What’s your favourite on-the-road moment?
Visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, which is a sort of ethical, sustainable spa for formerly mistreated elephants (full-day visit from £44, elephantjunglesanctuary.com), with my mum, Ninette. We wore traditional Karen tribal clothing and spent the day massaging elephants and feeding bananas to the baby ones. You help rub mud into their skin before getting into the river with them to wash it all off while they play and splash you – their ears flap with enjoyment as you massage them. It’s truly one of the most joyous things I’ve ever done.
What’s your favourite city?
Sydney’s a great city – I played the Sydney Opera House then went for a long walk on Bondi Beach and it was a real pinch-myself moment. I couldn’t believe little old me had ended up where I had. I’m very good at being on the beach because my life is hectic, so a day on Bondi is bliss. But I’ve also walked over the Harbour Bridge, which is much more adrenaline-filled. Sydney has some incredible restaurants – if I had to single one out, it would be Longrain in Surry Hills, which serves delicious South East Asian food that’s made for sharing (mains approx £18.60,longrain.com/sydney).
What keeps you sane on the road?
My tour manager, Kumar Kamalagharan. No one really ever talks about the role of the tour manager but they’re literally organising everything you could possibly need in multiple countries, and luckily mine is both brilliant and one of my best mates. I have some great footage of an entire audience during my Australian tour chanting ‘Ku-mar Kam-ala-gharan’ to the tune of The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army intro. An amazing moment.
When have you been most frightened while travelling?
My brother’s appendix burst in Dubai, which was very scary – we didn’t have travel insurance and it cost me a great deal of money to ensure he didn’t die. He maintains that his guts ruptured because he read an incredibly funny scene in Viz magazine but actually we were playing a game we call ‘flinchoso’, which involves throwing a tennis ball at each other and attempting to dodge it. We’d been playing flinchoso for a good four hours when he started complaining of severe tummy ache and the doctor admitted him straight to hospital, where he stayed for three days – he left with a DVD of the operation and I left with a huge bill.
What has been your most life-changing experience while travelling?
I’ve never seen poverty like I saw in Mumbai – proper abandoned-babies-sleeping-near-dying-dogs stuff. It made me realise how lucky we are to have been born into a relatively lofty place by complete chance.
What’s the worst meal you’ve had abroad?
Traditional Vietnamese insects in Hanoi. But they weren’t just insects, they were big bugs, worms and slugs too. I tried them all, so as not to offend our host, but they were all awful – crunchy, slimy, scaly – I felt like I was on I’m A Celebrity… but without any of the money.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night?
A haunted house in Savannah. We arrived in the pitch dark at 3am with a team of ghost hunters and their gadgets, which then started making beeping noises indicative of ghostly presences, when suddenly a brick hit the floor and I felt something run past me. I absolutely lost it and was convinced it had been a ghost, so even though I was 34 at the time I asked my mum to sleep in a bed with me. I found out the following morning that our sound guy had thrown the brick – he claimed the tension was so beautiful that he just had to. I respect him for doing it but I will get him back.
Where are you going next?
My UK tour starts in September and I can’t wait. The first one is in a brand new Aberdeen arena, so that’s cool, and I love gigging in Scotland – the last time I was in Glasgow, a fight broke out during the show and a woman down the front screamed at me, ‘Just carry on, love’, as two men beat each other up. After that, I’m off around the world and am really looking forward to South Africa and India as I’ve never gigged there before.
■ Russell Howard & Mum: Globetrotters is on Comedy Central on Wednesdays at 10pm. His world tour, Respite, starts in September, russell-howard.co.uk