What do women see in Russell Brand? One of Britain's most popular newspapers asked this question yesterday, and, yes, they asked it in all seriousness. What on earth could be the appeal of a man who's talented, funny, clever and rich, who doesn't drink, smoke or use drugs, who is undeniably good looking (if you like that sort of thing), and who has extensive life experience, particularly when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex?
Also, he's not at all glamorous, which is why that very same newspaper devoted a third of its front page and a double-page spread inside to his latest romantic affiliation, with Jemima Khan. Of course, Russell Brand is not everyone's cup of tea, but there's no denying his appeal. A hint of danger attends him - the Andrew Sachs incident is not the only ill-advised adventure on his CV - and he has that appealing quality of appearing not to give a damn about what those in authority think of him.
He's managed to cultivate his anti-establishment manner longer than other highly successful comedians - the journey from raging against the system at alternative comedy clubs to Buckingham Palace has sometimes been startingly quick - but there is an inbuilt contradiction in the stand-up comedian who must retain a degree of edginess, and to be as close to the knuckle as possible, while having the popular appeal to fill enormous auditoriums and amass a huge fortune.
Brand's recent performance at the GQ awards was a rather good example of this paradox. I assume that no one forced him to attend the event, and he was happy to be photographed on the red carpet. He went only to accept an award from the magazine, who were in turn pleased to have him on the cover of their latest issue. He ate dinner, made possible by the generous sponsorship of Hugo Boss. And then he goes on stage and launches into a routine about how Hugo Boss supplied uniforms to the Nazis.
It was very amusing for those of us in the audience, but it caused the magazine and Hugo Boss a good deal of embarrassment. Talk about having your rack of lamb and eating it! Brand later wrote a lengthy article about the incident, which was full of characteristic flourishes - he is one of the few writers brave enough to use the word "numenistic" in his first paragraph (something to do with individual spirits inhabiting natural objects, in case you were wondering) - and included a very adept insight into what this relatively trivial incident might reveal about the more serious connections and accommodations made in wider society. "If you can't criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, " he wrote, "do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party?"
That's the other thing about Russell Brand: he challenges orthodox thinking. Which is why he polarises opinion and has women columnists explaining, over many hundreds of words, why they wouldn't touch him with a bargepole. I know he has a dubious romantic history, but surely the question at this point to Jemima Khan is surely this: what first attracted you to the handsome, articulate, multi-talented Russell Brand?