by Kathryn Helmore
VANCOUVER – Known for impersonating a vulnerable, insecure and hairless vagina, Russell Howard is a comedic force to be reckoned with.
This young British comedian has held a coveted role on massively popular panel show Mock the Week and has the largest social media following of any British comedian. His TV show, Russell Howard’s Good News, was one of BBC Three’s most watched shows. Nevertheless, in typical British fashion, Russell is understated about his success: “My success? I’ve never really thought about it,” Russell says. “The very fact that there’s people in Vancouver waiting to hear my jokes is such as mind-fuck.”
While Russell’s personification of a vagina is not grandma-friendly material, do not dismiss him as a silly jokester looking for cheap laughs. Anyone who has gleefully giggled at his jokes knows there is more lurking underneath the surface.
Russell’s vagina skit is a prime example of this multi-faceted comedy. This joke was inspired by a statistic stating that a quarter of 16- to 25-year-old girls self-harm. It inspired Russell to do some digging into why girls have insecurities and mental health problems.
“One reason for these insecurities was porn,” says Russell. “Porn would tell girls they had to shave their pubes. I thought it would be great to do a skit whereby a proud, natural and unshaven fanny of an older woman would lecture an impressionable fanny. I hoped this skit would raise awareness while taking the piss.”
Russell’s often-ridiculous material comes from an intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate place. As is the case with all good comedy, it has purpose. “Right now there’s a lot of very angry people in the world,” says Russell. “And that’s understandable. There is an increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots. Yet the right wing are speaking the loudest. There is no opposition to those who are angry and hateful. Where’s our Martin Luther King? I think that comedians have become the opposition. Comics are the dissenting voice.”
In this period of anger and disenfranchisement, Russell Howard has chosen to do more than keep calm and carry on. This comedian has decided to take up the mantle of court jester and laugh at the state of our society.
Russell Howard performs on May 16 at the Rio Theatre.Rio Theatre, Russell Howard