TV review: Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central | TV review by Steve Bennett

TV review: Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central

Note: This review is from 2015

TV review by Steve Bennett

Russell Howard owns stand-up on digital television. Tonight it’s possible to watch three different episodes of Russell Howard’s Good News – on Comedy Central Extra, Dave and BBC Three. In fact, counting the +1 channels and repeats, there are 27 Russell Howard half-hours being broadcast across the channels between now and bedtime on Saturday.

Among them are several repeats of last night’s first episode of Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central, the much-vaunted new show from his deal with Comedy Central. The fact its frontman is already so ubiquitous may make it difficult for the show to stand out, not to mention the fact the straightforward filming of the performances that makes it look like so many other stand-up shows, right down to the generic guitary theme tune.

The only real twist is that rather than simply perform a typically feelgood observational routine (which is present and correct) much of Howard’s time is spent answering questions asked by the audience – including inadvertently insulting one stegosaurus-loving punter. That gives a feeling of spontaneity, even if a cynic might think that his slick responses to some of the other questions mean they might not entirely be a surprise to him…

Howard’s name may be in the title – and his face on all those buses and posters – a safe, known factor proved to pull in the viewers. But his contribution to the show is only a few minutes of upbeat ice-breaking. That allows his guest comedians the lion’s share of the timeslot in which to perform longer sets, continuing the fine work in giving lesser-known comics exposure that he started with Good News.

Admittedly his guests aren’t as far from the beaten path as those on the now-axed Alternative Comedy Experience. Sara Pascoe is such a telly veteran she’s even been on QI, as she manages to shoehorn into a sarcastic response to gushing new parents – several times in fact. She pushes the envelope a little with the sort of content you might expect on primetime TV, discussing the medical state of her reproductive system or offering wry commentary on such feminist issues as the hopefully now-defunct Page 3 or the role-reversal involved as she earns more than her boyfriend. It’s intelligent stuff, snuck under the radar thanks to her everywoman conversational charm.

Nish Kumar offered punchy – if a little over-emphatically delivered – set on the nature of comedy itself, as well as the patronising and hypocritical situations arising from race. He, too, demonstrated a smartness not always associated with this channel. And somehow Comedy Central didn’t find space to include his savage take on the vacuous humour of Two And A Half Men that featured so prominently in his last Edinburgh show…

The quality of guests holds up for the rest of the series too, with the likes of Nick Helm, Alex Horne, Andrew Maxwell and Katherine Ryan coming up. Viewers will tune in for Howard but will, hopefully, have their comic horizons expanded by the support acts.

Review date: 30 Apr 2015
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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