Comic Russell Howard, 40, on why Ed Sheeran had to rush home, his mum’s love of begonias and the truth about THAT car park dust-up
What can people expect from series four of The Russell Howard Hour?
We’re not having an audience because we can’t so I’m going to be doing it straight down the camera to people. We have a new feature called Life Lessons where guests, including Guz Khan, Joe Wilkinson and Aisling Bea, answer funny questions such as: ‘If you could have paused life, when would you have done it?’
When would you have paused life?
When I watched a lady in July eat a whole packet of mince pies. It looked like Mrs Santa was having a breakdown and I wanted to pause it just so someone would believe me. I found it intoxicating. She looked so happy, eating all six of them. It was like she’d left Santa but there were certain things she couldn’t leave behind. Maybe I’m reading too much into it and that was all she had in her cupboard.
Which guests have you been wowed by?
I was really impressed by Ed Sheeran. We did The Jonathan Ross Show together and he said, ‘I really like your show,’ and I said, ‘You’re welcome on this Tuesday if you want,’ so he said, ‘Oh cool, yeah’. He just popped by and we had to do the show a little bit early because his wife was cooking pasta. I loved that he’s one of the biggest musicians but he had to get back because his wife was cooking a carbonara and he couldn’t be late.
Daryl Davis, who tries to make people leave the KKK, is an amazing guy. Mark Prince, whose son was stabbed to death so he set up a charity called the Kiyan Prince Foundation, was incredible. I like the fact we have a real mixture of people.
You’ve tackled so many different issues. Which of them have you been most surprised by their reaction?
We did a thing about teachers a few years ago that went a bit crazy and we’ve done stuff about the NHS that seemed to resonate. Every so often I hear about how many views they get and it freaks me out. We’ve had certain people watching the show in North Korea and Vatican City, which is amazing. I’d be up for a very small socially distanced gig in the Vatican.
You have no shortage of material at the moment, do you?
There’s a lot going on to chat about. It’ll be a problem trying to figure out what to cut. It’s a terrible time for humanity but a wonderful time to be a comedian. At the minute, being a comedian is like trying to make a statue out of s* and the world won’t stop s***ting.
Is your mum Ninette gutted you can’t travel together for your show right now?
She’s heartbroken. Comedy Central asked if I wanted to do a travel show and basically my mum, a couple of weeks earlier, had said something so bleak like, ‘All I want when I’m old is to be in an old folks’ home where they don’t hit you.’ It was so sad that I thought the least I could do was take her around the world so she has memories to enjoy.
Has she changed now she’s a bit of a celebrity herself?
Yeah, she gets recognised a lot in Bath so she goes down the garden centre and hangs out by the begonias so people will notice her. She will spend a good half an hour browsing – that’s her Met Bar.
What is it about comedians getting their parents involved?
Yeah, it’s weird because Romesh [Ranganathan] has done it, and Jack [Whitehall]. I think what we should do is have a show where Romesh’s mum, Jack’s dad and my mum all travel. I suggested that for Comic Relief but nobody took me up on it.
How did lockdown change you?
I went back to mum and dad’s in Bath while my wife was working for the NHS for the first month and then I got a television show so it meant I couldn’t go back because everyone was watching me and I didn’t want to do a Dominic Cummings.
And then I came back home and I’ve been here for the majority of it just writing material. I knew when this ended I’d want something to say and it gave me a real purpose so I have a new hour and a half of stand up. We don’t have kids so my jobs during lockdown were to make my wife’s tea and take the dog for a walk.
I missed performing so much. I’ve been gigging in a car park in Bristol every Thursday and it’s amazing.
The one where you shouted at someone for filming it?
Oh, that was another gig for my friend. There were 30 people and two dogs in the crowd, it wasn’t the big gig it’s been made out to be. I was literally reading jokes from my laptop and a lady was filming it and when I said, ‘Don’t film it,’ we had a disagreement and I thought, ‘Let’s call it a day, then.’ Suddenly it was this massive story and my family were like, ‘I heard you was in a fight!’ Apparently it was even discussed in New Zealand!
The Russell Howard Hour is on Thursdays at 10pm on Sky One and Now TV. His rescheduled world stand-up tour, Respite, begins on February 25, russell-howard.co.uk.
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