“Thank you for coming to see me in a medium in which I’m still allowed to flourish,” Brand greets the packed O2 arena. Having been sacked from XFM and MTV, and forced to resign from the BBC following “that phone” he may well be right. This gig is Brand’s right to reply, his chance to justify himself and vilify his attackers, which is exactly what he proceeds to do.
As the title ‘Scandalous’ suggests, much of the material in this show focuses on the various media storms Brand has generated with his unending knack for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Aside from the Sachs debacle, Brand recently managed to upset most of America during his stint hosting the MTV Awards. He received a series of death threats after this, but never one to miss an opportunity, Brand turns this into source material for his stand-up. He’s nothing if not resourceful.
While Brand doesn’t exactly come up smelling of roses, his Scandalous show does emphasise the absurd level of hostility he faces from the Daily Mail army. His underdog status is part of his appeal, as he’s well aware.
Brand’s humour cannot be termed ‘observational’ because he doesn’t observe anything beyond the end of his own nose, or penis, more aptly. This is the Russell Brand show where Russell Brand talks about Russell Brand, so if you’re not already a fan, don’t bother. He’s unapologetically preaching to the converted.
The female ratio in the audience is high; Brand is very much a rock star comedian, met by hysterical screaming and bra grenades when he appears on stage. He laps it up, naturally. Brand’s narcissism knows no bounds. The thing that prevents Russell Brand from being intolerable is that he draws much of his humour from laughing at himself. He’s also well aware of the perks and pitfalls of fame, and though he clearly thrives on it, he realises how ridiculous it is, commenting at one point, “Without fame, this haircut just looks like mental illness.”
One of Brand’s great strengths as a comedian is his ability to draw from both the high and lowbrow ends of the comedy spectrum. He can effortlessly shift from discussing Internet porn to Lewis Carroll within seconds. Occasionally, Brand loses the audience as he digresses into his hammy half-baked philosophy of truth and beauty. The audience don’t care. They just want to hear gags or filthy gossip, preferably both, and luckily, Brand is short of neither.
The O2 gig was filmed before Michael Jackson’s death, so Brand’s Jackson jokes take on a new potency on the DVD. Controversy seems to cling to Brand as tightly as his black trousers, so, no doubt, his Jackson comments will raise a few eyebrows. But members of Team Brand stick with him no matter what and those who don’t like him relish any opportunity to give him a good tabloid bashing. This DVD will only serve to enforce his status as a Marmite comedian.
Russell Brand: Scandalous is out now.