Edward James

DVD review: Russell Howard, Wonderbox

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Russell Howard is still a child, he’s a 5’10, 34 year-old, famous blonde child. But is he funny? His latest DVD, Wonderbox, filmed in Bristol at the end of this year’s tour, is full of his trademark observations, personal stories, whimsy and smut.

Howard bounds onstage in a blaze of music, lights and effects, launching straight into local stories and lighting up this home crowd. His style, as ever, is upbeat, positive and enthusiastic, but nothing much has changed in the construction of his show from last year, or the year before, or the year before.

His TV fame is immediately dealt with as he talks about being recognised on the street in Bristol, and segways into new locations via humble-brags about his international gigs.

Wonderbox doesn’t show much narrative structure, there’s no arc, or moral, or objective. It is very simply, a man with a microphone, talking for an hour.

He talks about British attitudes abroad, about quirky family upbringings, about simple lost childhood pleasures, and about the arguments on Noah’s Ark.

He lampoons some huge issues such as racism, sexism and rape, he also takes a long tangent into Ben Elton-esque dick-joke territory, and he finds time to play with the audience a little and find the puerile middle-aged mothers in the room.

He ventures in and out of sketch territory, playing many characters (albeit largely stereotypical) and shining a juvenile light on many common situations. The majority of his material is fairly pedestrian, with belly-laughs few and far between, but it’s non-offensive mainstream comedy.

It’s easy to slate Russell Howard for being middle-of-the-road, relying on lazy stereotypes, taking low-hanging fruit, telegraphing his routines, playing to a formula, or picking easy targets … but Wonderbox is a very enjoyable hour.

Howard has an infectious charm that you can’t help but be impressed by, and some of his improvised tangents show moments of brilliance which justify his place as a “celebrity” comedian.

It is, no doubt, incredibly childish – but that is by no means a bad thing – and if you can still laugh at children swearing or videos of politicians falling over, then you’ll probably find that there are worse ways to spend an hour than in the company of Howard and his Wonderbox.

Russell Howard: Wonderbox is out on DVD now. Buy from Amazon for £10.