I only just discovered the English rock star of comedians, Russell Brand, a few weeks ago when a friend of mine told me about his Live From New York City stand-up special which aired on The Comedy Network on Saturday, March 14, 2009. I caught a portion of the show near its end and was immediately transfixed by this Byronesque rapscallion! I immediately started watching his stand-up routines on YouTube as well as every interview with him that I could find and couldn’t help but fall for the sexy and hilariously naughty man-child who has made me laugh out loud with his razor sharp wit almost every day since. He is, however, such a controversial celebrity that when I posted a link to a YouTube video about him on my Facebook page, one of my “friends” who is a children’s author, left an insulting comment on my wall that went like this:
Him: You just discovered the guy that was spewing disrespect towards America and has no values? Kudos to you. Hope you don’t have children.
Me: No, I don’t have children, but I actually think the guy is funny.
Him: ah…small blessings.
He proceeded to delete me as a friend! When I wrote him a private email to tell him that I didn’t think it was very nice of him to insult me publicly and to apologize if I offended him, he replied with: “It’s always a risk one runs when they hold one up to praise and that someone is one that unabashedly demeans and insults others. I will not shrink in my loathing of such a man or anyone that would praise him in my face. Yea…might as well talk up Hitler’s finer qualities next.”
I’m here to tell you that the Essex born Russell Edward Brand – an extremely talented, remarkably intelligent, well-read, narcissistic, bipolar, vegetarian, yoga practicing, single, 33-year-old who has been sober for six years – only wants to make people laugh and exudes an earnest desire to love the world. He is certainly NO Hitler!
This obviously very conservative right winger was referring to the incident last year when Russell hosted the MTV VMA Awards and referred to President George W. Bush as an “idiot cowboy fella.” The self-admitted drugs and sex addict also made fun of The Jonas Brothers for wearing chastity rings, all in the name of COMEDY, which is his JOB. I, personally, am not offended by his comments as I understand the context in which they were made having just done so much research about him, including reading his autobiography, My Booky Wook, released in North America this March.
Russell Brand is an amusing, charming and brutally honest young man who obviously loves language and can’t help but show off his vast vocabulary (I learned what “impecunious” and “autodidact” meant by reading his book) and penchant for colourful adjectives. He came from a broken home and while his mother battled cancer three times and was often unable to look out for him during his childhood, he spent a great deal of time staying with his Nan or his playboy photographer father. Ron Brand irresponsibly left his pornography collection lying around the house for a very young and impressionable Russell to find when he should have been watching re-runs of H.R. Pufnstuf.
Brand grew up watching Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, which he correctly credits with comedic brilliance, and he talks about how Vic Reeves Big Night Out, a comedy show on BBC4 in the early 90’s was, “…funny and charming and specific in its language and its references. It taught me that you should never pick the first word people would think of, you have to train your mind to sift through the obvious stuff until you come to something that’s really funny.” Russell has learned this technique inside and out and has turned it into a fine art.
My Booky Wook takes Russell’s readers through his early childhood (born June 4, 1975), school years (he was kicked out of every one he went to including The Drama Centre), influential friendships and intense relationship with drugs, alcohol and sex addiction. He freely admits to some abominable behavior – some of which is revisited in the book – believes in instant karma, and while he could definitely benefit from years of psychotherapy, he feels remorse for his actions and is still seeking redemption. Russell is a study in ambivalence: equal parts vain egomaniac and introspective, deeply compassionate seeker of Spirit. There is a sweetness and light about this man that is as incredibly intoxicating as a breath of fresh air outside an abattoir.
What it [heroin] mainly does is take you right out of reality, and plant you somewhere more manageable. In short, it contextualizes everything else as meaningless…All of us, I think, have a vague idea that we’re missing something. Some say that thing is God; that all the longing we feel – be it for a lover, or a football team, or a drug – is merely an inappropriate substitute for the longing we’re supposed to feel for God, for oneness, for truth. And what heroin does really successfully is objectify that need.
My Booky Wook is a fascinating read about a beguiling person but it ends in 2005 and since then, Russell Brand has become even more famous as he’s toured in Great Britain, the US and Australia with his stand-up act and started acting in Hollywood movies. Russell, who has described himself as resembling an S&M Willy Wonka, has appeared in the movies St. Trinian’s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bedtime Stories and will appear in Julie Taymor’s version of The Tempest and Get Him To The Greek in which he reprises his Forgetting Sarah Marshall role as rock star Aldous Snow. It is very safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of this man and that subsequent volumes of his autobiography will likely be written in future.
However, just so you know for now, Russell writes a weekly sport column for The Guardian newspaper in London and he became famous in the UK for presenting a Big Brother spin-off called Big Brother’s Big Mouth (after years of mad cable television antics while he was whacked out of his mind on heroin), as well as hosting his own radio program on the BBC. He resigned from that job late last year after a certain inappropriate prank call with Jonathan Ross to Andrew Sachs was aired. Depictions of his controversial behavior can be found all over the Internet.
Russell often seems to forget about editing himself before he speaks (which is what lands him in so much hot water with the media) but, whether you love him or hate him, My Booky Wook confirms that he’s never, ever boring. Whether it be on Russell Brand TV, Twitter, in the tabloids or his next book, I can’t wait to read what he has to say next!
For a clip of Russell Brand in Live From New York City, click here: