Russell Brand, Bloomsbury Theatre, London
No apology, and not all that many laughs either
Monday 19 January 2009
Love means never having to say you're sorry, and since Russell Brand is much in love, with himself, no apology was had when finally he strutted on stage for his first big appearance since the Andrew Sachs scandal.
It was an hour after the official start time when a montage of news clips about the affair heralded the appearance of the man who boasts of having carnal knowledge of Sachs's granddaughter.
He described the incident involving himself and the soon-to-be rehabilitated Jonathan Ross as "two idiots dancing towards a canyon". There are people out there who would use far harsher words about two highly paid performers leaving obscene messages on an elderly man's telephone but they were not in London's Bloomsbury Theatre. The theatre had taken the precaution of using a fan mail listing to fill the seats.
Brand pushed through this preview of the live show that he plans to take on tour in 80 minutes – all in one go – after support from "Russell's KY jelly" and the poet Mr G.
Resembling what the Greek god Pan might have looked like if he had been into Goth bands, the jaunty Brand soon removed a leather jerkin to reveal long johns-cum-skirt top, giving him more freedom to revel in his infamy. "I am the news!" he sang to the theme of News at Ten, leaping to celebrate topping the current affairs agenda, one he contends was deliberately manipulated to bury credit-crunch stories. Earlier, he admitted that "what to wear" was one of the most trying decisions he had to make in the face of the media encampment outside his Hampstead home. Being put on the sex offenders register or sent to Afghanistan, as some of the angry mob suggested at the time, were punishments that did not fit the crime.
While the scandal is not all that is on offer, it is the prime cut of the evening. Elsewhere, familiar material about giving money to homeless people being the equivalent of throwing money into a wishing well combines with tales based on the dislocation of communication. The puffed-up story of an argument with a Jamaican taxi driver in which Brand adopts an exaggerated Cockney accent seems more about showcasing his acting ability than his comedic prowess.
The other large set piece of the evening is Brand's stateside experience of hosting the MTV Video Music Awards last year, where he offended some viewers by telling the audience to vote for Barack Obama and called George Bush a "retarded cowboy fella". He gives his Bloomsbury audience the benefit of the links he ditched after the Bush remark flopped and reads out some of the death threats he received. This portion of his show feels somewhat lazy.
I worry that Brand's catchphrase from his last tour, "my life is essentially a string of embarrassing and shameful incidents punctuated only by telling people about the embarrassing and shameful incidents," says too much about the limitations of his stand up. His treatise on sex is all but reduced to giving sex tips, an approach as formulaic and as one dimensional as reading out death threats.
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