Russell Howard on Good News, Boaty McBoatface and engaging young people in politics

The comedian is busy doing a new stand-up series – but still has time to go on a road trip with his mum

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Comedian Russell Howard has a unique ability to move from talking about cat videos to the tampon tax and is pleased to find his passionate Good News speeches chime with young viewers.

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“The Junior Doctors’ strike stuff and the stuff about the tampon tax and the piece that we did about the terrorist attacks in Paris really resonated. I still get people coming up to me now and going on about those.

“It’s a really great fast-paced satirical show that young people love and there aren’t many of them about,” Howard tells RadioTimes.com.

With ten series already under his belt, Howard’s simply waiting on a green light from the BBC to start work on the 11th. “I can’t wait to get going, but we haven’t had any word about the next series.”

“Everyone wants it to happen again.”

Good News first started out on BBC3, before moving across to BBC2 but Howard has no ambitions of graduating to a BBC1 primetime slot.

“What’s frustrating is then you’d have to make it – there’s this horrible phrase you hear – ‘BBC1 friendly’. You’re like, no…

“I find that such an offensive concept, just to kind of go, ‘Can you do it totally different?’ What does that mean, ‘BBC1 friendly?’ That’s the great thing about BBC2 and BBC3 – they just let us crack on. I’ll stay in those murky backwaters rather than have angry old women going: ‘But this isn’t about cake or dancing!’”

Although Howard’s all-ears when it comes to the idea of making his series a regular weekly show.

“I’d love to do that. It’s all down with the BBC, it’s up to those guys. It would be really great to do something like that, we shall see. I think the interesting thing is people, particularly young people, are really engaged in the world politically at the moment and there isn’t really a show for them on telly. Maybe The Last Leg [C4’s current affairs talk show with Adam Hills, Josh Widdicombe and Alex Brooker] but that isn’t on at the minute.

“Last Leg and Good News are the kind of shows that younger people who are interested in current affairs are drawn to, maybe more than something like Have I Got News For You. Although, weirdly, I loved Have I Got News For You when I was a kid.”

Howard admits he does get frustrated when his series isn’t on and he can’t cover the hot topics.

“We’d have been all over the US presidential election and Boaty McBoatface..! Beautiful stories which appear, like there was a priest or vicar and he was selling olive oil in a church in London. He was selling it because it was blessed and the reporter was going, ‘But it’s just you blessing it, it’s just olive oil, isn’t it?’ and he was going, ‘Beforehand, it was just olive oil and then I bless it and it’s magic…’ And it was just that thing – it’s hard to explain in stand up – but on Good News you can say, did you see this? The story explains itself. We always pick stories you would talk about down the pub: ‘Oh my god, there’s this guy that’s blessing olive oil and selling it to people….’

“Then you’re doing stand up, sketches and animation, which makes it a multifaceted kind of show and very different and fast paced.”

As for stand up, as well as jetting off on his fifth world tour early next year, Howard is returning to Comedy Central for his own Stand Up Central, mixing stand up with guests and questions from the crowd.

The questions are a particular favourite.

“You don’t know what’s going to come out, it’s really good fun. There’s nothing like an audience to make you funny, because you have a question and three hundred people looking at you and you have to think of something pretty much straight away. They throw in such wild imagination and you get to run with it. I like it when the gig kind of comes off the tracks a bit.

“It’s a bit like if you were a footballer, like shooting practice, someone’s crossing a ball and you’ve got to volley it every time,” he explains.

Of course there are weird queries, too.

“A lady asked me whether or not she thought astronauts engaged in solo sexual activity in space. I thought that was pretty amazing and led to lots of weirdness – there was actually an astronaut in the crowd and he confirmed that they did. It was a double whammy of finding an astronaut and a pervert wrapped in one!”

Jimmy Carr, Tommy Tiernan and James Acaster are among Howard’s guests this series.

“It’s really great to basically hang out with your mates – just go on stage, do a bit of stand up, basically pay your mate, have them be funny in front of an audience and then hang out afterwards.”

Howard’s really nailed his technique for getting them on board, too.

“I tried to get James on it last year but he was in New Zealand. This year we were playing a game of boob ball for the charity CoppaFeel and I asked him if he’d do my show just after he’d got hit in the face with a plastic tit… how could he refuse?”

As for what’s next, well, Howard is hitting the road with his mum for a travel show.

“Do you know what it was? I was chatting to my mum and I said, ‘What do you want to do with your life, have you got anything on your bucket list?’ And she said: ‘Well, I just want to be in an old folks home where they don’t hate you…’ It was so bleak and so funny that I thought I have to give my mum memories that she can think of between the beatings. So there you go.”

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Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central returns to Comedy Central UK on 25th May at 10pm