The ever-approaching touch of death. The self-harm epidemic. ISIS. Not your usual talking points for a Russell Howard gig, but his biggest tour yet – the aptly-named Round the World – has much darker and broader foundations than material gone before.
Sure, the matured Howard masks most of the core topics with the standard impersonations of a frisky queen (“look Phillip, I’m muffling!”) and ‘don’t mums say the funniest things?’ anecdotes, but his new show tackles topics that are more likely to appear in a hard-hitting documentary, rather from the Dingledodies wordsmith. Yet the tragedy is all met with his signature bright-eyed positivity, rapid-fire delivery and endless energetic delivery.
Troubling issues, from the privatisation of the NHS to the loss of anonymity are met with genuinely funny stories – the stand-out one being the time Howard snapped at train passengers for taking a photo of him, only to find out he was standing next to a Pokemon. And these tales are slotted alongside some skilfully tender moments, with details of his late grandfather’s dementia being particularly moving.
It’s just unfortunate this laugh-out-loud storytelling comes with a large side of excruciatingly loud and lazy social satire about Trump and Nigel Farage (“you do not speak for me”), which is normally restrained to his BBC2 Good News show. But beyond this are the anecdotes that transform Howard’s role from out-of-depth news commentator to the rude yet zany comedian impossible not to warm to.