After living in the UK last year for a number of months (note to the border agency: under the maximum time allowed with a visitor’s visa…yes, I can show proof), I discovered and devoured many wondrous things. The creams and cheeses found in the street markets were divine. I happily overdosed on bands, shows, festivals and Rough Trade in-store’s until my head spun. And I became addicted to the weekly show, Russell Howard’s Good News, where the comedian pokes fun at the absurdity of politicians and celebrities, the silly and unintentional antics of news hosts, or your average person doing ridiculous things.
Howard’s Good News show, which has been around since 2009 on BBC Three, now on BBC Two for Series 10 (moving up the ranks), isn’t just a British version of what we see from satirical news shows from Jon Stewart, John Oliver, or Stephen Colbert. His show goes through thousands of news clips, hundreds of papers and news channels from around the world, not just domestically, mining for comedic gold.
But it’s the other element of his format that is completely unique; the weekly examples of the positive side of society that represents his show’s Good News brand. After the monologue, Russell invites a guest on to discuss, still in a comedic manner of course, their inspirational tales. A paleontologist who was able to dissect an intact woolly mammoth. An inventor who reconfigured a scooter so pensioners could travel at 69 MPH. An international football star who battled leukemia and won, and who is back playing the beautiful game. And at the very end of each episode, he wraps with a human interest story of altruism, kindness, and the “opposite of doom and gloom,” like the man who risks his life to bring a mobile library to the children of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; good news that will no doubt make you smile, or possibly tear up a bit.
BBC limits programming availability on the iPlayer to the U.K., so we can’t watch it online here, but thankfully, you can watch all the videos on Russell’s Good News YouTube channel.
Recently BBC America had the opportunity to broadcast Good News and passed it up. While I love many shows on that network, from Graham Norton and Orphan Black, to Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, I’m dismayed as to why they said no. Big mistake on their part. Some of the News may be over the heads of the American audience who may not be aware of how daft UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, can be. But we can all relate to having idiots in government and other places of power, and he capitalizes on that too.
After last year’s mid-term elections, Russell aired Joni’ Ernst’s campaign commercial. You know the one, where she boosts about her childhood of castrating hogs on an Iowa farm, and how this skill would come in handy in cutting pork in Washington. Ugh. “‘Vote for me America! I can rip off pig’s nuts!’” he paraphrases eloquently. “That woman is now in the US Senate! She doesn’t belong in politics. She belongs in a fucking butcher’s!”
We couldn’t agree more. And that can be said for most of congress.
England and America have had an ongoing level of competition and appreciation going back hundreds of years, where we covet each other’s cultural talents and traditions. For the most part, American actors do not excel at English accents (make it stop Keanu, Natalie P. and Anne H.), whereas, many British actors are known as American until they appear on a talk show (wait, Hugh Laurie is British?!) And we don’t always do a good job of taking a brilliant British sitcom and creating an equally funny American version, with The Office being an exception. Some things are better kept in their original version, and merely imported into our television networks. And as the world gets smaller, as our politics and cultural absurdities continually cross international borders, it increases our desire for those exchanges.
So BBC America, get your head out of your arse and bring Howard Russell to the states. These days, we need unlimited opportunities to laugh and be inspired with Good News…for a change. And what up Comedy Central? If anything, you should be airing Russell Howard’s Standup Central.
In the meantime, see him tonight, July 7, right here at Comedy Works as he rolls into Denver in the Dolly Parton tour bus (seriously, that’s his tour bus). The show starts at 19:30.
Additional Tour Dates:
July 8 – El Rey, Los Angeles
July 9 – Cobb’s Comedy Club, San Francisco
July 10 – Alberta Rose, Portland
July 11 – Nordstrom, Seattle
July 21, 22, 23 – Just for Laughs, Montreal