Russell Brand is all about stand-up rebellionWritten by Jeff McGinnis | | email@example.com
Russell Brand came on the phone, his voice filled with excitement and enthusiasm. It was a remarkable level of fire from a man who, by all rights, should have been exhausted.
It was Nov. 16, and Brand had just arrived in Michigan after a 5:45 a.m. flight out of California. It was the middle of the afternoon, and he was doing the traditional round of media interviews before his stand-up performance at Eastern Michigan University in just a few hours time. Then? No rest for the wicked — it would be off to the airport again, for a stop in Virginia the next day.
And yet, in his interview with Toledo Free Press Star, Brand sounded full of joy. “Yeah! I’ve never been to Detroit before, and I like it. I’m an Eminem fan, I like D12, the whole place is making me so very, very optimistic, and as an Englishman, I’m right in the rhythm of [this] magnificent city.”
The appearance at Eastern Michigan was the first in a mini-tour of four Midwest colleges in four days, an idea that Brand said he embraced the first time it was presented to him.
“I’m really interested in the American college life, I only really know it from films,” Brand said. “I never went to university in my country. And it just seems kinda exciting when you see it in films and stuff like that, particularly films like ‘Girls Gone Wild.’ And ‘Girls Gone Wild 2.’”
This garnered Brand a laugh, one of many during the course of the interview. It’s the kind of reaction he loves to get — it’s one of the main reasons why the veteran comic still loves to perform, even as his star rises in Hollywood.
“It’s like nothing else,” Brand said. “It’s like you’re directly in communication with an audience. It’s really nice to directly talk to people, and hopefully get them laughing and to create chaos. I love that.”
Of course, there are challenges now that his name and face are becoming more and more known outside his native Britain. Brand noted the challenges in performing for an American audience as opposed to those across the pond.
“Well, there is some difference. In England, you forget that as a kid growing up, we’ve got all the same TV programs and the rest, and you understand the culture inherently.
“Here, I have to learn about things. But that process of learning about things can be pretty funny, as well — the audience has to inform me of what’s going on, let me know if I’m making capital mistakes,” Brand said.
Of course, Brand doesn’t have to look far for help on those cultural differences, considering his famous marriage to pop star Katy Perry. And he continuously is raising his profile with American fans via a string of movies, books and other appearances — though Brand insists the main goal of all his other work is to draw attention to his stand-up performances.
“Stand-up, I think it’s always stand-up, because it’s very direct. When you write a book, it’s ages until anyone reads it and you get anything back. Same with making a movie. Stand-up, you’re there with people. And all you really wanna do is make people laugh and make people happy. That’s the best way of doing that,” Brand said.
This isn’t to say that Brand isn’t proud of his other work though — his two “Booky Wook”s have been best-sellers, he’s had starring roles in films such as “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek” and the recent remake of “Arthur,” and next summer he’ll be part of an all-star ensemble with the release of the film version of the musical “Rock of Ages.”
“Being in your own vehicle is fun, because you sort of get, like, the power,” Brand said. “And working along with people is good, because it’s really interesting to sort of work with Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin and those kind of people — people I’ve watched in movies my whole life. So there’s different advantages to different things, if you’re in the right mood.”
Brand has also maintained steady contact with his fanbase through the Internet — his website, RussellBrand.tv, features a wide variety of tour updates and journal entries, and he has almost 3.5 million followers on Twitter.
“Well, you’ve got direct contact with people, wherever you are in the world. It’s like we’re only just now beginning to understand the possibilities for social media.
“Particularly when you think that the role that the media plays in sculpting and controlling the way that people think, it’s kind of a unique opportunity we have now to be really honest with each other. It’s pretty exciting,” Brand said.
Brand added that his act deliberately carries a genuine sense of rebelliousness — one he hopes his audience will, in some way, emulate after the show is over.
“I think I want people to know that they can get away with being really crazy and stupid, and having fun without consequence. And that it’s really possible to be really defiant and mischievous, and that you don’t have to do what you’re told.
“As long as you’ve got goodness in your heart, you can create all kinds of mayhem