Russell Howard filming New Zealand tour travelogue for Sky

ExclusiveMonday 25th January 2021, 12:01am by Jay Richardson

Russell Howard: Recalibrate. Russell Howard. Copyright: Avalon Television

Russell Howard is making an Antipodean travelogue for Sky, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

With the working title Russell Howard's Back To The Future Stand Up Show, the Sky One mini-series is following the comic as he becomes the first Northern hemisphere act to play New Zealand this year, performing his Respite show.

Howard will explore the country between gigs for the three one-hour episodes, meeting locals and experiencing quintessentially Kiwi activities before travelling to Australia in July. There's also a chance of him making his US dates in May, coronavirus guidelines permitting.

The comic has speculated that the tour series was a factor in him being allowed to enter New Zealand, which has recorded only 25 coronavirus deaths and none since September, having closed its borders to all travellers unless there is a "critical purpose" for the visit, approved by the government.

Last week Gray Bartlett, vice-president of New Zealand's Promoters Association, publicly questioned why some international touring acts were being allowed into the country and others not, calling it a "game of favourites".

Asked directly about Bartlett's comments on New Zealand's Magic Talk radio last week, Howard, who was isolating in an Auckland hotel for a fortnight, explained that "all the guys that we're working with [on the travelogue] are local, like a New Zealand director, a New Zealand production team and all that."

He pointed out that his Kiwi dates had been booked since July and were sold out. "We weren't going 'where can we do gigs?''" he added, emphasising the many theatre and production staff the tour would be employing and venturing that the television show contributed to the government's decision, saying "I've no idea but I imagine it all comes down to economics".

The Back To The Future Stand Up Show is being made by Howard's management company Avalon for Sky, who confirmed last month that a fifth series of The Russell Howard Hour will broadcast later this year, with a sixth series to follow.

The travelogue was commissioned by Zai Bennett, managing director of content at Sky and Phil Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts and entertainment at Sky. Shirley Jones is the commissioning editor and the executive producers are James Taylor, Jamie Isaacs and Jay Taylor.

Howard previously made the travel series Russell Howard & Mum for Comedy Central with his mother Ninette, visiting the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam over four series from 2016.

The Russell Howard Hour is one of Sky One's most highly rated shows, largely thanks to catch-up viewing. And it has amassed more than 400 million views on social media, with each episode also shared on Howard's YouTube channel.

Russell Howard's Back To The Future Stand Up Show is expected to air on Sky One and NOW TV this summer.

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