Posted by: martinworster | April 19, 2012

136. RUSSELL BRAND’S LA DRESS REHEARSAL

I was lucky enough to get tickets for a recent Russell Brand ‘show’ (Sunday April 15th 2012) at the Comedysportz venue in Hollywood. Prior to the show, as announced on Twitter, we didn’t know what it would actually be. Stand up? Unlikely, Russell’s a Hollywood star now and doesn’t really need to cut it on the stand up circuit. A bohemian, Libertine Bacchanal? Hmmm. A rehearsal for something?

Alas, it turned out to be the latter. Russell was ‘rehearsing’ for his new chat show ‘Strangely Uplifting’ which debuts on the FX channel on June 28th. It’s billed as a topical chat show with audience participation. I can’t wait.

Russell took to the stage 40 minutes late, citing a headache and not figuring in travel time to the venue in his schedule. Immediately he was his energetic, magnetic and hilarious self. He looked very toned and lithe, obviously succumbing to regular yoga, meditation, a healthy diet and exercise as part of the overall Californication process of living on the West Coast. He had on the trademark skinny jeans, sharp pointed boots, tight t shirt and Messianic long hair and beard.

The main topic of debate was the role the media plays in generating fear in the population, especially with regards to terrorism. Is the threat of terrorism in our lives inflated? What’s the point of all the rituals – taking of shoes for security, no liquids etc – when it comes to airline travel? Do they really make travel safer for us? The overall climate of fear that exists with regards to terrorism is – to a degree – a narrative to fuel the media industry (and swell the military and arms industries). In the US 85 people a day are killed by gun crime – so statistically the chance of getting shot are far greater than being a victim of ‘terrorism’. Humanity has always had existential – cold war nuclear apocalypse, religious armageddon, Communism etc – threats hanging over it. In a way it validates our existence if we live in fear of an ‘other’. If only the mainstream media could convey the most serious threat to humanity’s existence – the environment – to the world so more decisive action could be taken.

Of course, for a heavy subject Russell finds the perfect pitch of humour and manic energy. His internal editing system is dysfunctional so he says what he thinks very quickly – yet with intelligence, eloquence and humour. He’s a funny guy. There’s also the trademark schticks – sizing up attractive female audience members as post show sexual partners. The slightly simplistic and reductive sixth form common room philosophy he applies to big picture things like capitalism and other elegantly spun conspiracy theories. Late 60s counter culture ‘the man’s out to get us man’ type rationale. Lots of talk of the revolution. How do you propose your new Utopia will actually work Russell? But instead of being irritated by a certain childishness in what he says, I find myself swept up by his enthusiasm and self conviction.

Russell’s a great people person. He can really connect with his live audience. Moving through the theatre he sat on the laps of various audience members as he chatted and joked, much like his intimate style on the ‘Big Brother’ show he hosted in the early noughties in the UK. He’s clever at cutting through societies hang ups. Whether it’s religious morality, sexual politics or culture short circuits, he slices through the nonsense to honestly project what you were thinking but too shy to say. Russell it’s been a long time and I’m glad you’ll be gracing our screens very soon. You’re a good actor but you seem more in your element reacting in a spontaneous setting such as this. Get ready USA.

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