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Comedian Russell Howard is returning to New Zealand for his sell-out tour- a very different version of New Zealand when compared to his previous visit, where he was granted exemption to pass through the borders during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Last time we came, the army were there. They greeted us by saying- you know you’ll be staying at a hotel for two weeks. We’ll ask about your mental health, you have to lie. I told them I’ll be fine, there’s no way I could tell the truth,” the comedian told Newstalk ZB’s Jack Tame.
With the restrictions safely out of the way this time, Howard’s free to wander around New Zealand again, and potentially source some joke material from the local shops - he says he was particularly fascinated with what he saw in Auckland’s CBD.
“We were in Ponsonby, and it was funny because they were clearly coming up with names that have no relevance whatsoever to what they’re selling. There was a place called the Stolen Girlfriends Club - they sell clothes! There’s a cinema called the Silky Otter, my interest was piqued because you’re looking at all these. Is the Women’s Bookshop all female authors? No!”
Howard explained that seeing the picturesque images designed to appeal to travelers were less fascinating than observing the nation first-hand and building jokes from what he sees. To him, the standard mountainscapes were less compelling than spotting a restaurant that sounded like a ‘really specific Google search’, as he described Auckland’s Monsoon Poon.
He’s used to taking comedic material out of his observations, as his standup specials, TV projects and TikTok videos show off his takes on the state of the world as we ping-pong from one crisis to the next- from controversial presidential administrations, economic downturns, pandemics, climate change, to a possible expanding war.
“The audience is your master, your jury. There’s a great quote from Stephen Fry about the peculiarity of comedy. Comedy is so intangible, it’s surreal.”
He promised his current tour will bring his signature energy to Kiwi audiences. As he explained to Jack Tame, New Zealand has a ‘gentle, lovely’ atmosphere with plenty of entertaining aspects that could sound absurd when played back to an international audience.
“For instance, Rotorua calls itself Rotovegas, despite the fact that it doesn’t have a casino. That is innately funny, I love the idea of some American tourists wondering where the casino is and people from Rotorua going - there isn’t one,” he told Newstalk ZB.
Howard’s standup tours have sold thousands of tickets to people all over the world, from the US, to the UK, to Europe, to Australia - allowing him to show off his jokes to different audiences and tastes.
“I’ve got a load of stuff, it’s the final version before I record it for a special, so it’s as tight as a drum. I’m just putting it through New Zealand and Australia, to see if that works, to see what doesn’t work here.”
His comedy manages to work 80 percent of the time, as he claims. Audiences clearly agree, as demonstrated by the high-ticket sales and millions - sometimes hundreds of millions - watching his social media content and ‘The Russell Howard Hour’ on television or YouTube. Celebrity appearances and connections bring in the viewers, but Howard holds his own and brings his comedic chops wherever he appears.
“You have to figure out the right version of it. I don’t know the lay of the land, so I look forward to going to gigs and asking people how they feel.”
He’s taking in New Zealand in February and observing our nation’s cities and stories - and he expects to discuss our response to the crisis in the Red Sea, our politics and our other ‘interesting’ aspects. As he told Jack Tame, he’ll never know when an off-the-cuff observation turns into a joke, or standup special, or tour highlight.
3rd February 2024, Michael Fowler Centre
4th February 2024, Regent On Broadway
5th February 2024, Royal Whanganui Opera House
7th February 2024, Mercury Baypark Arena
8th February 2024, Globox Arena
9th February 2024, Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
10th February 2024, Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
11th February 2024, Toitoi Opera House
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