Howard Read - The Little Howard Appeal

Posted in Gig Reviews on July, 10 2006 10:16 PM

Venue: The Hawth, Crawley
Date: 9th July 2006

Howard Read comes across as a fairly average man and approaches the stage as a fairly standard comedian: he is loud, he is confident, he is articulate and he is funny. But he is also so much more than that: he is a singer, songwriter, artist, ukuleleist, animator and one half of a double act. Unfortunately something terrible has happened to his comedy partner so now Read is touring the nation and has turned his show into a benefit gig. Not only will the raised money help but there is always that adage that laughter is the best medicine and with the ever present 'Coma Cam' on the audience is able to watch the progress of the comedy trooper.

Little Howard is only 6 years old and, although his is just a computer-animated boy, he still has medical needs. Read has pulled in the services of a method actor to play Little Howard throughout the show so the audience can still enjoy the sketches the pair have performed in the past. With the added help of their manager, Roger The Pigeon, and H-Bot 2000 (the funniest robot in the World) they hope to get Little Howard to wake up again.


Since having a staple diet of stand-up for a few years it does come to pass that some gigs at different venues have a repeat performer on. And it's not uncommon for those comedians to use exactly the same material they did last time. Having seen Howard Read perform solo just over a year ago and immensely enjoy his irreverent style, I was eager to see him within this completely different context - performing alongside a pre-recorded partner.

Now this also conjured up a flashback of having seen Half Man Half Video in the early 90's who wasn't at all bad, per se, but who's regimented delivery wasn't right for a stand-up show.

However, this is Read's show. He's not part of a line-up so he can do whatever he wants.

And instead of blurting out his scripted lines within the spaces of prerecorded 'interaction' with Little Howard and co, his presentation is more akin to a slide show where every response from Read's co-stars is elicited by a click on a remote. This allows Read the luxury of all time he needs to detract and ad-lib as is his want. This, of course, makes it easier to bond with the audience and get them in the mood for a most unusual show.

Little Howard is a fairly average 6 year-old boy who is easily distracted, speaks his mind and repeats phrases he doesn't understand but also has a tendency to swear and has a faultless knowledge of pre-nineties pop culture.

Read's excellence comes in his imagine and how he can interact with the images on the projector screen as well as switching between that and a laptop to the side. There is also a constant knowing wink as full audience participation is required at times as cue cards are presented. Possibly the most ingenious segments are Little Howard's full-on interaction with the audience. The boy chats to individual members of the audience during his stand-up and even heralds them by name at times.

Their comedy spans the spectrum of styles: one-liners, sketches, nostalgic reverence, self-referential, satire, surreal to downright offensive (with Little Howard delivering one of the best put-downs I have heard in a long time). All of this delivered by the four very different characters present.

The drawings and animation are very stylised but the disbelief is easily suspended with the smooth exchange of discourse between screen and stage. And, when it comes, you can't help but feel a little choked when the moment of pathos is injected.

One of the intriguing elements to Read's show is the idea that his next won't be exactly the same material. The ease at which he could transpose one sketch for another for one, but also because of the interactive portions differing with each audience.

This is a show not to be missed and one that will have you talking about for ages after. The last few dates of Read's current run are below but I also recommend checking out his websites:

http://www.howardread.com and http://www.littlehoward.co.uk

He also does a children's show with Little Howard which, I would hope, is slightly toned down but could imagine the kids loving it.

13th July 2006, 8pm, The Brewhouse, Taunton, www.thebrewhouse.net
15th July 2006, 7pm, The Liverpool Comedy Festival, http://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk
6th August 2006, The Frog And Bucket, Manchester, www.frogandbucket.com
8th August 2006, Cardiff Millenium Centre, www.wmc.org.uk
8th October 2006, South Street Arts Centre, Reading, www.readingarts.com

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