Thanks to Mock The Week and Good News, Russell Howard is now one of the UK’s biggest stand-up acts. While many comics have a shtick to help them stand out, Howard is a more traditional stand-up, telling funny stories and jokes, and finding the general silliness of life.
What help makes it work is that he comes across as such a friendly, slightly dorky but cool guy. He’s the sort of person where it feels like if you went out for a drink you’d have a good time and a lot of laughs, and what he manages to do with Wonderbox better than he has on previous DVDs, is fully pull the viewer into so that it truly feels you’re truly part of a fun night out. There’s none of the anger or snide-ness that so many comics trade in, as even when he’s making fun of something there’s a positive edge where he feels the need to point it out not specifically to tear it down but because he thinks there’s something better.
Anyone who’s seen any of Howard’s previous stand-up will know what to expect, with stories about his life, where he’s been and a lot about his family, particularly his mother (you get the impression that Russell owes a lot to his mum for giving him his comic edge).
With his previous DVDs there was a slight sense of disappointment, as while he was very funny on TV, as a headline act he had trouble sustaining that for an hour and a half – which isn’t too surprising as part of what works for him is a buzzing energy that draws you in but is tough to sustain for 90 minutes. However this time around he’s found the balance so the whole thing is well structured to ensure you stay with him and enjoy the show.
Good News fans won’t be surprised that he wants to leave his audience with a bit of inspiration. Although the way he does it, with the story of a 14-year-old cancer patient, does get close to being a bit of an ego trip for Howard himself rather than the person he’s talking about, he manages to turn it around and make it very funny, with a witty and heart-warming finale that tops off what is a silly and very entertaining DVD.
And just as an aside, if you do watch Wonderbox Live, can you let me know if you agree with me about one thing. Is it just me or does it look like Russell is wearing specialise jeans that highlight his package? I’m presuming it’s just the way the shadows hit his trousers, but it is a little bit distracting – but hey, perhaps that really is just me.
Overall Verdict: After a couple of DVDs that were funny but somewhat underwhelming, it feels like Howard’s act has come into its own with Wonderbox, where he owns the stage and offers up a lot of laughs.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac