Russell Howard, O2 Arena, London


First gig of 2011, and it’s Russell Howard filling the 15,000 capacity O2 on his Right Here, Right Now tour (he filled the O2 for two nights, it turns out. Perhaps comedy really is the new rock’n’roll). You know, that blond Bristol-born comedian off the telly. I first became aware of him on Mock The Week and Live At The Apollo where he quickly stood out as one of the more entertaining newcomers (and yes, OK, one of the cuter ones).

But it’s one thing being on a panel show or doing short 5 minute slots on comedy shows; would his humour and skill transfer to a full-on stand-up show, let alone filling the O2? After all, not every comedian transfers that well (friends had seen another Mock The Week regular and were a bit disappointed).

Well, he’s done quite a few tours and has a couple of DVDs out, and is bloody funny on the telly, so we went along to see him anyway with pretty high hopes.

Our seats were in a very similar block to the Eddie Izzard ones although slightly lower down and with a very good view as the photos show (alas my camera is just not up to taking those sorts of pics these days, I’ll need to invest in a better quality low-light camera), although admittedly the set was very minimal – 4 banners and a chair. But hey, what more does a stand-up need?

So, the gig. After the opening music (Right Here, Right Now, of course), on comes Russell and straight into the only obvious joke of the evening (you knew it was coming as soon as he said there was a picture of The Kings Of Leon in the dressing room…) but after that he was off on an unstoppable ramble taking us through his weird and fantastic world, a world which we could all probably take the time to enjoy ourselves if we just stopped, took time out, enjoyed things and paid attention to what’s going on around us. But that’s the point; very few of us do pay attention; very few of us do take the time to listen to what our friends, kids, family and complete strangers say and do, and we miss out on all this stuff. Thankfully we have the likes of Russell to share it with us! And boy is it obvious from his delivery and sheer enjoyment in the retelling of these tales that he really does genuinely enjoy it – more power to him for it!

Most of his humour revolves around poking fun at his family, his friends, people he meets or, mainly, himself – yes, this is a comedian who is not afraid to stand on stage in front of 15,000 people, wearing a pink ladies’ thong, and share his most embarrassing and intimate mishaps with refreshing candour and honesty, with the sole intention of having 15,000 people laugh at him!

His encore was slightly different, and presumably a carry over from his routine in smaller venues – a Q&A session with the audience invited to shout out questions which he answered. Sometimes it was almost as amusing watching him to try work out what was being shouted at him! But impressively he did manage to get the audience to shout questions individually rather than as a mass of noise, enabling him to go off on an unscripted tangent about pretty much anything.
On stage for about 2.5 hours with a 20 minute interval, Russell certainly gave value for money, and any worries about whether his humour could transfer from short TV clips to a full show were quickly dismissed thanks to a thoroughly enjoyable show which had us all in laughter throughout. And what more could you ask of a comedian?