Clarkson, Brand, Assange: The egos have landed


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The Independent Online

If I were constructing the dinner party I'd least want to go to, the guest list would start with Jeremy Clarkson, Russell Brand and Julian Assange. Just imagine the conversation: I can already hear Clarkson complaining that you can't even make a joke about a dead prostitute these days, while Brand gestures towards his crotch and Assange looks for a balcony from which to address his people.

In fact, I think I might have accidentally come up with a pitch for a reality TV programme. Britain's Got Narcissism would be a gladiatorial contest for huge egos, except it would have to be based at the Ecuadorean embassy for the foreseeable future. And there isn't, I gather, much space for TV cameras and the like. Let alone a Ferrari for Clarkson to sit in and make vroom-vroom noises.

Astonishingly, Clarkson is one of the highest-paid (if not the highest-paid) "stars" at the BBC. I wasn't aware of this improbable fact until last week, when the corporation agreed to buy out his stake in Bedder 6, a company set up jointly five years ago to exploit commercial spin-offs from Top Gear. As if you didn't know, Top Gear is a motoring show on BBC 2 in which three scruffy men behave like teenagers. Clarkson earned something over £3.5m from Top Gear in the year until March, including company dividends and an amusingly titled "talent fee" from the BBC. This proved a bit much even for the corporation, which is why they've bought out his 30 per cent share in Bedder 6. The result is a windfall for Clarkson, running into millions of pounds.

Such are the rewards for shameless self-promotion these days. Brand hasn't had a BBC show since he abused the actor Andrew Sachs on his Radio 2 programme a few years ago, but that didn't stop him being invited to take part in the Olympics closing ceremony. The appearance of this seedy serial shagger was a low point in a pretty dreadful evening, and only someone with gargantuan self-regard could have perched on top of a bus in tight, sparkly trousers to impersonate John Lennon. Narcissists don't do embarrassment, which is one of the reasons why some socially awkward people are drawn to them.

Clarkson's opinions on almost any subject are as predictable as they are reactionary, depending on the shock value of hearing a public figure joking about foreigners being lazy or the deaths of cockle-pickers. Brand's stand-up routine on masturbation is one of the least funny things I've seen, reminiscent of a 12-year-old trying to shock his parents. But then the comedy circuit has produced a string of meagre talents, including Alan Carr and Justin Lee Collins.

It's all about performance, and I sometimes think the WikiLeaks founder is following in their footsteps. His address to the UN last week was hilariously grandiloquent, even if he needs to work on his delivery. In a world where narcissism is ludicrously over-valued, Assange is shaping up nicely as the radical man's Jeremy Clarkson.

Joan Smith is Political Blonde:;