'Even bleak moments can be funny'

Russell Howard says comedians like him try to make sense of the craziness in the world

British comedian Russell Howard's television show, which ended its run recently, poked fun at quirky news stories.
British comedian Russell Howard's television show, which ended its run recently, poked fun at quirky news stories.PHOTO: LA COMEDY LIVE

British comedian Russell Howard is best known for his television show Russell Howard's Good News - a topical comedy news show - but he says it is usually salacious or bad news that interests people more.

He cites the example of everyday hero Jean Bishop, a 95-year-old lady who lives in Hull, England, and dresses up as a bee every week to raise money for charity Age UK.

"She has raised at least £110,000 (S$200,000) and you would think 'what a beautiful person', but somehow, everyone knows who Kim Kardashian is but no one knows about Jean," he says during a telephone interview with The Straits Times.

The boyish Howard, 37, is on his biggest stand-up comedy world tour, aptly titled Round The World, and will be coming to Singapore for the first time on May 28.

He has performed 10 consecutive nights at the Royal Albert Hall in London, cities in Canada and the United States, and will be on tour until August.

The tour will be a source of inspiration for his upcoming Netflix Original Stand-up Comedy Series that will be released at the end of the year.


  • WHERE: Kallang Theatre, 1 Stadium Walk

    WHEN: May 28, 8pm

    ADMISSION: $88 to $148 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

The comic studied economics in university "because a friend I liked was doing it", but subsequently started doing stand-up routines at open-mic nights in pubs.

"It just became this thing I couldn't live without," he says.

Now Howard, who lives in London with his long-time girlfriend, is easily one of Britain's most popular comedians.

In the last two years, he has hosted two seasons of Russell Howard's Stand Up Central on Comedy Central, as well as a comedic travel series around the US with his mum called Russell Howard & Mum: USA Road Trip.

With an impressive Facebook following of 3.2 million, he has gained a loyal following, particularly among young adults.

"It's fascinating that young people have never been more attuned to global happenings than now. They are the ones watching clips on YouTube and Facebook and reading news online," he says.

His television show in turn catered to this demographic as he poked fun at the biggest and quirkiest stories on the news.

The weekly programme wrapped up last year after seven years on the BBC channels, but he will return later this year with a new series on British television network Sky 1 that he reveals has a "similar format" to Good News.

The words "fascinating" and "mad" pop up during the interview regularly as he uses them to describe how he perceives recent global events such as Brexit and the constant hullabaloo surrounding Mr Donald Trump's election as US president.

"The world feels pretty crazy and, as comedians, we try to make sense of the absurdities and be the dissenting voice.

"Even in the bleakest and most terrible moments, life can still be extraordinarily funny," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 15, 2017, with the headline ''Even bleak moments can be funny''. Subscribe