Telly funnyman Russell Howard has just kicked off a massive world tour that puts him firmly in comedy's premier league. He tells Larry Bartleet why he’s not yet demanding Weetabix from strangers
You’re famous for talking about good news but there’s not loads of it about at the moment. Has that impacted on your new touring show?
“Yeah, it’s loads of stuff about politics. Loads of stuff about anger. Yeah, it’s mostly politics and anger at the moment. I don’t think we’ve ever been more divided. It’s only right-wing f***-knuckles that grab the public’s attention – Farage or Trump or Le Pen or Wilders from Holland. You think: ‘Where are our Gandhis? Where are our Martin Luther Kings?’”
What are your politics?
“I think all our leaders are utterly beneath us. You just watch Prime Minister’s Questions and go: ‘How is this the best that we’ve got?’”
Didn’t you once get approached by some political parties for advice on talking to young people?
“They interrupted when I was watching The Secret Lives of Pets. Like, I am not the go-to person to fix this country. You know you’re in real trouble when you’re thinking: ‘OK, ask that bloke of the telly, see what he can thinks.’ Where does that f***ing end up – door-stepping Joey Essex? Like, ‘Alright, he wants inflatables. Can we get some?’”
You’re really quite famous now, Russ. How do you stay grounded?
“I just have my brain. I find it really weird, when I’m shopping in Tesco, the amount of times I have people like: ‘What you doing in here? You’re famous!’ Well I’m not going to f***ing clap my hands and go: ‘You in the street, get me Weetabix!’”
Let’s talk money. How do you spend your riches?
“I bought my mum a car, and I bought my brother one of those hoverboards for Christmas, and I bought my family a holiday to Australia. Those are some recent things I’ve done with my money.”
What about weird hobbies or collections though? You must have some, come on.
“I buy a lot of Liverpool trinkets. I’ve got Philippe Coutinho’s boot – I spent three grand on that. Which, you know, is insane. But it’s Philippe Coutinho’s boot, what you gonna do?
Are you famous in any surprising countries?
“Apparently the Good News YouTube channel has quite a big following in North Korea, and there’s also quite a lot from Vatican City as well. It’s just really funny to think that there’s some cardinal slinking off. ‘Just off for a bit of fast-paced satire, see you in a bit!’”
Does that change the way you approach your material?
“Like what, am I going to do a gig in North Korea? No, f*** no!”
You are playing Dubai though. Do you think you’ll have to adapt your act at all for the local morality laws?
“I’ll just crack on and do whatever, I think. Hopefully I don’t end up in prison for a f***ing joke. Sh*t! I hadn’t thought about that…”
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Are there any other strict countries like that on your tour?
“I’m doing a week of gigs in China, so I had to send a video of me performing in Hereford – I think for some guy in the Chinese government to check whether it’s allowed to be said. I just feel so sorry for him, poor sod’s got to traipse through everything I say – like ‘What does he mean? What are Ginger-Nuts?’”
You play a fair few music festivals. What’s that like as a comedian?
“You feel like a piece of wool being pushed around by a cat. It’s brilliant. When I did Leeds, all I said was the word ‘Alan’, and then literally 5,000 people started going ‘Steve!’ Apparently it’s a YouTube clip of a squirrel? Mate, I had no idea. That was the first time I learnt about ‘dicks out for Harambe’ too – another incredible moment. I was chatting about the gorilla that got shot, and this bloke got his cock out. I’m like: ‘What you doing?’ and he’s like: ‘Dicks out for Harambe’. Again the crowd chanted it – and you’re like, ‘What the f*** is going on?’
You mentioned Good News – has that stopped now that you’ve signed on with Sky?
“Yes. The new show doesn’t start till October: it’ll be like a hybrid between Good News and a chat show.”
Speaking of good news – is there any at the moment?
“There’s a lady in Hull who dresses up as a bee.”
As a bee.
“I think she’s 85, and she dresses up as a bee to raise money for Age Concern. I think she’s raised like £170,000. Every Saturday she dresses up as a bee and raises money for lonely people. She’s absolutely incredible. There should be a section at the end of BBC News that just has a little clip of her, every day, going: ‘And in other news, that little old lady is still dressing up as a bee and raising money for other little old ladies.’ F***ing right.”
Russell Howard’s ‘Round The World’ began on March 1 with 10 back-to-back nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall before taking in 17 further arenas around the country. Details: www.russell-howard.co.uk