The conviction had been growing awhile, watching satirical news shows on TV alongside a longer established diet of news, news analysis, and Question Time (which my dad inducted me into, although I perpetually yearn for Robin Day over Dimbleby any day of the week) that our politicians were becoming morally redundant, intellectually specious and alarmingly careerist; our religious leaders morally irrelevant, intellectually void and alarmingly silent where it mattered most… whilst it was increasingly left to our comedians to voice dissent, point out the ethical high ground, and generally conduct the necessary reductio ad absurdums…

The world has always been a barmy place but it sure does seem completely bonkers right now. (The Mayan’s calculated their calendar correctly, I do believe, good gentlefolk!) The iniquitous inequality; a legitimate arms trade fuelling the pointless deaths of innocent millions; the lunatic posturing of Trump and the American religious right; a narcissistic media; inhumane fundamentalism (of any ilk); global populist anti-intellectualism; the desperate dogma that capital wealth is the yellowbrick road to happiness; environmental armageddon looming; football, that trusty theatre of dreams, has sold its very soul; and we watch the death of things we love (the NHS, polar bears, real ale) with less degree of the engagement we give to Strictly or Brexit… We are jaded, cynical, bereft of hope…

So thank the non-existent lord for Russell Howard. His recent one hour show on Sky has captured the zeitgeist. Encouragingly, it seems all the ‘woke’ kids are tuned in. As my daughter replied when I asked if she was watching his latest series: “Russell Howard? He is on point!” (Another bugbear, I had to bloody ask: whatever happened to families watching TV together? We do try: Detectorists, Peaky Blinders, Stranger Things… but, you know, technology and all…)

Unafraid to call out the transgressors and hypocrites, Russell Howard yet manages to pull back the humour self-deprecatingly to himself. Despite his exposition of the grindingly depressing catalogue of negligence and turpitude that characterises our ‘news’, his intent is always positive. I applaud the way he takes the stage, then gradually gives the limelight over with palpable respect – to the public do-gooders, his varied guests, the children in ‘Playground Politics’, and then finally to the less well-known stand-up at the end. His team have constructed this format excellently, so he never takes the final curtain-call glory  and, despite his soapbox, presents a winning modesty. His show is now required viewing in our house, and the teenagers are drawn back down to the lounge. Result!

Perhaps most fundamentally, I am always left with an inner persuasion, shared I suspect by most of his audience, that if a laugh can be extracted out of the most shocking and diabolically inexcusable content, then all is not lost. As a suggestion, perhaps our TV news journalism, instead of muddying the waters with bullshit commentators or the deliberate obscurations of the perpetrators, could include Russell’s brand of absolute clarity. The higher moral ground is a vacant summit, just waiting to be occupied by the silent majority whom Russell Howard surely represents.

“…these braying sheep on my TV screen make this boy shout, make this boy scream!” but laughter is the best medicine and the good news is verily out there. We are not going underground just yet…


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