Russell Brand * * *
at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Review by Simon Harper
Few stand-up comedians in recent years have captured public imagination in quite the same way as Russell Brand. People usually seem to be divided into two distinct camps, either loving or loathing the ubiquitous presenter and all-round media celebrity.
Ever since the pipecleaner-limbed dandy strutted into the mainstream, his image has become iconic; carefully dishevelled hair and jeans so improbably tight most doctors would consider them a health hazard.
With his urbane wordplay, Brand is gloriously witty, shambling from one observation to the next in completely random fashion, while sometimes becoming more of a rogue polemicist than a conventional comedian.
The show – if you can suspend disbelief for long enough to think that a raft of compelling, if completely unrelated, ideas can somehow hang together as a coherent performance – is part laugh-fest and part post-modern social critique.
Brand is undeniably an incredibly sharp and intelligent man, so it’s disappointing that he spends large chunks of the show discussing what is written about him in the press. He injects just enough self-deprecation to get away with it, but a lengthy dissection of a tabloid kiss and tell story seems unnecessarily arrogant.
Much of Brand’s repertoire is built on philosophies rather than gags, and it’s a hugely canny move when you consider how other comedians have mined similar themes. Sex, drugs, the media, a very healthy sense of cynicism and a continuous search for enlightenment – all these subjects find their way into Brand’s world view, and are highly reminiscent of the topics covered by Bill Hicks, although few would argue that Brand is as controversial, or funny, as the late, great Texan firebrand.
There’s still plenty of polishing to be done to his act, but through his combination of winning humour and sheer force of personality, Russell Brand is doing just fine.