Russell Howard: the road to the Royal Albert Hall

The superstar stand-up’s latest tour – Wonderbox – culminates with a four-night stint at the prestigious Albert Hall. But he’s no stranger to iconic venues. Here he remembers the milestone London gigs of his career

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Amused Moose, 1999

‘While some people were worrying about the millennium bug, I was too busy shitting my pants about a club gig in that there London town. I travelled down from Bristol in my Peugeot 205 – a car I’d crashed into a snowplough a month earlier – so it was a miracle that I even made it. There were about 20 people in the audience and it didn’t go too badly. I had made my London debut! I headbanged all the way back to the West Country listening to Gomez.’

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Comedy Store’s 
King Gong, 2002

‘The dreaded gong show: a competitive gig for new acts where the aim is to last five minutes on stage without being booed and “gonged off”. To be honest, I wasn’t that scared. I had been gigging pretty solidly for a few years and I’d seen worse: I’d witnessed a stand-up get urinated on and I’d seen a woman hand a comic a noose and tell him to “end his misery”, so I could handle booing. The gig went well, I didn’t get gonged off, and I nabbed second place. Then, as I was leaving, something amazing happened. Johnny Vegas came over and offered me some work supporting him in Nottingham. He’d been watching from the back and he thought I was all right. I couldn’t believe it! I was in complete awe of him. I got in my Ford Fiesta – the Peugeot had died – and sang along to the Flaming Lips.’

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Bloomsbury Theatre, 2007

‘This was my first ever solo tour. I’d been doing “Mock the Week” for a bit so was in the lucky position of being able to play theatres for the first time. My support act was the wonderful Steve Hall. I can’t remember anything specific about the gig, but I imagine it involved us titting about a fair bit on the off-stage mic. It’s a real treat to play a room like the Bloomsbury and it’s even cooler to share the experience with a mate. Afterwards we had a Nando’s and celebrated with our tour manager, Youngblood, who may or may not have taken us to a karaoke bar where he may or may not have performed “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”.’

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Hammersmith Apollo, 2008

‘An amazing venue. I had seen Billy Connolly there a few years back and I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to play it too. The gig was great fun, albeit a little wild. A girl kept screaming that she wanted my shoes. I eloquently pointed out that “they fucking stunk”, but she was adamant in her desire, so I ended the gig by throwing my trainers at her. We had a massive afterparty and got pretty wasted. The next day I had to buy new shoes with a hangover… I don’t recommend it.’

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Wembley Arena, 2009

‘What a night! It’s an unbelievable feeling to walk on stage and bellow: “Hello Wembley!” I’d never heard a cheer like it. It was mindblowingly cool. Steve Hall was supporting, and before the show the two of us were in pieces. As Steve’s name was being announced I was rubbing his back as he vomited on the floor. Oh, the glamour of a stand-up tour.’

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The O2, 2011

‘I had never felt so nervous in my life – 15,000 people is a lot. My stomach was making all manner of noises as we arrived at the O2, which had my wonky face splattered all over it. My mum did the soundcheck, which calmed my nerves considerably. Watching your 55-year-old mother pretend to be Lady Gaga in an empty arena will do that. I did a lot of pacing that night. I felt like I was backstage for hours, cut off from the atmosphere building in the room, like a prisoner waiting to be executed. I went on, did the gig, and it went great. There was a big party afterwards and I just sat in the corner feeling relieved that it was over.’

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Royal Albert Hall, 2014

‘I’m really looking forward to the shows at the Albert Hall. I’ve been touring all over the country and I’ve been having a blast, so hopefully this will be a fitting finale. Hope to see you there.’

 

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