Russell Howard Royal Cinema, Toronto ON, May 12

Russell Howard Royal Cinema, Toronto ON, May 12
9
The best laughs are the ones you let out when you're trying with all your might not to laugh. Russell Howard knows how to make his memories of these moments in his life come alive again on stage, and to use an appropriately British expression for this UK superstar, it's brilliant.
 
After Nile Seguin quickly warmed up the crowd by joking that Trump's presidency is proof that anyone can achieve their dreams, Howard launched into a constantly entertaining hour-and-a-half of ridiculous stories. His narrative about trying to keep a straight face when a bunch of African kids sang "Thank Jesus for Russell" and asked him to sing along was gold, as was his story about his brother hooking up with a girl with nine fingers after joking with her about her hand. Similarly, his story about his girlfriend finding some bizarre items in a suitcase left by the previous homeowner of his house was unpredictable, odd and hysterical.
 
Fast-paced without feeling rushed, Howard was as comfortable on stage as you'd expect for a man who's been playing theatres for over a decade, and it gave him an outstanding level of fearlessness. When he noticed his shoelaces were untied, he kneeled on the floor and shoved the microphone in his mouth without hesitation to uproarious laughter. He then masterfully milked the moment by riffing about how disgusting that was from the anthropomorphized perspective of the microphone.
 
Additionally, he opened his show with jokes about Kensington Market and Moosehead beer that were totally new, yet fantastically polished. More impressively, there was a part in the show where Howard completely lost his train of thought, yet it was no less captivating than his material. His bantering with the audience and rapid retracing of his steps didn't feel unprofessional: it just felt like a fun detour.
 
Best of all, every joke in the last 30 minutes of Howard's show was good enough to be a closer. From his story about his grandmother heckling the eulogy at her husband's funeral, to his insightful material about why the next generation is messed up by technological overstimulation, it was a hilarious barrage of cleverly crafted comedy. At the end, everything finished beautifully with a girl throwing her bra on stage in reference to a bit where Howard asserted that throwing undergarments is the most delightfully passionate form of appreciation. He grinned at the crowd, bent over laughing as he went off stage, and the audience rightfully rose to their feet.