Performance at The Earl, Atlanta, 4 May 2017.
Having seen Russell Howard on Mock the Week, then catching his stand-up and later seeing him host the terrific Good News, it was a no-brainer to go catch him live for $25 while he was in town. For those of you unfamiliar with Howard, he's what would happen if ADHD manifested itself in human form and was then filmed by a Phantom Camera so it could be slowed down from Tasmanian Devil speed to something you could actually perceive. Because there's something to be said for seeing comedy in the flesh and the energy at last night's performance was pretty fantastic.
Helping things were not only the fairly intimate nature of The Earl's performance venue (with seating in place vs. their usual SRO, there wasn't really a bad seat there) but also the fact that opening act Dedrick Flynn (unfamiliar with him before now, but damn, the man is funny) opened with a bit to amp up the crowd that Howard apparently liked so much he used it as a refrain for the rest of his act. So Howard leapt in out of the gate and honestly seemed to like the crowd, as he told us he was only supposed to do an hour (not sure why) but he felt much more relaxed and open to chat.
The thing about comedy, especially fast-paced comedy that feels like stream of consciousness--say, Billy Connolly or Craig Ferguson--is that you know upon analysis that a great deal of it is canned with a little bit of wiggle room to throw in things as they pop into the madmen's heads. There's something about Howard's rapid fire asides that make me think that they are at times experimental--a "hmm, this just came to me, screw it, let's try it" approach. His ability to deal with audience responses rapidly and references back to things that we know are either location-specific or evening-specific--makes it feel fresh, even for those few stories that we had heard before.
The show was a nice reflection of what Howard says he enjoys: life sprinkled with moments of spontaneous humor. This is evidenced by him actually sitting down for a couple of minutes to muse about the state of the world and how screwed things seem if you're towards the political middle rather than at one extreme or another. He also takes time to relate the recent passing of his grandparents and how his "lunatic" family dealt with it through laughter. Things don't slow down for long, nor do they get too "serious," and the breather is welcome in the midst of all this jubilant chaos. Since this was the first stop on the American part of his tour, he took a moment to have a phrase translated into "American" for the rest of his stops. He also learned the meaning of "all y'all," for better or worse.
Catch him live if at all possible. And while you're at it, seek out Dedrick Flynn as well. Howard's tour dates are here.