Saturday, February 09, 2008

Right On, Russell

"...........we live in a consumer capitalist society, look out your window - that's consumer capitalism out there, as far as the eye can see. If it annoys you then we'll have to have a revolution, which I'm well up for. It doesn't matter if Hillary wins or Obama or McCain so let's stop getting excited about people's genitals, pigmentation and age; they are all tools of the consumer capitalist system that we tolerate and endorse with our apathy.
It will only get worse, they will always want more money, it's the nature of the beast, except it's not a beast, it's a machine, a machine designed to take our money and shut our mouths. The other day I was offered a million quid to do a car commercial, I turned it down because I know that once you take that money they own you.
One could argue that by working for this paper or British TV or companies like Universal I'm already compromised and that's indubitably true. But this is the context we all live in and presently fundamentalism is beyond me. The possibility for change however is perpetual........."
- Russell Brand, Guardian (,,2255089,00.html)

Yes, I like Russell. If you don't, stop here. There'll be another post along soon.
I first saw him in the last Secret Policeman's Ball gig and he was the funniest person on the bill. Then I enjoyed his Big Brother companion programme where his interaction with the audience was like Barrymore taken to an extreme. Before I could shout "Shut up, you mad bitch!" at a woman in the audience, Brand would scream those exact words into her face. Yet with a complete abscence of malice. Sitting on someone's lap and clearly bored by what they were saying he would interrupt with "Are you a young lesbian?" or "Are you a gay gentleman?" He used to open the programme with a monologue of staggering obscenity but which was full of the most eclectic mix of literary and historical references that must have been lost on a large portion of the audience.

It would be impossible for me not to like someone with such a passion for language. He sometimes uses words incorrectly and, as you'll see from the quote above, his Guardian football articles show that, like many people today, he doesn't know the difference between a comma and a full stop. There's also that Scottish use of 'presently' in the quote above, which is odd for an Essex boy.

In a recent interview with Dawn French, he said that he deliberately avoids the artificial delivery of most TV presenters and tries to talk as people do in everyday life. This endeared me to him even more, although I suppose it's slightly undermined by the actual content of his speech which has been compared to that of an eighteenth century fop.
On his recent visit to Britain, Chris Rock singled out Russell Brand as one of the best British comics. After that endorsement, he could probably retire now, a happy man. And his early autobiography went straight to the top of the bestseller list.

The colossal sales of his book, on top of his TV earnings, have to be taken into account when we evaluate that revelation that he has just turned down a million quid for a car commercial. I suppose you could argue that the damage to Brand's 'brand' would be more than a million quid if he did do a commercial. Yet I still find it admirable and he anticipated any cynicism by accepting that he's already 'compromised' and not yet ready for a fundamentalist rejection of capitalism. How many of us are? But how many of us, in his shoes, would turn down a million quid for a 30 second commercial?
Laurence Olivier refused to do commercials in Britain because of the possible damage to his image but then sneaked off to America and did some there. In a less connected world, few people in Britain ever knew about it.
The fact that someone can well afford not to do commercials rarely seems to stop them doing so. Don't you feel a little less respect for Victoria Wood and Julie Walters now that they have taken a large wad from WalMart Asda?
So respect, Russell.

Finally, I mentioned recently that wonderful image of Russell shaking hands with the Queen after the Royal Variety Show. He has since done a very funny piece on TV about that encounter and how he had this powerful urge to do something shockingly inappropriate like grabbing her left tit. We all have those kind of urges, though seldom in relation to the monarch.
My father once spoke in rather too familiar terms to the Queen Mother at a function. I only discovered recently that one of her officials came up to him afterwards and told him off, saying he shouldn't have spoken to her in such a way. My father had done no more than compliment the gin-sodden old bag on her appearance, a piece of flattery that surely merited at least an OBE. Instead of which, the self-important old trout wagged her finger at him and he got a bollocking from some jumped-up courtier. If he'd succumbed to an urge like Russell Brand's, he'd probably have been taken off to the Tower.


At 7:24 PM, Blogger Geoff said...

He's won me over the last year or so - his Guardian column is the best football writing around.

He supports the right club, too.

At 8:27 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Interesting to hear that, Geoff, from someone who probably knows more about football than me.
And Germaine Greer hates him, so that's another point in his favour.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger cello said...

I adore Russell Brand despite many reasons not too (quite apart from the ad thing). He shouts a bit too much, frankly.

But he is very thoughtful and intelligent and the sheer baroque excess of his language is extremely original.

And he can improvise fantastically. I saw him host the Channel of the Year Awards at the Edinburgh TV Festival, where he was in front of all the people who could make or break his career. He obviously didn't give a stuff what they thought of him. I see him as a latter-day Lord Rochester; someone out him in a filthy Resoration drama now!

At 5:03 PM, Blogger cello said...

2 typos there, Willie. Apologies.

At 7:56 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello: he sometimes shocks me. Not the material itself because I'm pretty unshockable but the fact he can do it on TV. That's because, like you, I grew up in a time of extreme censorship on television.
Actually, I think he shocks himself sometimes, as in a recent show where his mother was in the audience. But 'not giving a stuff' is one of the secrets of a happy life. The young are often more miserable than the old because they care what people think.

'Baroque excess' is the phrase that eluded me when I wrote that.

Don't apologise for typos. It takes me nearly as long correcting posts as writing them now and still the typos slip through. And I'm paronoid about such things.

At 7:35 PM, Blogger Lettuce Hater said...

i'm only a recent brand convert

saw him on jonathon woss late last year and thought he was a scream

i love that edginess in anyone interviewing him because they have no idea which way the discussion is going to lead

p.s. welcome back (belatedly!) to blogland

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thanks. He went on a wider range of programmes to promote his book and you could sense the anxiety of the interviewers. But he behaved impeccably.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger mike said...

Blimey, I didn't realised Russell thought that way. I liked him already, and now I find that I like him a little bit more.


Post a Comment

<< Home