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TV Interview

Russell Howard interview: 'Prince Harry getting naked was brilliant'

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Russell Howard's Good News has become BBC Three's flagship entertainment series in recent years, grabbing huge audiences and starting a seventh series later this week.

Ahead of the show's return, Digital Spy grabbed Howard on the phone for 20 minutes to talk about the appropriately surreal topics of cat-banging, Prince Harry getting naked and losing his hands.

Russell Howard's Good News

© BBC / Avalon/David Venni



I was sorry to hear that you've been in hospital. Are you all okay now?
"I can't use my thumb yet, but I'm getting to keep it. And that is a definite plus!

"It was weird, I just cut my thumb. But I ended up on a drip and morphine, it was really weird. But morphine... absolutely lovely! You can see why people get into it. It's lovely stuff. It's strange when you go to hospital and they give you morphine, because when you leave you're basically coming down for the next two weeks. It's rubbish."

Did you get a lot of concerned fans messaging you?
"Nah, not really. A few people were concerned, but most people were taking the piss. One of my mates sent me a massive foam hand like the ones you get in Gladiators. I think the thing was people saw me in hospital and then they went on Twitter and Facebook and said they saw me in there. People were asking what was wrong with me and making up weird rumours.

"So I put it out there that I had an infected tendon in my thumb, nurses and doctors are looking after me, all is fine. Moments later, messages on Twitter went around saying, 'Russell Howard has lost his hands!' It wasn't even Chinese Whispers, it was Chinese Being Unable to F**king Read. I wrote it really clearly, but it was amazing to see things escalate.

"People were saying, 'He's got no arm left', 'He's going to get a blade fitted'. 'He's going in the Paralympics'. It was just incredible."

What's the weirdest lie you've ever read about yourself online?
"There were some people on Wikipedia who seemed determined to let the world know that I like banging cats. I don't. If I was going to bang any animal, it certainly wouldn't be a cat. Not a fan. But there was some really determined individual who was desperate to get this rumour out there that I'm a cat-banger."

You're on to your seventh series of Good News. Did you imagine the show would last this long?
"It's incredible. I thought it would only do one series, so it's brilliant. We've done it for three years now and we've just knocked them out.

"The thing about doing a topical show like this is that there's no time to dwell on things. You're just knocking out gags and moving on. You're like Octomom, just banging a series out and then moving on to the next. Coming from the world of live comedy where you have to nurture your act for months and years, it's a really different environment.

"We're like a topical comedy form of the A-Team. We just burst out and go, 'Look what we've put together out of this load of nonsense'. And most of the time, hopefully, it works."



Do you think you'll ever reach the stage where you get sick of it all and want to rename the show Russell Howard's Bad News?
"Ha, yeah. Russell Howard's Had Enough Of It All. Just me sat in a chair blubbing away. The strange thing about people considering me upbeat is that I'm really not. I just love my job. I'm not normally a bloke going around shouting 'wheeey' and super happy.

"If you saw me in Tesco, I'm a real let-down. People say hello and I reply, 'Hey, alright, just doing some f**king shopping. What a load of s**t'. It's very different doing a gig when people applaud you and want you to show off. It's the ultimate, mental and absurd job. People don't want to talk to you, they just want you to talk and they actually want to listen to you. If you don't enjoy that job, you have to be pretty miserable."

Have there been any events over the summer that you wish you'd been able to talk about?
"Oh, Prince Harry getting naked. That was brilliant. The supposed hysteria that people were in some way offended or shocked by it. He's a young bloke who went to Vegas and got naked. My mate Tomo went to Magaluf and shat himself four times in six days. We all know far worse stories. That's what young blokes do on holiday."

Have you ever been tempted to try your hand at comedy acting or writing a sitcom?
"I'm trying to write a film with my friend. I'd love to get the thrill of speaking actors making my work even funnier. But actually doing acting isn't really my thing. I went for some auditions in Hollywood last year for some terrible films. I kept changing the words because they were so bad and you could see the writers in the corner getting really pissy. That's pretty difficult for me, saying words when I know nobody is laughing.

"It's like the Orange adverts. You know the cinema ones. I'd love to get the people who make them together and put them in a cinema and show them how nobody has ever laughed at one thing they've made. They've spent millions on them and they are always s**t. Nobody has ever laughed at one Orange advert. They are so, so s**t. They are so bland and awful. I'd hate to be in that world where you have other people's words to say and they aren't actually funny."



What happened when you went over to LA?
"I did a stand-up performance on Conan O'Brian, which was great, but it's not for me. I prefer England. You can change your act and little things, but you do forget how much of your act has English references. A lot of things don't work when you translate them into universal speak. You take the line 'I could murder a couple of bourbons' and switch that to 'I could murder a couple of cookies', it all becomes too generic. 'Can I say another brand?' 'No, say cookies'. 'OK'. It all becomes comedy for a committee and that's no fun for anyone."

How bad would things have to get for you to appear on a reality TV show?
"I would have to be back on mortgage repayments and not able to do gigs for some reason. It would have to be bad. But I did break my mum's heart, because I turned down Strictly twice. I just couldn't do it. It's not for me. But give it time. One day, I'll be a 50-year-old washed up tw*t and I'll be next to some some celebrity who asks, 'Didn't you bang cats? I read it on your Wikipedia'."

Russell Howard's Good News airs on Thursday, September 27 at 9pm on BBC Three. The Best Bits of Series 2 are available to own on DVD from Monday, September 24.

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