Russell Howard: Writing a comedy drama was an 'absurd' idea (but it didn't stop me!)

(Image credit: BBC/Avalon/Pete Dadds)

Spending Christmas with the family can be a testing experience, but it’s perfect sitcom material for Russell Howard, writer and star of brand new BBC2 comedy A Gert Lush Christmas (‘Gert Lush’ being Bristolian slang for ‘brilliant’).

Howard makes his acting debut alongside his sister, Him & Her star Kerry, as well as Greg Davies, Neil Morrissey and Sophie Thompson.

The 35-year-old comedian plays Dan, who brings his girlfriend home to meet his exuberant parents and embarrassing siblings, including his sister, Julie, played by Kerry.

The Howards told TV & Satellite Week all about their own family traditions…

What can we expect from A Gert Lush Christmas?

"It’s very like Gavin & Stacey, that kind of heart-warming show."

Russell: "The idea of me writing a comedy drama seemed so absurd, but me and my mate Steve [his co-writer on BBC3’s Russell Howard’s Good News] thought, ‘Oh sod it, let’s try’. I wanted to write something about family and Christmas seemed a cool theme."

Did you enjoy working together?

"It sounds sickening, but we had a lovely time. I’d do it again."

Russell: "I wanted Kerry to be in it from the get-go and she gave me a lot of help. It’s an odd thing when you realise just how brilliant your little sister is."

This is Russell’s acting debut. Is he any good, Kerry?

"Yeah, I want him to do more. His natural trick is to improvise and that’s where he gets his comic flair, but I kept telling him to trust his script and commit to what he’d written, because it’s amazing. I don’t think anyone else would have had the balls to say that to him because he’s the boss."

Russell: "On the first day of filming, I walked past Kerry and clicked my fingers at her to make a cup of tea, which is a joke we do in our house. Sophie didn’t know that we were related so she spent the first two days just thinking I was really rude."

Is Kerry’s character, Julie, based on her?

"Julie is an amalgamation of loads of my cousins. They’re into spiritualism – we had a party at my house a few years ago and they had an exorcism because there was a bad man who lived in the hall."

Kerry: "They’re all really giddy about the show. They can’t wait to tell their friends the character is based on them – they’re fighting over it."

Russell: "Oddly, the closest character is Dan’s dad. My actual dad is really upset because he wanted someone ripped like Bruce Willis to play him, but it’s Neil Morrissey."

Kerry: "The mother character, played by Sophie Thompson, is definitely a love letter to our mum."

Did you consider letting your parents appear in the show?

"No, but I’m doing a travelogue with my mum for Comedy Central next year, so she will be on telly. She’s far more entertaining than I could be."

Kerry: "She’s losing her mind about it. She’s already working out whether she’s got time to do Loose Women."

Russell: "I’m slightly worried about what I’m going to unleash."

Kerry: "It’s like Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington."

Russell: "That’s how headlines start, Kerry – Mum will be walking around the house saying she’s Karl Pilkington now!"

Do you two get the chance to spend much time together?

"We regularly do Sunday brunch together; we love a brunch."

Russell: "We’re all going on holiday to Australia soon. It’s my dad’s 60th birthday so I’m taking everyone out there for a month."

What happens at a Howard family Christmas?

"We all play Balderdash and have a competition to buy the best presents. Russell’s unbeatable – one year I bought him a clock and he got me a car. My mum and dad have the clock now – he didn’t even like it."

Russell: "It was a really terrible clock!"


David Hollingsworth

David is the What To Watch Editor and has over 20 years of experience in television journalism. He is currently writing about the latest television and film news for What To Watch.

Before working for What To Watch, David spent many years on TV Times magazine, interviewing some of television's most famous stars including Hollywood actor Kiefer Sutherland, singer Lionel Richie and wildlife legend Sir David Attenborough. 

David started out as a writer on TV Times before becoming the title's deputy features editor and then features editor. During his time on TV Times, David also helped run the annual TV Times Awards. David is a huge Death in Paradise fan, although he's still failed to solve a case before the show's detective! He also loves James Bond and controversially thinks that Timothy Dalton was an excellent 007.

Other than watching and writing about telly, David loves playing cricket, going to the cinema, trying to improve his tennis and chasing about after his kids!