Russell Howard on his road trip down under: “I ended up getting drunk with Sam Neill”

The babyfaced comedian meets Leonie Cooper to talk quarantine, anti-vaxxers and boozing with a bonafide A-lister

While you were trapped in your bedroom at the start of 2021, Russell Howard was getting ready for a tour with a difference. Invited to perform in Australia and New Zealand – where the threat of Covid was negligible – Russell packed his bags and after two weeks’ quarantine in a New Zealand hotel room, played a run of shows on the other side of the globe and generally had a lovely time without the need for masks and hand sanitiser. Meeting famous locals, from actor Sam Neill to comedian Tim Minchin, Russell Howard Stands Up To The World is a three-part series that’ll give you a little bit of hope and a fair few lols.

On quarantine

“The worst part of that experience was the dawning realisation that you are your only company. It’s sort of like being in a floatation tank and realising, after five minutes, that you’re locked in an egg with someone you hate. That’s what it was like for two weeks – two weeks in a hotel room with just you and your brain. I think I have the same relationship we all have with our brains; we’re fond of them, but will they ever shut the fuck up? The only thing that got me through it was writing jokes for the tour.”

Russell Howard

On getting vaccinated

“That happened post-trip on April 25. I had the AstraZeneca and had cold shivers and the hot flushes and felt hungover the next day. But that was it. I’m so glad that I’ve had it done. Now I can’t wait for my second one, just so that we can try and get to the future. A lot of my family are anti-vaxxers… well, a few of my cousins: ‘Bill Gates wants to read my brain’. Does he?! I find it so laughable that people think that this billionaire is interested in them. Really? He wants to read your shitty little thoughts?! Nobody wants to do it, but if you want to get the world back to the way it used to be, then take your jab and shut the fuck up.”

On getting pissed with Hollywood royalty Sam Neill


“He’s such a lovely bloke. All Kiwis are like that, they’re so, so welcoming. We were meant to film for an hour and we ended up staying the whole day and getting drunk with him. He’s got a dog called Chuff – a lady from Yorkshire sent him a message on Twitter saying: ‘Just to warn you, in England, that means fanny’. I had to verify that for him. With the exception of Chuff, all his animals are named after his co-stars. A chicken would walk past and he’s like, ‘hello Kate’, and it’s named after Kate Winslet. Or there’s a goat called Leo. All these animals named after Hollywood stars are just wandering around and you’re drinking wine with the bloke that was in Jurassic Park. It was one of those days where you’re like: ‘What is my life?’”

Russell Howard
With Aussie acting legend Sam Neill. CREDIT: Sky

On drinking cider at 9am on Good Morning Britain

“It was my brother’s stag do, but we had to do a virtual one, so I was dared to see if I would drink cider on Lorraine. So I had a sip. Then my wife rang me up and said: ‘What have you done?’ I was trending on Twitter. It really split people. In the West Country I became this god, but other people just got really strange, saying: ‘I can’t believe he’s promoting alcohol when children are watching’. Even a bloke being a dick in the morning drinking cider suddenly becomes this cultural war. It’s just exhausting. I don’t regularly drink for breakfast. But in New Zealand I did have cider and mango juice and were I inclined to drink early in the morning, that is a phenomenal combo. It felt like the Glastonbury equivalent of champagne and orange juice.”

On best buddy Tim Minchin

“He’s a good mate of mine. Whenever I’m in Australia, I normally hang out with him. I love him. He’s just the cleverest man in the world; he’s great company and he’s so thoughtful. He’s one of those lovely people that really dispenses his wisdom in a nice way. Some people are super smart and they seem to revel in your thickness around them. Tim’s the other way – he’s throwing out these tidbits of trivia and you just try and grab as many as you can and hang on. There’s such a bond and a community in the stand-up comedian. We all kind of get on, weirdly. There aren’t that many dicks, everyone’s kind of cool. How many dicks are there? Oh, last count I think there’s 16, which is pretty good, because there’s a million of us.”

Russell Howard
On tour for his new Sky comedy series ‘Russell Howard Stands Up To The World’. CREDIT: Sky

On The Strokes’ debut album turning 20

“Flipping hell man, that’s terrible. God. I didn’t realise that. Jeez, Louise. I love that group. I had a Ford Mondeo at the time and I distinctly remember me and John Oliver doing a gig in Aberystwyth University and travelling from London. We played that Strokes album over and over. It was back in the days of CDs and I had an eight CD shuffle. Remember those amazing days where you could play eight albums? I was 21, so I was the perfect age for them. I never had the leather jacket, but I did do the double denim, which was a Julian Casablancas thing. I wore Hawaiian shirts and I remember buying this girl’s jean jacket which fit me really nicely. I had long hair and tried my best to look like them, but I just looked dirty. It doesn’t take much for me to not look like I need to wash.”

‘Russell Howard Stands Up To The World’ premieres on Sky One and NOW on May 31


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