Russell Howard kicked off his comedy tour in the U.S. earlier this summer, opening in Washington, DC. The British comedian from Bristol is the host of Russell Howard’s Good News, a BBC Two program in which he addresses recent news with standup routines and sketches. Expect venues like the historic synagogue Sixth & I to be packed; event organizers had to add chairs to rows in an effort to accommodate the enthusiastic attendees.
In DC, local comedian Max Rosenblum opened the show. He immediately tackled the misfortune of having the same name as the Max Rosenblum who was arrested in connection with the Philip Seymour Hoffman drug raid. “Max, tell me it isn’t true!” he recounts from a phone conversation with his mother. As Rosenblum points out, it’s quite an obstacle if he ever wants to market his own brand of cologne. Speaking about dating websites, he suggested that it’d be easier to bring up the topic if sites were called “In Real Life” and “Through a Friend.” Such titles are better suited to the inevitable and oftentimes awkward question, “So how did you meet?”
It’s quite fitting that Sixth & I blasted out alternative music at intermission leading off with the catchy vibes of The Strokes. Subsequently, one’s gaze was pulled immediately to The Strokes t-shirt that Howard wore. On Good News, Russell Howard isn’t afraid to address controversy and resort to jokes that some might find objectionable. Likewise, he jumps right into his live shows with his sharp wit, peppered with a relish for improvisation.
Leave it to Howard to engage in a friendly chat with a woman about web design and connect that to his perplexity with Fifty Shades of Grey behaviors. These moments, along with a discourse about “absurd things blokes say,” did much to garner a lot of excitement. It’s great to see that he injects spur-of-the-moment material to tailor each show to his audience, even so far as to inquire about places he should visit.
However, the best aspects of Howard’s routine deal with the anecdotes about his experiences with friends and family. His mother’s advice for coping with adversity is to “think of a T-Rex making its bed.” Just try and picture that scenario if you can! At the Glastonbury Festival, an attendee high on a certain substance asked Howard’s friend, a dwarf, why he was so short. “I angered a wizard,” came the answer. Another gem is a question about Star Wars light sabers: “Why is it you never see any moths?” Yes, he even topped it off with the classic light saber gestures.
If you’re looking for an enjoyable evening out with a sibling or your friends, Russell Howard certainly delivers on that front. He concludes his North American tour tomorrow in Montreal, Canada. Let’s hope he adds another tour next year.
This article was first published as “Comedy Review: Russell Howard Opens Second U.S. Comedy Tour in Washington, D.C.” on Blogcritics.org. It’s published again here with two minor changes in the opening and final paragraphs.