Russell Brand

5 03 2009

At the start of the year I was asked to write an opinion piece on Russell Brand in the Telegraph. Here’s a reprint…

In Defence of Russell Brand

My first meeting with Russell Brand happened nearly a decade ago. One night I turned on my telly and glaring back at me was the rake thin, then lank-haired cockney talking to clubbers who were far from sober on MTV. I’ve always hated pill heads with a passion and to this day am mystified why anyone wants to go to a sweat-drenched disco and imbibe drugs that make you want to chew your own face off, so watching Russell take the mickey out of these characters won me over instantly.

            A few years afterwards, Brand was booted off MTV for baring little Russell to the masses and then coming to work dressed as Bin Laden the day after September 11. His sacking turned out to be one of the highlights of his career as he landed the gig of presenting Big Brother’s Eforum (which was later renamed Big Brother’s Big Mouth) and, coupled with a new wardrobe which made him look like a Dickensian dandy and an O-Zone layer be-damned hair-do that defies gravity, he finally infiltrated the masses.

            As I’ve mentioned before in 24/7, punk rock was my first love, so seeing the comedian slowly put the establishment’s noses out of joint just made me love him all the more. Russell’s brand of comedy is dirty, edgy, salacious and smart-arsed, but most of all it is laugh out loud funny. Hell, he even made the turgid, long past its sell by date Big Brother seem entertaining. I also love the fact that his carefully constructed image and mannerisms have made him one of the few iconic figures of the naughties. When people look back to this frankly p*ss-poor decade they’ll immediately be drawn to Russell and his ludicrous barnet first and foremost.

These days Brand is so on the money even the yanks have caught onto his style of comedy. Yeah, he basically portrayed a caricature of himself in his Hollywood hit Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but why fix what isn’t broke? Possibly my favourite Russell moment happened last year during the infamous Manuel-Gate saga though. As we all know Brand and Wossy made a few naughty phone-calls to former Faulty Towers star Andrew Sachs saying our Russ has had his way with the actor’s grand-daughter and though slightly tasteless, it wasn’t the end of the world in this writer’s opinion. What was most interesting was the aftermath of Manuel-Gate with the whole nation publicly dissecting his character. For a comedian with a new series of Ponderland airing that week on Channel Four, it was a stroke of genius and as his hero Oscar Wilde once wrote “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” Incidentally, when this writer was at the Download Festival last summer I found myself being chatted up by the one and only Georgina Bailie backstage too. Anyone got Manuel’s number?

Anyway, I digress. Russell Brand has helped define a decade. Men want to be him and women want to be with him and it’s about time that we have a comedian on TV who is genuinely dangerous and provocative instead of the countless stream of sanitised panellists clogging up our airwaves. As far as I’m concerned he can keep on offending the moral majority for as long as he likes. His hair does look daft though.


Edwin McFee