Comedian Russell Howard has revealed how he lived in fear of being beaten up after making jokes about the English Defence League.
The far right group’s supporters posted threats on the internet and protested outside one of his gigs after he made fun of them on his BBC3 show. He showed footage of an EDL march held in Blackburn, where it was reported that because they could not clash with anti-fascist opponents, they ended up fighting each other.
The comic said Russell Howard’s Good News show: “I imagine they were like ‘Oi Terry, You’ve given me a black eye. Now I hate my own eye!’ I wouldn’t be surprised if one of them started a fight with their own shadow. ‘Stop following me, you black b******’.”
A Facebook group sprung up after the programme, urging people to demonstrate outside the funnyman’s gig in Chorley, Lancashire, in May. The EDL also criticised his “three minute rant on how ‘thick’ we all are’, with one supporter adding: “We’re going to be loud and he’s going to know we’re there. Hopefully, next time he’ll think twice before opening his middle class mouth about things he knows nothing about.”
Other supporters used racist terms for Muslims and made threats against him.
Midland-based Russell says: “It was quite hairy. I am an absolute coward, and I admit that for a while I imagined that everyone coming near me was going to beat me up. I had a pretty tough month. Every time we filmed the Mystery Guest section of Good News, where we get someone on and I have to guess who they are, I thought it would be an EDL supporter who was going to hit me. But I think you have to stand by your jokes. They may have been cruel, but they were about people I believe are idiots.”
Russell’s pop at the EDL is unusual for him, as his comedy style is playful and good-natured. Though sitting opposite acerbic Frankie Boyle on Mock The Week made him appear even nicer. He does, however, defend a comic’s right to be cruel in their act.
“Everyone likes a good cruel joke,” insists the 31-year-old. “But you have to stay true to yourself. If you are going out of your way to be vicious, it will just have diminishing returns. Light and shade is good, rather than being unremittingly nasty.”
Russell lives in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire with his girlfriend Cerys and Jack Russell dog Archie. On December 14 he returns to Birmingham’s LG Arena at the NEC for another of his shows on his Right Here, Right Now tour. Russell moved to Leamington three years ago when Cerys was a medical student at Warwick University, and now she’s qualified as a doctor and working in the region, he expects to live here for at least another two years.
“I love it,” he says. “When I’m recording my TV show I stay in London, but then it’s so nice to come back home. When I’m in Leamington I’m not working. I just walk the dog, play five-a-side with my mates and hang out in the pub.”
Thanks to Zaahid for the heads-up