Opinion: The return of Russell Brand
Russell Brand might have a big opinion of himself, but for once, such hype can be believed
When Reginald D Hunter got into some hot bother at a PFA ceremony earlier this year for being himself, it was hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for those who had stuck a mic in his hand and a wad of cash in his pocket. And when Russell Brand was frogmarched out of the GQ Awards party in early September after hurling some pretty swingeing satire towards the event’s sponsors, you have to wonder just how people expect comedians to act in public.
In the main, stand-ups represent the underdog and do so by punching up the way at those in power or at authorities who wield undue influence. Little wonder then that Russell Brand was chucked out of school for not playing ball, just as he was thrown out of the Gilded Balloon at an early stage of his career while high on something, fired from MTV after dressing up as Osama bin Laden on 9/12 and exeunted stage left from the BBC after leaving a daft message on a pensioner’s answer machine.
Brand is one of those rare beasts: a thoroughly excellent stand-up comedian who is better known for just about everything and anything other than that which he is actually best at. Yes, Stewart Lee has had a right old dig at him from time to time (but which member of his own profession hasn’t Mr Bridget Christie mocked by now?) but the comedy fraternity generally speaks in admiring tones about the comic whose daring and passion are his modus operandi.
Wil Hodgson, for one, believed that Brand had the potential to be the new Bill Hicks, should he wish to take on that challenge. If such a statement seems a little overblown, it’s worth bearing in mind that while Hicks was renowned for his political comedy and social commentary, he certainly wasn’t beneath putting on a silly voice, pulling a funny face or dancing around his stage like a demented little kid.
And with Brand’s new touring show Messiah Complex, there appears to be some crossover in raw material as he aims to discuss the power of mythology, the terror of fame and the way certain icons are denigrated during their lives while their legacies are deliberately warped after their deaths: namely Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Gandhi and Jesus. It sounds very bold, but the fiercely meditative Brand is more than capable of pulling off a show with such lofty ambitions.
Of course, not everything he has done in the last decade has been a triumph: he doesn’t even have his crack habit to blame for that dragged-through-a-hedge-backwards-then-sideways-then-backwards-again hairdo circa 2007. But his seemingly brazen attitude towards his own flaws, the unequivocal love of wordsmithery and the passion for his art are exciting to witness in the flesh.
Forget the endless talk shows or the bantering with Paxman and baiting of the Loose Women, Russell Brand just wants to be up there on his stage, exploring big ideas and pushing himself to ever greater heights. Bill Hicks spoke of life being just a ride. With Russell Brand at the wheel, it becomes a magical mystery tour.