Review: Russell Howard, SSE Hydro, Glasgow

Our verdict: two-and-a-half stars

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In life, there are two kinds of funny - funny-funny, and weird-funny. Ideally, in comedy, a mixture of the two usually works out about right.

Russell Howard is something of a darling of prime-time panel shows, appearing regularly in 8 Out of 10 Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, and Mock the Week.

Slightly odd is the fact that last year he was voted the winner of Heat magazine's weird crush competition, beating the likes of Boris Johnson and Simon Cowell. In Howard's eyes, achieving such a dubious title is probably classed under 'weird-funny'.

What his fans find 'funny-funny' about him, however, is plentiful; evidenced by the Glasgow date of his Wonderbox tour as he plays to a packed-out SSE Hydro on a Tuesday night.

And glimpses of it are shown: in particular the crowd enjoys his on-point allusions to animals which are frequently excellent. Describing an angry, heavy breathing pug as a Scotch egg with asthma gets a well-deserved roar of laughter, and it can't just be because every one of the 12,000-strong crowd is a dog lover.

Less astute are his generalised social observations of people, which often feel derivative and tired, as if he's churning them out like the comedy equivalent of album fillers.

He makes a faux pas early on when he includes the crowd in a joke, referring to the audience with the Royal We as English. The slip-up is quickly recovered and corrected to British, but the situation is soon made toe-curlingly worse as Howard - now visibly nervous - continues with: "I understand that's something of a sticky point at the moment in Scotland. I also understand that 50% of Scots couldn't care less about it, and the other 50% couldn't give a shit". Unsure if he's talking about independence or the English, the statement is met with almost complete silence. As Higher English teachers love to say: know your audience.

There are people making the jokes he saves for Sunday best better than him - other comedians commit to controversy with greater authenticity, they make rude jokes ruder. Simply put, it feels like there are many other performers out there who have got there first with his punchlines.

For his final story, Howard treats the crowd with a heart-warming tale about a young lad he had got to know in a hospice, who had beaten cancer despite all the odds. But in the age where X Factor sob stories are sneered upon as a dated televisual format, saving it for his swansong felt equally false and disingenuous, though undoubtedly the sentiment was admirable.

In a frank discussion about sex, Howard reflects that it's a "funny thing" that rape is about hate - awful-funny rather than weird- or funny-funny.

Even if there are more definitions of funny than my two, I'm not so sure I always get the joke.

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