Russell Howard’s new live comedy show – Russell Howard’s Stand Up Central – is (thank goodness) free of the irritating gimmicks of Good News and let’s the comedian get down to the business of performing solid material.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for watching a goat scream. And cat videos. Lots and lots of cat videos. But inviting a ‘Mystery Guest’ onto the video-filled show that is Good News, or later, interviewing a pre-planned guest, always just seemed to get in the way of Howard’s comedy.
Here, free to simply roam around the stage and interact with the audience in his first live stand up hosting gig (basically Live at the Apollo but at Camden's Electric Ballroom instead), Howard can get down to the important stuff. Like telling us about his dog watching him go to the toilet. Or how his mum pretends she’s been kidnapped when they drive along in the car together. The good stuff. The belly laugh stuff.
Indeed, aside from guest comedians – tonight it’s Nish Kumar and Sara Pascoe – the only break to Howard’s pre-planned flow is questions from the audience. Audience members can add their questions to a box before the show starts and Howard picks them out at random and responds. Some require little more than a round of applause from Howard – “Do transformers get car or life insurance?” – others no one signs their name to, which says a lot about their content. I won’t go there. Honestly, it’s better that I don’t.
Howard clearly enjoys the randomness of the whole thing, with off-the-cuff comedy an area he’s comfortable swimming around in. Even if he does, by his own admission, basically end his career with a joke about a carer that takes an unexpected turn…