Sunday, February 20, 2011

Right There, Right Yesterday

This blog can be read by you in either of two ways. The first is as a genuine blog written by moi with no aspirations to seem cooler than you in anyway even though I just naturally am. The second is for you to shout 'kerplunk' everytime I seemingly name drop and to read it in a voice in your head that makes me sound like a loser. Its meant to be the first, but I wholly understand if the second needs to be your choice. The reason I'm forewarning you about such things is because I went to see Russell Howard at the O2 last night courtesy of Chris Cox getting some freebies. As I said in yesterday's blog, I was extremely curious to see a stand-up show at the O2 as in my mind its always seemed far too big an arena to ever feel intimate in the way stand-up really should. The Apollo in contrast is built in a way that feels as though you're not just watching a DVD, but then again its also about 10,000 people smaller. I have worked with Russ in the past quite a bit, way back when I started he would often be the headliner at a gig called Bright Young Things at Bar Rumba in central London with other little known acts Marek Larwood, Josie Long and Ed Petrie on the bill while I'd be popping in to do a 5 min open spot. Over the next 5-6 years we were on several bills together, most memorably an excellent gig at the Lincoln Fire Hall, and Herfordshire Uni to a 100 people, where just 6 months later he'd go on to perform at Wembley Arena, which is, er, a tad few more people.

He has, among other things, always been an incredibly friendly lovely bloke and an incredible improviser with a very sharp wit and it was a real joy to watch him last night do, pretty much what he's always done, and for it to work to the entire ex-Millennium Dome. The same silly joy, odd family tales, prancing about and an accidental burp all had the crowd in fits of giggles. Sure, there were moments that I felt were not at the top of his standard or didn't necessarily make me laugh, but they pleased the other 14,998 people and I often feel that comedians can be the harshest judges in a crowd. But there were also some side hurting gags and at no point did he seem to pander for his teen based crowd, happily insulting Twilight and anti-abortionist Justin Bieber to a few boos. Myself and Chris had properly jammy seats right near the front and passes that got us free booze, so I'm not sure I got the full effect of seeing a show in an arena but we could hear the waves of laughs behind us and every now and then you'd just turn round to get the full effect. At the after party I had a chat with Russ and he was still so very humble about everything and instead mostly asked how I was and what I was up to.

Now, you are probably shouting 'arse kisser' at the top of your voice or saying that you're not a fan of his work or something or other, but I thought I'd go for a sincere blog today. There are lots of comics that are doing pretty well right now that I hear other people, and at times, I've been guilty of, slagging off for one reason or another. But the thing is, its presented that such people have risen to the top overnight when infact its taken a very long time and a lot of hard work to get there. Russell's been going longer than most people realise - at least 7 years more gigging experience than I've had - and that's how he's learnt and got the talent to control a crowd that big and walk out onto such a huge stage with that level of confidence. Its not just being lucky.

Comedy is generally filled with very nice and hard working people and its often a real delight to work in this industry. I have a tiny list of about 5 acts who I find rude or difficult (which I won't be divulging here) and out of the hundreds of ace comedians working the circuit or the arenas, that's a really very tiny amount. Most of the big names I've met or have watched get huge are still hardworking, polite to everyone and seem to have time for everyone if they can, and often I have to remember that they are now huge stars as I notice people crowd around them for pics and autographs, despite them having not changed in attitude or the talent they had already displayed. So, er, ultimately, what message was I trying to give with this blog? I'm not sure. Maybe, er stop being so judgmental already? Hmm? Or, er, if you go to arena gigs sit near the front so you don't notice how difficult a venue it is for comedy? I don't really know. I was just pleased to watch an ace show by someone who I think deserves its success. And it was bloody nice not to pay for beer too.

Right, now go back and read that in your proper reading voice. Oh that was? Oh I'm sorry. How awkward for you.


  1. Great blog post. It is very true that Russell Howard has worked hard over the years to warrant playing the O2. I remember seeing him in the upstairs function room of a pub in Sutton Coldfield, when he was refused entry to the room because even the comedy organisers didn't recognise him! Personally I feel you can't beat the intimate surroundings of a small club for stand-up. While an arena is good for music acts (where you can use lighting, screens and pyrotechnics to good effect), stand-up can be about a look or mannerism to make a gag work, which is lost if you are 100ft or more away from the stage.

  2. Awww - I would never read something like that in a voice that makes you sound like a loser (not even going to make a sarky comment in brackets to make that sound any less earnest). it wasn't even really that name-dropperly.

    Lovely blog. I think people can often get that idea that people who make it big are 'just lucky', rather than it being a reflection of all the years of hard graft they've put in over the years.
    Also - yes - comedians do tend to be lovely people.