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Russell Brand on ‘Brand X’

The actor/comedian turned talk show host explains American politics. Turns out it’s "a pony sh***ing glitter."

Russell Brand’s new talk show “Brand X” finally premiered on FX earlier this summer. The Television Critics Association got a preview, basically a free standup show from Brand, when FX presented him to the TCA a few months ago.

We got to join the interview, and Brand has always been an articulate, sharp wit. From quick asides to lengthy tangents, Brand shared wisdom and spirituality, which we present to you.

 

Q: I've always admired how freely you speak.  Will you continue to speak freely on this show?

Russell Brand: What other way is there to speak?  This country is founded, nominally, on the notion of freedom of speech.  So I will continue to speak freely.  There is fortunately no impediment to absolute freedom of speech.  This is one of the cornerstones of your wonderful nation.

Q: When did you know you were famous in America, after being famous in the UK?

Russell Brand: I don't know actually.  It’s difficult to chart it retrospectively. Yeah, who knows where it will end up? I hope that this show will be a transition in the way I’m perceived certainly.

Q: What is the biggest misperception about you?

Russell Brand: I don't know because I can’t be inside another person’s mind, can I?

Q: What would you like people to learn about you?

Russell Brand: I just want people to be happy. All I want is for people to be happy. I don’t mind what people think about me. What people think in their minds is not my business. This is their business. They have to live in there.

Q: Are you happy?

Russell Brand: I’m happy, my darling. I am happy, thank you.

Q: When your perception is off, what do you do to center yourself and recalibrate?

Russell Brand: I listen to others. You must be humble. It’s very important to have humility. There are lots of people with very informed perspectives. I have a tendency to fly off on tangents, and also I’m narcissistic so I have to be very careful, otherwise I start to get messianic complexes.

Q: Is there a difference in being a celebrity in America and a celebrity in Britain?

Russell Brand: There is for me because I’m English and when I’m over here it’s sort of more bizarre and quirky. In England I can speak more normally in off licenses. You don’t even have off licenses.

Q: How much of the show is going to be about you and your personal experiences in Hollywood?
 
Russell Brand: I think there will be inevitable biographical elements because you can't speak from anyone's perspective but your own. Unless I was to bizarrely adapt some sort of avatar. It's like if I was to speak from the perspective of, I don't know, Angelica Huston, people would think I lack the proper authority. Imagine if I said, "Oh, it was a tumultuous relationship with Jack, and indeed my father, alpha males throughout my life have caused me problems. But then The Addams Family truly gave me a sense of myself," people would go, "F*** him.  He's not qualified." 

So there will inevitably be experiences. I will speak from my own perspective. Because what this show is, right, is I'm in this extraordinary country of yours. I'm not from here, am I? I'm English. So like it is the perspective of an alien trying to understand this peculiar time, this peculiar country. It's a bit like, remember Mork? Him. Mork, he had to understand he was an extraterrestrial. He was trying to, I think, get a green card, and essentially that's what I'm doing.

Q:  Your show will be on as the presidential election heats up. What do you think of Mitt Romney?

Russell Brand: I don't know much, but I think that might be a blessing. Like this is what I know about that Mitt Romney: I know that he is so rich that even the 1 percent to him would seem like peasants. That he's in the not point not, not, not, 1 percent. Like other billionaires must sicken him with their depravity. But other billionaires to him would seem like Dickensian street urchins eating gruel with fingerless gloves. And he's a Mormon, isn't he? I got nothing against religions. I like metaphorical systems for understanding mortality. I think it's a good idea. Death is confusing. It's good to have some infrastructure.

Q: Do you need to bone up on the candidates before you go on the air?

Russell Brand: I just think react to them as entities, you know. We know, don't we, in our hearts that it's a spectacle.  We know, don't we, that it's meaningless who is the president. We know that, don't we?  We know that it's redundant what they say to us. We know whose interests are represented by politics, don't we? We don't any more believe that Mitt Romney, Barack Obama would make any difference at all, whoever is in charge of us, until there is a fundamental spiritual revolution. 

I don't give a f*ck what color, whether it's red or blue or black or white. The pigment on their skin or the pigment on their flags is irrelevant. The whole thing is an illusion. So I'm not going to fill my head with like data about Mitt Romney or the one whose surname sounds like "sanitorium" because they are part of a meaningless spectacle. It's like describing individual termites. He's just a mound of nonsense, a mound of meaningless nonsense, and it's time for us to disregard it. We know this.

Q: Do you think there’s any danger of a republican winning the election?

Russell Brand: I don’t think there is any danger of anything. It’s irrelevant. They’ll all just shift about for a little while and then they’ll disperse and there’ll be a cultural revolution.

Q: Do you feel the consciousness shift is coming soon and how can we get there?

Russell Brand: Yes, it is. We don’t have to do anything. It is just occurring naturally. We are all connected. It’s only an illusion that separates us, so this will happen naturally. Our consciousness is already connected. It’s in our myths, it’s in Jung, it’s in Joseph Campbell. We’re already one. We just need to remember.

Q: Do you have a unique ability to shine a light on our country for us?

Russell Brand: I'm not like here to sort of shine a light on America from a position of judgment. This country has been incredibly generous and kind to me. And in many senses I think culturally it's still the greatest country in the world. So it's not like a finger‑pointing exercise. 

Many of the aspects of American culture that come under great criticism from abroad are certainly not a peninsula that a British person could arrogantly judge from, given that we did our fair share of colonialism, didn't we? We stuck a few flags places, subjugated people on the basis of their religion, skin color, whatnot.  So all I want to do is it's not actually about nationhood. 

It's about the spurious nature of such definitions. Ultimately there are many more qualities that unify us as a population. In fact, the only legitimate distinction in global politics and society, I think, is rich or poor. They're the only things that we should be concerned about. Are you rich or are you poor? And if you're poor, you shouldn't be f***ing around worrying about what other poor people are doing. You should be unifying.


 

Q: If you had to do the show today, what would be the topic you would talk about?

Russell Brand: Brilliant. I'm glad you asked that because I prepared for it. If we were doing it today, right, here are some things I've got opinions on that I've got written down here, news things.  If we were doing stuff today, here's some things I'm a bit concerned about, right? 

I like that Mitt Romney got told off, like people are angry, Newt Gringrich ‑ which is a ludicrously amphibious bizarre name for anyone to have – he attacked Mitt Romney because he talked some French, like that's really amazing. Like he said that makes him elitist and like a bit of a whoopsie. Like he was sort of speaking French in a boudoir, in a homoerotic fashion. 

It's all right that there are other languages, and people say different stuff. This is so extraordinary to me that someone would be criticized for that. I love it. Just for using a different lexicon. It's more important what someone says rather than the language they say it in, isn't it? Like it's so easy to whoop up hoopla over nothing, over nothing. That's what I mean. It's vacuous. It's nonsense. 

It's as sort of a pink gas being fired into our eyes. I consider contemporary culture to be like a sort of a pink pony trotting through the world sh*tting glitter into our minds. Glitter affects the synaptic firing of our brains because there's glitter sh*t all in the middle of our neurons. We can't think. They're filling our minds with sh*t glitter. A glitterating thought. 

So we talk about that nonsense, that rhubarb. Like I've spent some time with the marines at Camp Pendleton. I trained with them for a couple of days. They were f***ing lovely. And the sense of fraternity among them was beautiful, and I liked it. I didn't really do very well as a marine. The obstacle course is f***ing difficult. You have to climb a rope. It's really, really, really hard. 

So I've got a lot of respect for the marines. But the end of this, I think where they peed on some dead bodies, huh? That was that the marines? Because remember I'm a naive person, so I may make mistakes. So please don't judge me. But you will judge me. That's just the way that your binary minds function. I'm not criticizing you. I have a binary mind as well. It's just the way we are. 

So it's bad to wee on a dead body, right?  But like it's worse to kill someone. So it's like why are we more shocked by people pissing on a dead body than killing a live body? Like, say, me, I'm alive at the moment, right? If someone said, "I'm either going to piss on you or kill you," like if there's some people, the pissing on me, I would be sort of into. I'd rather they did that than didn't do it. 

But killing, you sort of think, "Well, I don't know how my narrative will continue after dead." That's really troubling. After the termination of your life force, after this biological spaceship has deceased, might as well piss on me, do as you like. Go nuts. Have a ball. It's the killing that's the problem. That bit we won't broadcast in case we get into trouble. 

“Also very near the top, you implied strongly that you're into golden showers. That makes you an unsympathetic protagonist for a mainstream show.” A lot of people consider the old golden shower elitist.  Imagine what Newt Gingrich would make of it. "He's speaking in French. He's getting pissed on.  He shouldn't be president," or should he?

Q: What do you like about America, then?  What is it that you think is so good about us?

Russell Brand: I think it's done really wonderful things with the English language.  

Q: Do you ever rewatch any of your tangents, like the sh*tting glitter, and think, “What the hell was I talking about?” Or is it always, “Yeah, man, that’s what I was going for?”

Russell Brand: Oh, I improvise and like to be spontaneous so I never know what I’m going to say. I didn’t for a minute backstage go, “Hey, why don’t I talk about getting pissed on?” That was not discussed.

Q: What do you think of it after you say it?

Russell Brand: What, like what do I retrospectively think of me once I’ve been me? I think I’m all right.

Q:  When you become the news of the day, will you be addressing yourself on the show at any point?

Russell Brand:  Potentially at the risk of plunging myself into a post‑structuralist, post‑modern vortex, I could analyze myself while I was doing it or if I did something newsworthy during the show. Now, I think it's an interesting question that you ask because I think that what this show is, both in its presentational style and in terms of the content, it's about authenticity. 

We live in a time where we're stupefied by plasticity, where we have this toxic sequined wave of vapid culture polluting our minds, denigrating our consciousness, detracting us and removing us from our spirituality. So gossip‑based stories would have less value other than in an analytical context. 

I don't want to further celebrate the overly elaborate brittle plastic structures of nonsense that are constantly fired into our minds to distract us from what's really important. So like if I had done something actually newsworthy, in some bizarre world, then I would cover it. But if it was just more lacquered nonsense designed to distract us from truth, then I would wisely ignore it.

Q: You have a bit in common with Stephen Colbert.

Russell Brand: Do I? I love him.

Q: What do you love about him and his take on things?

Russell Brand: I think you can tell looking in his eyes that he’s beautiful and I think that he’s found an interesting way of presenting his perspective. I think he’s a very, very brilliant comedian, very brilliant. I admire his device tremendously.

Q: Is there a dark side to comedy?

Russell Brand: There can be. This is what I feel about standup: no lesser force than the great Irish singer Bono goes to me once in a chance meeting, “So you stand up to the top of the food chain.” Because like if you are Bono, then you've got The Edge, he's just there, all that noise is in there and the name and the hoopla and the hullabaloo and the glorious spectacle and wonder of it all and the pounding drums and the history and “The Joshua Tree” and the iconography. 

But if you're a stand‑up, you're just out there lumbered, almost nude. So your opinion and your persona become your currency. It's a very, very raw art form. And I suppose it's contingent highly upon authenticity and truth. I think like, sort of, this show draws on the discipline of standup comedy in that there's an immediacy, a spontaneity, a truth to it, a truthful reaction from someone that ain't yet been fully inculcated into this culture. I don't understand why some of these things are happening.  Why some things are elevated and others denigrated or ignored.

Q:  Do you have more of a persona than a comic like Louis C.K., also on FX, who’s more himself?

Russell Brand: I can't objectively compare myself to another human being. I don't know. I don't know what it's like to be somebody else. All I know is that my standup comedy is, what my goal is, is to acknowledge that within each of us is a divine and beautiful light through truth and authenticity. 

And being funny, we can connect this light and change, I believe, the tenure and frequency of our consciousness. That may seem like a noble objective on FX, but we'll give it a whirl. Rupert Murdoch is right behind us in this revolution. That man is sick of capitalism.

Q: Are you interested in going more than six episodes?

Russell Brand: I think this will be decided on economic factors, won’t it? By people’s money, because people invest money for advertising product on the show.

Q: You personally, would you like to see it go more than 6?

Russell Brand: Me personally as a human? I have no attachment to outcome. I believe this. I believe in the intention of higher things so I will just be carried by what happens. If there are more episodes, that would be beautiful. If there are no more episodes, that will also be beautiful.

Q: You wouldn’t want it to turn into a standard on television?

Russell Brand: I don’t mind. If it goes really well, that means that that is my duty, my dharma. I’m happy to fulfill my dharma.

Q: Does it feel cathartic and is this a good time to do the show for you?

Russell Brand: It’s always the perfect time, always the perfect time.