Russell Howard talks to Lowdown ahead of sell-out O2 gigs

Comedian Russell Howard comes to the O2 Arena in Greenwich for the first time this week, performing two sell-out gigs. He talks to reporter Jasmine Coleman about going from the comedy club circuit to the big stage and screen.

It wasn’t long ago that Russell Howard was telling silly jokes about swans to cider-swigging students on a sticky university union stage. This week the jokes are just as silly but the stage is so much bigger.

Saturday and Sunday see Russell, the classic scruffy haired boy next door, perform to sell-out audiences of about 20,000 people at the O2 Arena, one of the largest indoor venues in Europe.

There will be some flashy lights and jazzy introductory music. But essentially it’s still just the man with the microphone.

“It’s ridiculous, I’m trying not to think about it because I get too nervous,” he told Lowdown.

“I do worry about myself - walking around Tesco congratulating myself for selling out the O2 and thinking: ‘I won’t be paying for these carrots, I sold out the O2.’”

“But I just look at it as a normal gig, I’m sure it will be fine.”

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Even so, the O2 Arena is a different beast to your standard stand-up venues.

“It’s actually slightly easier because people aren’t there to see so much of you,” said Russell.

“When you are at a Comedy Network gig, it can be fantastic or it can be appalling.

“Somebody in the corner could stand up and start drinking a pint of pee at any moment.

“Compared to that, the O2 is fairly easy – you can be pretty sure that won’t happen.

Russell has become a familiar face on TV in recent years as a regular panellist on comedy quiz Mock The Week, and his hit BBC Three show Russell Howard’s Good News is back for a new series in March.

But performing live is still something special.

“It love it - the actual gig I find very enjoyable, that’s the best part of it,” he said.

“It’s the bit before you go on that I’m jumping around on my toes.

“I feel like I have got the best of both. I’m unbelievably lucky with the shows and I’m really proud of them.

“It’s quite a solitary life being a stand up comedian, and I’ve realised just how much I like being around people.”

Surely he will have enough people around this weekend.

Russell Howard performs at the O2 Arena in Greenwich on Saturday February 19 and Sunday Feburary 20. For information and further tour dates, go to