“But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!’ “ – Jack Kerouac, On The Road, 1957
The above quote shows the source of the title of Russell Howard’s most recent tour and this DVD. Those familiar with Russell Howard and his brand of observational comedy, delivered with childlike energy and enthusiasm, will appreciate how apt the title is, given the source of his material is often those weird and wonderful characters in life prone to behaving in an odd manner. Something that Howard is frequently guilty of himself, if his on-stage tales are anything to go by.
Having spent almost ten years on the comedy circuit, Howard’s profile has increased significantly over the past few years. This is thanks largely to an excellent Sunday morning radio show on 6 music co-hosted by friend Jon Richardson (who still does the show), his appearances as a regular guest on the fantastic Mock The Week, as well as stints on various panel shows and Live At The Apollo.
I saw Russell Howard at a fairly low-key gig last year and he was very funny despite the overall feel of the set being a little rough around the edges, although it was clear that the purpose of the show was to test new material out. The set featured here is from the Brighton date of his most recent tour and a lot of the material used at the show I saw has been refined and used here. It was interesting for me, watching this, to see how small tweaks have enhanced the material. Whilst his style is still a little rough around the edges, with tangents being commonplace, this adds to his performance rather than detract from it.
Howard handles topical comedy to a decent standard, but he’s never better then when he’s using experiences from his own life as material. Whether it’s youthful experiences like losing his virginity, having his arse hair set on fire and being caught by his friend’s mum or experiences of being a slightly awkward adult, they’re delivered with a high level of energy and skill. He seems to find it incredibly easy to get the audience on his side early on, coming across as being affable, if slightly nervous in the early stages. Audience interaction is a factor, but not a prominent one.
It’s great to see that he’s able to deliver a set of such quality and one that will hopefully see him move away from being one of comedy’s rising stars to an established one. Other than the fact that some of the material will be familiar to those of you who have seen him on Mock The Week, there’s nothing to criticise about the set. It moves at a frenetic pace, so there’s never much of a wait before new material crops up; the laughs come thick and fast throughout the 70+ minute run-time, which flies by. This is an extremely accomplished set that shows just what a talented and confident performer Russell Howard is.
Being of a similar age to Howard and being prone to those moments where your mind’s thinking one thing but your mouth says something else, I find the material easy to relate to. If you’re a fan of Russell Howard, there really is no excuse not to own this. It’s excellent. I’ll certainly be looking to get tickets next time he tours. There are no extras on the DVD, which is disappointing, although the quality of the main feature more than justifies the purchase.
Russell Howard Live 2 Dingledodies will be released on November 9, 2009.