are, of course, plenty of tales from his own youth, given that the regression to childhood is a short mental journey for him. After nine years on the circuit, he still hasn’t exhausted these tales. You would have thought, for instance, that most comics would have mentioned the time their neighbour caught them with their arse hair on fire before now…

Howard has never grown out of being a prankster; those memories of youthful tomfoolery that seemed like a good idea at the time are still fresh in his mind, and told with the same excited gusto as if they’d happened only yesterday.

His detractors – possibly put off by his shamelessly over-demonstrative delivery – say there’s no substance to the effervescent ball of upbeat positivity, but that’s untrue.

The anecdotes in Dingledodies are invariably funny, and the set is riddled with beautifully left-field metaphors, such as his description of Gordon Ramsay being so wrinkled ‘you could put a pack of cards in that face’. There are hilarious, but brief, parodies exaggerating shock docs and Britain’s Got Talent sob stories, and a good chunk of topical material, undoubtedly generated from his Mock The Week residency, covering such wide-ranging topics as Noel Edmonds, Barry George, Zimbabwe and Sarah Palin.

But all the routines feed into his core message of spreading joy, as he derides the mealy-mouthed whingers who dominate certain section the news, complaining that the country’s going to the dogs just because of some minor irritant. Life is for celebrating, not complaining.

While Howard is adept at this social commentary, he’s never better than when talking about himself; reliving those childish japes and embarrassing japes, momentary humiliation being the small price he pays for not having an ‘off’ position on his merrymaking dial.

It does mean he always has a playful spring in his step, and it would take a special kind of curmudgeon not to leave the theatre in the same elated state of mind.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Croydon, September 2008

Review date: 1 Sep 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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