Drawing: Russell Howard

Autographed drawing of comedian Russell Howard

One of the many absorbing things about living in London is that you frequently see well-known people, often referred to as celebrities in mainstream media or ‘targets’ in the tabloids, walking amongst us mere mortals, on the tube or shopping, going about their not-so-well-known business. In general I don’t bother them and visa-versa.

I might occasionally say ‘hi’ or even sometimes, if they are currently in theatre, a complementary comment. Sharpie stalking siggy requests are to be avoided. A few years back, Geoffrey Rush, was walking towards a restaurant and declined one such request from a fan, saying he was not ‘working’ and it was ‘his time’, but would be happy to oblige at the Premiere (THE KING’S SPEECH) the next day. Fair enough. These days the selfie has replaced the siggy, but the principle’s the same. It’s important to acknowledge private and public time.

However on Saturday, one of my favourite comics, Russell Howard, was standing beside me at the traffic lights opposite the Palace Theatre on Charing Cross Road. Last year, I had drawn a sketch of Russell, one of the best selling acts in British stand-up, when he smashed the record for consecutive performances at the Royal Albert Hall, with ten, beating previous holders Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. He returned to the venue in January this year to host AN EVENING OF COMEDY for the Teenage Cancer Trust, where I had hoped to get my rendering signed, but I missed the opportunity. As luck and a certain trace from my all-too-brief experience as a boy scout would have it, the sketch was still in my folder.

He was heading to the Soho Theatre to see fellow comedian Andy Zaltzman. Same – two things I had in common with, as Time Out called him, a ‘comedy superstar.’ Firstly I thought I had better make sure it was actually him-lot of doppelgängers in these here parts.

“Russell?”.

He confirmed. Then I showed him the sketch-not a usual balmy Saturday evening occurrence, even for a comedy superstar, but he was genuinely, I like to think surprised rather than shocked, followed by low status expletives and was happy to sign it before the little green man flashed and it was time to cross the road.

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