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Russell Howard Round the World

Interview: Russell Howard on his new tour and why it’s a fascinating time to be a comedian

“I’m really lucky to have this job where I can put all these weird and wonderful experiences through the sausage maker that is comedy”

Written by
Olivia Lai

Russell Howard is one of the biggest names in British comedy. From the huge popularity of his topical comedy show Russell Howard’s Good News and his various appearances on panel shows to his numerous sold out tours, the Bristol-born comedian has been dominating the British comedy circuit on and off television.

Now Howard’s busting out and going international once again. He’s crisscrossing the globe on a new world tour  inventively named Round the World  having kicked things off in London last month with a record-breaking 10-day stint at the Royal Albert Hall. The tour comes to Hong Kong for one night only at Baptist Universitys Academic Community Hall on May 27. We chat to the stand-up star about his new show and why it’s such an interesting time to be a comedian...

Hi Russell, you performed in Hong Kong last year during the Udderbelly Festival. What were the most memorable moments?
I saw a dog in a pram. That was great. It nearly snowed and I’ve never seen a crowd react like they did in Hong Kong. They went absolutely ballistic, though it turned out the snow was from a photo shoot near the festival. It was really funny to see adults absolutely crestfallen. And then there were the gigs. One day someone brought a massive teddy bear, a huge one like six-feet-tall. I took it and put it on a chair on stage and did about 20 minutes on the bear and his perspective on Hong Kong. It was really great, though I can’t remember any of it. But it was so weird that people really responded to it and came up to me saying, “Ah mate, that was hilarious. You should do that again!” So that’s what was most memorable for me, the kind of wild, fun, blizzard that is Hong Kong. And doing a gig in an upside down cow.

You’re back in Hong Kong as part of a massive world tour. What are you looking forward to on your return?
To be honest, I’m on a quest for material and adventure. I really love going to different places, talking to different people and getting different perspectives on the world. That’s the exciting thing about travelling through America or Europe; to pick out different perspectives of existence. I’m really lucky to have this job where I get to put all these weird and wonderful experiences through the sausage maker that is comedy.

And what’s it like going back on tour after a few years of mostly doing television?
It’s a really fascinating time to be a comedian. We’re all obsessed with the news and we’re all looking at the world, which is always changing, almost on an hourly basis. It’s kinda great and interesting. Particularly in England, we sort of talk about the division in our country and what’s great about our country and what’s awful about our country. It’s fascinating.

Round the World is a brand new show. What new material can we expect?
I made a little vow to myself last year to try and talk more about what I really cared about. My grandad died the same day Trump was elected, so there was this horrible, horrible sadness in my family, and I feel that Trump is just not worthy. There’s loads of other stuff that I do talk about, like ISIS, depression, self-harm, pornography and even about being blind. I worried that the material in the show is pretty full-on raw, particularly for 14,000 seats [in London]. It’s a lot easier to just say ‘hey, is everyone having a good night’, to go with that and create a party atmosphere. So it’s a big challenge and hopefully the crowd will get into it. It’s a romp for all that, really!

You’re playing at a university venue this time round. How does that compare to performing in a giant arena?
It’s slightly different gigging in England than it is in Hong Kong. Here, in Hong Kong, it’s more about improvising and getting on with the crowd, and you’ll have someone bringing in a massive bear. If I’m working in a small theatre I tend to chat and indulge the crowd, but when you’re doing a 40,000 seater the routine has to be an all conquering monologue.

Most people might be more familiar with your show Good News, on the BBC. Is that coming back anytime soon?
Yeah, definitely. What we’re doing is sort of a suited-up version for Sky, so we won’t be with BBC. [Skyve] got a bit more money for guests [laughs]. But yeah, that’s coming back in September.

Do you have a to-do list for when you’re in town?
No, I’m actually quite interested in where the locals suggest I should go. To be honest, I quite like walking and wandering around and I find the energy really enjoyable. The last time I was doing a gig in Hong Kong, everywhere I went was just concrete and just so many people. I joked to the crowd about ‘oh, you could do with a couple of trees here’ and I got nothing, absolutely no reaction. But when we flew out of Hong Kong, I looked down and was like ‘oh my god, look at all those luscious trees’. It was just a really funny moment for me and that’s what happens when you don’t do your research.

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