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Russell Howard: Lubricant Review 2021 Tv Show Series Season Cast Crew
Dave Chappelle may have a documentary he’s screening on tour these days, but Russell Howard is the Netflix comedian who included his documentary on the streaming platform alongside his newest stand-up comedy special.
Howard, longtime host of Russell Howard’s Good News on BBC Three and BBC Two from 2009 to 2015, followed by The Russell Howard Hour since 2017 on Sky One/Sky Max, had just started his next global tour in March 2020 when the pandemic shut everything down. But not his documentary, which already had cameras tagging along as he prepared for the tour. Howard kept rolling his own camera, in quarantine with his parents while his newlywed wife worked as a doctor on the frontlines, and even convinced Sky to let him host a videoconference talk show from his childhood bedroom, Russell Howard’s Home Time. You can watch how his plans all unfold, and then get put back together again, in the documentary hour, “Until The Wheels Come Off.”
He did manage to put together his new hour of material and perform it in front of live audiences in London’s Hammersmith Apollo. Howard notes right away how much had changed since he filmed his first Netflix special, Recalibrate, in 2017. “Corona was a beer. Harry was a prince. Nobody was singing about having a wet-ass pussy.” So yeah. Howard’s gonna joke about WAP.
Using his voice and physicality to imagine scenarios and the inner thoughts of other people, animals and inanimate objects alike is a big feature of Howard’s hour.
He may dip his toes into the hot water of comedy’s current hot takeapalooza on policing jokes, but Howard’s not one to stray too far over the line of offensiveness to begin with. He warns the audience earlier in the hour they won’t like his next joke, only to then tell what’s actually a rather tame Michael Jackson joke, consider how far most MJ jokes have gone before his.
And he’s most often on the right side of history, anyhow. He mocks anti-vaxxers, describing them to future generations as what we called the people who died. He mocks Prime Minister Boris Johnson for his pandemic slogans. He touts the need for foreign influence in today’s Britain, and expresses empathy for trans folk, gay rights and anti-racism. To people on the other side concerned about what schools are teaching kids these days, Howard counters: “They’re teaching tolerance, not technique!” And he lampoons the “All Things Matter” crowd by imagining similar loons getting upset about Save The Whales or Happy Mother’s Day. That he even mentions this more political topics at all, he does to point out there are more serious things to occupy our cultural conversation than the nature of jokes.
Because jokes are in and of themselves essential workers now, too. As Howard says, “laughter is the lubricant that makes life livable.”
And he demonstrates how some of the best laughs in his life (and perhaps yours, too) have come from real people in real-life situations, memories to rejoice over later. He tells about his late Uncle Tim’s influence on him and his relatives, and how he has paid it forward with his nieces and nephews. “Whenever you have the opportunity to throw silly into the world, do it.” “Life is a battle, and silly is a rest.”
It’s a decent hour, to be sure, but neither as interesting nor as illuminating as the second hour of documentary footage following Howard, his family, and his tour manager around as they navigated the first year-plus of the pandemic. Learning his longtime friendship and association with John Oliver, as well as with someone American audiences might not know in Wil Hodgson, go a long way in filling out the picture of who Howard is at his core. As does watching Howard work out new jokes in front of small crowds, or try to work out how to perform in different parts of the world under different rules.
Besides, that hour also lets Howard remind us of how the pandemic impacted stand-up comedy: “Being a comedian in 2020 is like trying to make a sculpture out of shit and the world won’t stop shitting.”