Russell Howard on creating a show from self isolation: ‘It’s basically you performing to nobody!’

Russell is here to raise the UK's spirit

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 28: Russell Howard visits Build to discuss the

Russell Howard is back with a new show that starts tonight (9th April) on Sky One.

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Home Time will see the beloved comedian present from self isolation in his childhood bedroom and despite the geographical restraints, there’s still plenty of special guests who will join him.

In the first show, we’ll see Greg Davies, a costume-wearing postman and James Bay.

RadioTimes.com caught up with Russell before his first show airs to find out everything about Home Time…

Why did you want to make Home Time?

Sky asked me to do a show and (I think I’m like the first person ever) the only thing I’ve demanded is that all my money goes to the Trussell Trust and the NHS Charities Together. So, I thought it would be a really good way of raising some dosh for some charities and then my conscience is clear, do you know what I mean? It feels like a really grubby business to be profiteering off this.

That was it, really. It’s always the way with this world, the woe and the wonder, there’s moments of absolute beauty or absurdity to mock and the plan is that we’ll interview famous faces alongside unsung heroes. The show going out tonight has Greg Davies, who is fantastic and going slightly bonkers living by himself, a postman who is self-isolating from his 10-month daughter but he is wearing fancy dress costumes, and then James Bay who sang Hold Back the River. It’s a lovely, 23 minutes, sort of respite for people. On Tuesday we’ve got Stephen Merchant or Michelle Wolf, an intensive care worker, and hopefully those little Italian boys with the violins. Hopefully it’s a nice bit of something for people and raise a bit of money. I was considering being a volunteer where I could drive food around, but I’m such a terrible driver, I’ve got like nine points on my license and had something like seven crashes over the years, so I thought I can make more money for a charity writing jokes than I can crashing into walls!

Were you nervous about the process of it? It’s important to have humour and lightness with what’s going on at the minute, but also, it’s quite grim and horrible. How did you approach it?

Hopefully I’ve got a good barometer for this. I’ve done a topical show for the past 10 years now, and obviously these are terrifying, confusing, heartbreaking and boring times, and all these emotions are swirled together. But within the horror there are glimmers of absurdity. So for example, yesterday Gwyneth Paltrow was recommending her top ten sex toys and that’s just funny, or the fact that Donald Trump yesterday in a press conference boasted that he’d had sex with models or he was boasting about his ratings being really high. Or the fact that OJ Simpson reckons Carole Baskin from Tiger King killed her husband. Within this, there’s so much information that you can be funny about. I think humour is a really incredible relief to people. My wife’s a doctor and some of the TV she watches when she’s finished is light, silly – she’ll go on Instagram and see a video of an old lady dancing and that cheers her up. That’s the kind of show we want to make at the moment. I think hopefully – touch wood – that’s the show people will want. Not everybody, but if we’re raising money, then hopefully. It feels like I’m putting my skills to best use so I can feel like I did my bit – and I know that sounds pathetic, but if I can give a few thousand to a charity by telling a few jokes then that’s better than just doing Tik Tok all day.

It’s a nice project to keep you going as well being stuck indoors…

Yeah, but at the same time you feel kind of guilty about that. I love writing jokes. I really love it. That’s kind of how I cope. Comedy is a mechanism through which you can do life. My wife is out at a hospital saving lives and I’m at home writing jokes about Gwyneth Paltrow’s sex toys. That’s our purposes in life. It’s difficult to not sound up your own a**e, but it’s the only way I could cope – I guess it’s the same if you’re a musician writing songs. If you’re lucky enough to have a job that’s your hobby, you’re very fortunate.

Celebrity Bake Off Russell Howard

You must be so proud of your wife…

Yeah, it’s incredible. She was meant to have six weeks off for a world tour, Europe, America and Australia, and she volunteered to go back to work. Immensely proud.

Are you nervous about how it’s going to go?

It’s basically just you performing to nobody. It’s just a little camera here [on the computer]. At the beginning it’s just me telling jokes to nobody. It’s better when there’s people here. When James Bay was on and he was singing, he was obviously looking to me while performing the song, and you want to let him know that you’re enjoying it, but you’re aware of your own awkwardness. You’re bobbing your head and it’s kind of like rockstar lap-dancing. It was a very tender song, but it was hilarious because I just didn’t know what to do with your body. I was essentially being serenaded by my mate who I play five-a-side football with every week. I’m very aware people will be watching me, watching James, that was the hardest thing really, the way to hold your face when an international rockstar is singing to you. It was so funny but I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to sing along but I didn’t know what to do!

What’s the biggest challenge about doing a show under these circumstances?

I had to get these lights up to make a studio and had to figure out how Zoom worked, but I guess we’re all on that journey and then just writing on your own really, and not having an audience to let you know whether it’s funny. In my head, even if they don’t laugh, it’s still raising money for charity. It’s weird telling a joke and waiting for the audience. You can’t ad-lib from a reaction in a crowd. It’s made me really miss live comedy and I think it’s going to be a while before we can get out there but this will do.

You probably miss heckles and everything else! 

Yeah, I miss everything! I miss my tour manager, I miss the fun we were going to have, we’d planned it. My mum and dad were going to come with me across [America and Canada]. I was going to do these shows and then get in the tour bus with my mum and dad, so not so cool. I was 40 in the middle of March and my wife had planned a surprise party for me with all my mates in Amsterdam. We had this place booked, so then I had to cancel my surprise party and see if I could get the money back from this venue! It was so funny. It cost us loads of money for a party I’ve never had. That’s the first thing I’m gonna do when we’re allowed out – and I’m sure we’re not the only ones with this – but we’re gonna have a big party like no one’s ever had a party. I think the whole world will. I think it’s made us fond of everyone. Everyone’s having conversations with people they haven’t spoken to in a while and you really miss your friends. It’s a massive reset the planet is going through. It’s a really bizarre time.

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Home Time airs Tuesdays and Thursdays 10.30pm on Sky One and NOW TV. If you’re looking for more to watch, why not visit our TV guide.