"If I pull back this curtain you can see the rest of the venue. It's massive, and at the end of it there's a big picture of Lee Evans." So went Russell Howard's self-deprecating take on a concertinaed Wembley Arena and previous comics who filled the full version. Nevertheless, the gig rounds off a sold-out 70-date tour that has included a number of nights like this where Howard's audience has topped 3,500.
The Mock the Week star has joined the big league. In the four years that have followed his Fringe debut, Howard's act was starting to mirror his career; the rush of ideas was almost running away with him. Happily Dingledodies (the show is named after the colourful characters in Jack Kerouac's On the Road) sees the 28-year-old on great form.
Howard's stock-in-trade is lunacy and his effusive celebration of it. "I feel like an eight-year-old girl putting a play on in front of her dolls – or so I imagine," he says of performing his stories. The characters in his playlets include old ladies who throw discarded drinks cans back into the cars of the miscreant youths from whence they came, irate men who verbally abuse inanimate objects such as parking meters, and enthusiastic friends who go overboard on pranks at parties.
Coyly, and paradoxically for a star of a topical TV show, Howard says he doesn't know much about politics. He veers from left to right, but his central plank is that we moan too much. In a way reminiscent of Robin Williams, Howard portrays his characters with exaggerated voices and an almost manic energy. Occasionally the voices border on a cacophony, and he straddles the line between confidence and arrogance – but he carries it off, much to the delight of his young audience.