Russell Howard: Wonderbox


by Joanna Orland

Russell Howard’s Wonderbox tour will be taking him across the world from America to Australia and beyond.  But last night the show brought him to his home country, with an arena-sized audience to please, as he performed Wonderbox at Wembley Arena.

Wonderbox is Russell’s first stand-up show for three years.  He’s been busy having released DVDs, sitting in on various panel shows, and of course hosting his very own BBC show Russell Howard’s Good News.  The success of Good News has been astounding, which explains how he has sold out dates at Wembley Arena, with a crazed audience of fans offering him baked goods, and a whole lot of verbal loving.  The man is a hugely popular and well-loved comedian, and it’s easy to see why.

Russell arrives on stage with the energy and style of a rock star.  He has the audience’s attention from minute one.  His anecdotes are funny and zany, but most of all it’s his persona which is endearing and has the audience wrapped around his finger.  His live set is much more vulgar than I’d expected from a BBC TV star, with many references to male genitalia, talking vaginas, and an obscene amount of toilet humour.  What really stood out in his set was all of his references to his family.  The way he speaks of his brother, sister, father and in particular his mother is not only hilarious, but also relatable and warm.  He says how much he loves his mother, which is evident in his delivery, but he does not hold back in completely taking the piss out of her.  By the end of the set, you feel as though you know his family so well to the point of wanting to hang out with them in a Howard family dinner scenario.

While his jokes funny and silly, and personality beguiling, I found myself a tiny bit disenchanted and frustrated at some of his delivery.  While his initial anecdote or joke was often hilarious or charming, subtlety was not at all a feature of Wonderbox.  Russell smashes any point or joke he makes over and over again when the initial delivery is all that is needed.  He is a clever, funny and charming comedian who has dumbed down his delivery for the masses, and unnecessarily at that.  The audience is on board with all he has to say, he doesn’t need to wring out the fun of each joke.  While I was very much satisfied from watching 2 hours of Russell Howard, I wasn’t left wanting more.  Which is a shame as he is lovely and talented.

His finale was by far the most lovely part of his set.  After a brief and odd Q&A with the audience which saw a man propose to his longtime girlfriend, now fiancee, Russell shared a personal and moving story about his friendship with a young Cancer survivor.  A beautiful way to end the show and a life-affirming moment that deserves much praise for Russell.  He is a shining star, not just of the BBC, but of life in general.


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