Russell Brand - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 12 Oct 2013
Messiah Complex is the comedian's most coherent, unashamedly intelligent show yet
There are two versions of Russell Brand in the public domain. There’s the brilliant, fast-witted comedian, and there's the tabloid caricature, a grotesque exaggeration of Brand's worst traits, and a paper-thin construct reduced to the adjectives 'randy comedian'. Unfortunately, for many, this image overshadows his genuine talent so the Essex dandy is perfectly positioned here to comment on the idea of false idols and the myth of celebrity.
By way of introduction, there's a short film distilling evolution into two minutes and positioning Brand as the pinnacle of creation just as he enters stage right to Depeche Mode's 'Personal Jesus' blaring from the speakers. It's this sort of grandiose posturing that fuels his haters but if you're actually paying attention you'll realise it's self-mocking theatre, with Brand amplifying his ego for comic effect.
For his aptly-named Messiah Complex tour he compares himself to great cultural figures: Gandhi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Jesus (with a dash of Hitler). The concept may seem overtly vain but Brand perfectly balances self-aggrandising with self-deprecation. The thrust of the show is actually humanising these icons, exposing how history is retold and examining the human condition while revelling in its absurdities and hypocrisies.
It's deliberately near the knuckle but also incredibly smart. While the likes of Michael McIntyre and Peter Kay dance and jig for their laughs, Brand quotes Nietzsche, and discusses politics and religion. However, it never feels condescending and seamlessly segues into smutty sex gags and surreal flights of fancy. Stepping away from the gossip pages, this is probably Brand's most coherent show yet, effortlessly delivering a solid 90 minutes of unashamedly intelligent comedy.