Russell Brand Podcast, review: A pariah or a prophet? Either way, he's brilliant

The all-new podcast sees Brand immersing himself in "a tunnel of nonsense"

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The Independent Culture

The last time Russell Brand had his own radio show it all ended in tears.

The tears weren't just Brand's – they were Jonathan Ross's, Radio 2 controller Lesley Douglas's and, if the frothing coverage of Sachsgate was to be believed, those of the British public as they watched the moral fabric of their great nation being put through the shredder.

That was 2008, and since then there have been books, Hollywood movies, a wedding, a divorce, the Olympics, Question Time and a knee-squeezing turn on Newsnight. Brand's latest incarnation – as agitator and chauffeured man of the people – has finally rendered his broadcasting career ancient history. The narrative has moved on. Or at least it seemed that way.

Seven years after he was effectively run out of town, Brand has rebooted his radio career in a modest basement in east London. The all-new, twice-weekly Russell Brand Podcast has reunited him with his old sparring partner, the comedian Matt Morgan, and immersing himself in – to use his words – "a tunnel of nonsense".

Over two episodes, the pair reflected over themes including technology, human consciousness, celebrity, parenthood, Doogie Howser, canine pleasure and the clutter of the mind. All this, said Brand, coming from "a man whose mental illnesses are all too obvious".

There were some interesting glimpses into his years in exile. In the first episode, Brand recalled meeting Oprah Winfrey when he was invited on to her talk show as "drug death pundit" following the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Asked by Morgan what Oprah was like, he said: "I tried to hack into the mainframe [and] understand her on a deeper psychological level but... she's Oprah Winfrey and like all famous people she'll only let you get to a certain level."

It was an interesting observation coming from a man who has mined his own excesses for comic effect and yet revealed little of his real nature.

Even so, 45 minutes in the comic's company yielded a host of daft voices, surreal flights of fantasy and schoolboy smut, often delivered without pause or punctuation. When Brand gets going he is brilliant – those moments when, high on his own verbiage, the usual filtering systems are abandoned and he lets his imagination fly.

Just as intriguing were his reflections on his position as celebrity, tabloid teaser and irritant of the establishment. In his second episode, Brand raised the subject of his inclusion on a list of 50 great thinkers compiled by Prospect magazine.

"[The press] don't like to see me with my estuary vowels, and my tight little bowels, shooting up the thinking charts," he noted gleefully.

"They'd like it to be some old fuddy-duddy."

He also talked about finding a man from the Daily Mail on his front doorstep recently. "He was wearing a mac. He was porcine, as if in the last month of gestation he'd been in a sow."

Brand had been visiting a family living on the breadline for a film he's making, and they'd insisted he take some of their homemade butternut squash soup away with him. Later, on coming face to face the reporter, he went into his house and then, on a whim, went out again and drenched him in soup.

If the notion of a squash-smothered doorstepper was amusing, the image of Brand bubbling over in fury was equally vivid. Is this, one wondered, what a life lived both as a political hero and pariah is like? On the evidence here, we may get to the bottom of Brand yet.