Russell Howard

Note: This review is from 2004

Review by Steve Bennett

Like a fat child on a treadmill, the ragged young clown of comedy embarks upon his first full-length show.

Big things are predicted for 24-year-old Russell Howard, and with his first hour-long show it's easy to see why; even if this is probably not yet the breakthrough performance that will catapult him into the big league.

If there's one word to describe this mild-mannered Bristolian, it would have to be jaunty. He's a perky, playful character, full of almost childlike delight at the world and its workings ­ and with a pesky mischievous streak to boot.

But while he has a juvenile outlook, he has a grown-up vocabulary, and loves nothing more than constructing elaborately florid sentences with such delightfully semi-archaic words as 'kerfuffle','poppycock' or even, well, 'jaunty'. It's a verbal trait he shares with his friend Daniel Kitson, though without the accompanying misanthropy.

No, with Howard the emphasis is firmly on fun. Whether it's bidding for a world record for the world's campest frog, 'bumming a mongoose' or prick-teasing horses in a genuine, if worrying, Equus moment from his childhood there's a winning mix of the inquistive, eager and carefree in many of his anecdotes.

This all culminates in probably the finest of his routines, about a woman who, when a little girl in the early days of prosthetics, was sent to school with full-size man hands. For Howard this is the perfect combination of the real and the surreal, and yields many a great line.

But, fully aware of comedy's current vogues, Howard also includes his fair share of the confessional in this self-titled show. He talks about a testicular cancer scare, his unglamorous addiction to phone sex lines and the bizarre lengths to which he went to relieve boredom during a tour of New Zealand ­ lending the show pathos and weight.

Not every anecdote is laugh-out-loud hilarious, for sure, but they are all well-told by a quirkily charming comic, who's equally, if not more, comfortable chatting spontaneously as he is with his prepared material, with the off-the-cuff comments delivered with the same wonderfully ornate language that colours the set pieces so vividly.

When Howard does make his name, and that probably won't be too long now, you'll be glad you saw the show where it all started.

Review date: 1 Jan 2004
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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