Amy Jenkins: Contrary to what Parky thinks, there is a point to Russell Brand

Share
Related Topics

Russell Brand has been all over the place lately.

He's got a new book to promote and a marriage to Katy Perry due any minute. But despite the fact that Brand now merits a Paxman interview on Newsnight, Michael Parkinson (who has his own book to promote) thinks Brand is "pointless" and said as much on Five Live this week: "I mean, Rin Tin Tin had a very big career in Hollywood and he was a dog."

Yes, Rin Tin Tin was a dog – apparently – but Parky's an old fogey. The fact is that Russell Brand has a big career because he's good at being funny. Just because he disseminates his work in a variety of ways – stand-up, TV, radio, books, films and just being a character – it doesn't mean he has no particular talent. He's as talented as any virtuoso violinist who might – in the eyes of someone like Michael Parkinson – "deserve" to be famous.

What Parky was cackhandedly getting at was the idea that fame for its own sake is a nonsense – and, funnily enough, that's something Brand is very much in accord with. It was one of the major themes of his Newsnight interview; Brand is startlingly convincing when he talks about the emptiness of celebrity culture.

Despite his bravado – or maybe because of it – and with his trademark hyperbole (fame is "ashes in my mouth") and jaded asides, Brand really manages to communicate some of that elusive reality: celebrity pain. Most celebrity magazines exist to communicate this, yet somehow they fail. However many times we see pictures of Britney Spears getting her head shaved in public or Cheryl Cole crying in the back of the limo, it's just so hard to believe that the emptiness of fame is the cause of their suffering when they don't actually say so themselves.

Brand keeps it flamboyantly prosaic. He tells Paxman it's like getting a new pair of shoes that you thought you always wanted. But then inevitably you discover that they are too tight, that they pinch. And then you get blisters. It's agony. In other words, seeking is always doomed. There's always another hill to climb. Plus – as he says in his new book – you don't escape your problems by becoming famous; you just meet them again but worse.

There's something in Brand's willingness to engage with this topic and the language he uses that I've not quite seen in any other celebrity. When famous people talk, they usually pretend to be enjoying it. Brand is on a different mission. At one point, Paxman resorts to muttering something about his guest not being the new Messiah. But could this be a unique kind of ministry? Brand says fame is the shadow on the wall of something more valuable – truth, beauty, connection. He startles Paxman by believing in God and aspiring to ascend. "You seek death?" Paxman interjects at one point, half alarmed. Not yet – but in the meantime, Brand would like to achieve something truly valuable.

Brand isn't just riffing here for our entertainment; he has real fervour and intends to grapple with the issue head on. He's making a documentary with Oliver Stone about fame, consumerism and the way the media keeps us, to use his word, spellbound. Brand thinks the cult of celebrity has replaced the big ideas of the last century. These days we seek significance in all the wrong places and, if the Paxman interview is anything to go by, Brand may be shaping up as a great – if unlikely – ambassador for a happier way of living. Think of the way Michael Moore has brought serious political issues into the popular domain. Let's hope Russell Brand can make a meaningful bonfire of the vanities with this documentary and put his celebrity torch to it.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Technical Support Analyst (C++, Windows, Linux, Perl, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global leader in trading platforms and e...

Junior IT Consultant (SQL, Java, C++, Oracle, Graduate)

£28000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A fast growing consultancy to the financia...

Technical Support Analyst (Windows, Linux, Unix, Graduate)

£30000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Support Analyst - Liverpool Stre...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Forty per cent of global trades in euros are cleared through London  

The success enjoyed by the City of London owes nothing to the EU

Nigel Farage
Sami Khedira of Germany runs past Oscar of Brazil with the ball during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Semi Final match between Brazil and Germany  

If they weren't obsessed with instant profits, England could have a team as good as Germany’s

Mark Steel
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil