Russell Howard at Latitude 2022 | Gig review from the Suffolk festival
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Russell Howard at Latitude 2022

Gig review from the Suffolk festival

Life’s already pretty good if you’re spending a sunny weekend at the Latitude festival, but Russell Howard made it all the more joyful with a giddily optimistic headlining Friday-night set, hitting all the upbeat notes that have made him a comedy A-lister.

At his first performance here in five years, the 42-year-old seemed even perkier than his usual self. ‘This is going to be an amazing gig,’ he gushes at the start, in what proves to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. And while his performance is essentially a clarion cry for decency, don’t confuse his positivity for blandness. He’ll cover topics like toxic masculinity but with a serious kernel wrapped in layers of hilarious anecdotes.

The message and material were enthusiastically received. The cheer greeting his plea for men not to send dick pics was almost as loud as the boo he got for mentioning Boris Johnson’s name – and he seemed genuinely touched by the standing ovation at the end, well-earned as it was.

Howard also displayed his fierce work ethic in creating new stuff, starting with the obligatory references about how middle-class Latitude, then a routine about the fact Gary Lineker cooked a high-end menu here – shunning  obvious lines about crisps. He went on to showcase new material about the inspirational American voice on his Peleton exercise bike not sitting well with his more realistic British sensibilities. 

There are jokes, too, about last week’s heatwave that segue easily into older material. That’s one benefit of being prolific; he has plenty of pieces at his disposal to fit together.

Much of what he says is packaged as straightforward common sense, especially against the bigoted, such as the religious right-wing (usually American) nutjobs who think gays cause floods. He combats them with great jokes, not just disdain. 

Although Howard’s as a liberal as they come, he also makes a plea against cancel culture, at least for occasional transgressions. He doesn’t mention if he’d allow a platform for a die-hard homophobe, for example, but this relentlessly jaunty set is no place for a detailed argument. 

His main plea is to be forgiving, as everyone makes mistakes. Certainly he does – because for all that common sense he can be an absolute idiot. The sort of idiot who spends £1,000 on a ‘wellness necklace’ for example – but at least he has the self-awareness, at least in hindsight, to recognise his stupidity. And how he reacted to an aggressive lion while on safari in Tanzania is simply insane. 

But his foolishness is as nothing  compared to his brother who, like all of his eccentric family, proves a fertile source of stories.

With smart, satisfying and well-rationed callbacks, Howard builds his giddy anecdotes into a tsunami of feelgood humour, drenching the sizeable crowd in positivity. No wonder they were moved to rise to their feet... and not just in the usual festival shuffle for the exit. 

Review date: 23 Jul 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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