tue 28/11/2023

Russell Howard, Netflix special review - joyous return to live performance | reviews, news & interviews

Russell Howard, Netflix special review - joyous return to live performance

Russell Howard, Netflix special review - joyous return to live performance

Stand-up with accompanying documentary

Russell Howard's pleasure at being back on stage is obvious

In 2019, Russell Howard was all set to celebrate his 20th year in comedy by going on a world tour.

Covid put paid to that, so it was with some genuine celebration that he was able to return to the stage with Lubricant, his second Netflix special, recorded at the Eventim Apollo in late 2021.

He was able to use some of the material of that anniversary show, Respite – about finding the pleasure rather than the pain in life and describing a world spinning out of control. Little did he know. In Lubricant he has skilfully updated Respite – written “when Corona was a beer and Harry was a prince” – with some terrific material about the pandemic and how it has changed our lives.

In a show that touches on an eclectic range of subjects, Howard riffs on feminism, his family, the daftness of English sayings and the modern vogue for finding just about everything – including stand-up comedy – offensive. He also brings us up to date with his medical situation, with more information than we needed on an anal problem.

But among the fluff there's a lot of meaty content. Howard kicks off by addressing the pandemic and anti-vaxxers, to whom he gives both barrels, and he has some interesting things to say about Britishness and how we now define it, suggesting a modern reworking of “Land of Hope and Glory” that brilliantly rhymes Stormzy with jalfrezi.

Lubricant is, then, another enjoyable mix of the silly and the serious, and the schoolboyish smut he loves alongside sharp political insights. It's tightly written and laden with clever callbacks, but most of all it's an hour of warm-hearted comedy from a man clearly delighted to be able to do his shtick on stage again. “Laughter is the lubricant that makes life liveable,” Howard says. No argument with that.

The accompanying documentary, Until the Wheels Come Off, is an added bonus. The idea originally was that a film crew would follow Howard as he celebrated two decades in the business as the world tour of Respite started in 2019. But instead the film documents the impact of Covid as shows were cancelled in February 2020 and Howard, newly married to an NHS doctor, moved back into his parents' house as she returned to the frontline.

In Nick Vass's often touching film, Howard muses on his family and how much he misses live performance as he rustles up a podcast from his boyhood bedroom. It's wryly amusing and, for fans of comedy, a real insight into a comic's relationship with their audience.

Add comment


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters