The British comedian Russell Brand is far from being definable; you either love him or hate him. This write-up has more…
Russell Brand is one of those comedians who polarizes people. Actor Andrew Sachs best known for his role in the British television series Fawlty Towers, was Brand’s target, having received prank voicemail messages from Brand about his granddaughter. Brand resigned from BBC Radio because of complaints about the prank calls, and an investigation resulted. Rod Stewart, The Jonas Brothers, and the Northampton police have all felt the burning brand of Brand at one time or another.
Brand, a Sony Radio Award winner, is one of those comedians who likes to experiment just on the outer limit of what is acceptable by the general public. Most of his fans are young people, and they find his routines and antics hilarious. They seem to be entranced by the public persona he has created for himself, not only the funny lines he delivers in his stand-up routines. Dr. Oliver Double, who lectures in stand-up comedy at Kent University, says that few people are ambivalent about Brand. “He has a Marmite effect, you either love him or you hate him,” Double says.
Other comedians say that what makes Brand unique in the industry are his vocabulary and use of language, and his idiosyncratic mannerisms. His speech is extraordinarily lavish and articulated, and he dresses in flowing scarves, necklaces, and black eyeliner. He wrote an autobiography that sold over a million copies, and its title is a perfect example of Brand’s non-traditional playfulness: My Booky Wook.
“There’s something almost Dickensian about him,” says Double. “Language is a huge part of the texture of comedy and he uses it in a very interesting and individual way. He sounds incredibly old-fashioned and plays around with the tone, making it higher for camp effect. He’s almost created his own language.”
Brand’s style of comedy has been examined and discussed by many experts on comedy, most notably Jim Holt, author of Stop Me If You’ve Heard This, a History and Philosophy of Jokes. Holt says that Brand’s humor is based in one of the classic comedy theories―that people are amused by something that is completely unexpected. “He has an epicene or even slightly effeminate manner,” Holt says. “He is taking you down this garden path, you are building up all kinds of expectations, and suddenly at the end there is a weird twist. We make jokes about sex, death, and disturbing things because the whole point of humor is to take a threatening, disquieting something and by a clever twist make it okay.”
Brand’s notable quotes are part of what makes him fascinating:
“It would have been convenient to be gay. Just because of the grooming, the narcissism, stuff like that. But I have this kind of roaring heterosexuality. Traditional, uncomplicated heterosexuality, an almost clichéd Robin Askwith thing. People have always said, are you gay? I’ve had a lot of that. But it’s just not in me. I really like women a lot; I’m repulsed by men sexually.”
“In England, we have such good manners that if someone says something impolite, the police will get involved. Christian Bale, I believe whilst in a restaurant, rolled his eyes at the lighting. That is an offense punishable by five years in prison in the United Kingdom. I admire Christian Bale and I think he’s one of the greatest living actors on the planet currently, but we cannot shirk when it comes to good manners. If it’s true that he also dropped a napkin on his way to the lavatory, then I think that he should possibly receive the death penalty.”
Brand’s private life, and the way he brags about it, is perhaps better known than his comedy routines. His private life provides much of the material for his routines, but with so much attention being paid to him, there is a risk that people will quickly lose their fascination. “All comedians have an ego; it’s what makes them get on stage,” Double says. “But Russell Brand’s routines have become all about being Russell Brand and little else. He has become his only frame of reference and that’s just not interesting.”
Comic Ivor Dembina, another veteran comic, agrees. “Russell Brand’s been given so much exposure and is so feted he probably thinks he can say and do anything. This whole situation is a salutary reminder that comedy is of no value if it doesn’t take into account the vulnerability of others. If it doesn’t, it’s just bullying.”