REVIEW: Rude, rough and riveting comedy from Russell Howard at Christ’s Hospital

Russell Howard. Picture by David Venni
Russell Howard. Picture by David Venni

Russell Howard, Work-in-progress, Christ’s Hospital Theatre, Horsham, January 27

Do stand-up comedians enjoy embarrassing teenagers in front of their parents? Or is it that they like to make parents squirm in front of their offspring? Or is it both?

Sitting ‘in the round’ at Christ’s Hospital Theatre, I ponder this question as Steve Hall and Russell Howard use their evening at the school venue to unleash some pretty rude material, complete with gnarly (and rather precise) descriptions.

To be fair though, it’s very funny and the stand-ups get a good mix of shock laughs and groans, which indicate that the gross-out comedy is working in the way it’s supposed to.

The evening starts innocently enough with MC Steve Williams. He provides some good natured jokes about being Welsh, ordering wine without the proper pronunciation and writing witty messages on a dirty van. It’s a nice warm-up to the night ahead and Steve’s frequent use of innuendo seems to offer some indication of what the other comedians have in-store.

It doesn’t totally prepare the audience though, which becomes apparent when Steve Hall takes to the stage.

His material is hilariously vulgar and self-deprecating and it’s all delivered in a punchy, quick-fire style. Steve’s blunt and monotonous voice adds to the impact of the jokes, but really it’s his storytelling ability that truly makes everything work. A real-life anecdote that involves copious amounts of alcohol, pop music and a large mirror is easily the highlight of Steve Hall’s set.

Russell Howard raises the rudeness level for his part of the evening, which seems surprising for a comedian with such an innocent looking face. He talks about a bizarre wrestling game (which I probably shouldn’t describe in this newspaper), the unrealistic nature of internet smut and the unrefined but brilliant sense of humour of one of his family members.

Thankfully, Russell (like Steve Hall) brings expert storytelling into his act to tie everything together.

His material might be coarse, and even seem a bit stupid on the surface, but Russell’s anecdotes unfold in engrossing and clever ways.

Russell’s got a good understanding of people too, especially families, and he uses some genuinely moving moments from his personal life to give his stories an unexpected emotional impact.

It’s not a perfect night of stand-up (Russell throws in some predictable observations about Trump and Brexit that already feel worn-out) but the Christ’s Hospital audience know it’s not supposed to be.

It’s a ‘work-in-progress’ show after all.

The jokes might need some fine-tuning (and even some toning down in a few places) but tonight’s performance indicates that Russell’s upcoming Round The World tour has the potential to be something very special indeed.

The next stand-up comedy night at Christ’s Hospital Theatre is Gary Delaney on Thursday, March 16 (7.30pm).

For those who would like to see something a little more dramatic, Kepow Theatre’s ‘On the Edge’ will be at the venue on Friday, February 24 (7.30pm).

Call the box office on 01403 247434 or visit

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