Russell Howard: Round the World (3 stars)

This article is from 2017.

Russell Howard: Round the World

A slick, mainstream show that manages to be both heartfelt and hypocritical

In these bleak days of Brexit, Trump and reality television, Russell Howard encourages us to seek out those little moments of eccentricity that reaffirm our humanity. So it's a shame that after support act Steve Williams had ingratiatingly played up to all the clichés of Glaswegians being tough and no-nonsense, this show's abiding memory was a punch-up in the crowd that disrupted Howard's set and confirmed why some stereotypes endure. To his credit, the instinctively upbeat Bristolian took the fight more-or-less in his stride and made significant comedy capital from it.

Performing in the round, with semi-ironic pyrotechnics, this was an impressive blueprint for how to make an arena show feel inclusive. With one eye on his international dates, Round the World is well-pitched for conveying British faults and foibles to global audiences while not feeling over-familiar to UK crowds. This is about as political a show as Howard has ever performed, which isn't saying much: his description of Nicola Sturgeon as Wee Jimmy Krankie is about as in-depth as his analysis goes. There are shades of hypocrisy too when he attacks the superficiality of so much television, his BBC show Good News often having been an uneasy marriage of interesting interviews and stand-up bookings with unsubtle, throwaway clip gags.

But then Howard is a slick, mainstream performer. And it's interesting seeing the original 't-shirt comic', his biceps built up, tentatively exploring middle-aged material about his failing body. A lot of the more generic routines, on relationship friction for example, have little to recommend them beyond his effusive, animated delivery. As ever, his most reliable standby remains the behaviour of his close-knit and wilfully odd family, be it his unfiltered brother, straight-talking father or inexplicable mother. And he amusingly finds pathos in the passing of his grandfather in a heartfelt reminiscence.

Russell Howard: Round the World is on a UK tour until Sun 9 Apr before going round the world until Thu 20 Jul; seen at SSE Hydro, Glasgow.

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