‘To Brand or not to Brand?’, this was the question I had asked myself after having found out that the famous British comedian would be coming to town as part of the Swiss leg of his ‘Messiah Complex’ tour.
Although I am not familiar with his répertoire, I had seen a couple of minutes of him on telly when I was in London 5 years ago and, more importantly, I had stumbled across his famous article in the New Statesman (‘Russell Brand on revolution: “We no longer have the luxury of tradition” But before we change the world, we need to change the way we think’) early in November of last year.
When I came across the poster shown above (an allusion to a famous photo of Che Guevara) advertising the date of his show in Lausanne, this prompted me to find out a little more about him as I had only scrolled through the New Statesman article. I already knew about his ‘contrarian’ diet (he is a vegan, which is definitely a plus in my eyes) and that his humour relied heavily on bawdiness – a trait quite common to British humour since at least Shakespeare (maybe as far back as Chaucer, although I cannot recollect any specific instance in the Canterbury Tales right now), but one that can nevertheless be a little irritating to Continentals when it borders on grossness.
A few searches on vimeo/DailyMotion/YouTube yielded some interesting TV footage. I was enthralled by his performance during ‘Morning Joe MSNBC’ on 17 June 2013 as well as by his interview with Jeremy Paxman, the political commentator of BBC Newsnight, a few months later:
However, I also came across some commercials he had shot for HP (http://vimeo.com/36582677; http://vimeo.com/81344382), surely a company which looks very much like the corporations he has ranted about. In addition, in the interview he gave to Mehdi Hasan in November he criticised the retailer Philip Green for tax avoidance, only to be reminded by a member of the audience in the next question that he had been to one of Green’s parties (53 minutes into the interview).
Of course, the suspicion that Russell Brand might be guilty of duplicity and that the whole thing might simply be a huge publicity stunt on his part (some kind of personal ‘branding’ as an anarcho-populist) crossed my mind, but I dismissed it as his outbursts in the Paxman interview seemed too genuine to me to have been possibly faked. In short, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, even despite his past employment as a presenter at MTV (which Brand himself has described as ‘perhaps the planet’s most obvious purveyor of neurodross and pop-cultural claptrap’ – New Statesman article).
In part because of the price (80 Swiss francs, even if this is the kind of price one pays for concerts around here), in part because I had expected his show to take place next week and my mind earlier this week was still quite focused on the aftermath of Sunday’s vote here in Switzerland (more in a forthcoming post), I delayed checking the date again until a couple of hours ago, only to find that it was too late as the Lausanne and final leg of his Swiss ‘Messiah Complex’ mini-tour took place three days ago. So no more for me the opportunity to ask myself whether ‘to Brand or not to Brand’ (unless I am prepared to go to Vienna or to England) … In consolation, a clip on the subject of immigrants (‘Keep still on the rock’), an issue which has become highly topical in Europe:
Post scriptum (19 Feb): apparently, the show was cancelled for ‘personal reasons’: « Russell Brand annule son show à Lausanne », Le Matin, 12 February
- ‘Russell Brand takes on the crisis of civilisation. But what now?’, Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian, 25 October 2013
- ‘Could Russell Brand stop clowning around and be Britain’s Beppe Grillo?’, Christopher Goodfellow, The Guardian, 25 October 2013
- ‘The Philosophy of Russell Brand’, BBC, 30 minutes, broadcast on 3 February 2014
- Russell Brand at the Cambridge Union, 13 January 2014; ‘Russell milks his brand ruthlessly’, Jenny McCartney, Telegraph, 18 January 2014