The Week in Radio: High times as babbling Russell Brand rolls with it


Fiona Sturges
Wednesday 20 March 2013 19:30
Something in the hair: Russell Brand
Something in the hair: Russell Brand

“I'm high as a kite,” declared Russell Brand breathlessly. “I've drunk a whole lot of caffeinated beverages to get me in the mood.”

I suspect the top brass at XFM – which has the distinction of being the first radio station to fire him after he read out pornography live on air – were in the market from something stronger to steady their nerves as Brand, alongside Noel Gallagher and a selection of guests, began a one-off, three-hour stint to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.

"Since we were last on air a lot of things have happened," reflected Brand. "There's been Colonel Gaddafi. He's gone now. There's been the Arab Spring, riots all over London..."

"You've moved to LA," Gallagher butted in, "and become one of those..."

"Mystical... mysterious... messianic..?"

"...tedious British pseudo-spiritual idiots, dressed in white.... Seriously, what is it with the white gear? You're like Gandalf, Gandhi and Gaddafi all rolled into one."

And this was how it went, with Brand and Gallagher bickering like children, albeit children with huge mansions, their own security detail and a couple of monstrous drug habits behind them.

I learned a lot about both of them over the next three hours. I learned that once Brand gets going, and the linguistic possibilities of an idea take hold, he gets drunk on his own verbiage and the usual filtering systems – the ones that would stop most people from reading out porn extracts, or phoning up the grandfather of someone we'd slept with, or, in this case, dropping bombs about Jimmy Savile, suicide and masturbation in libraries – go out of the window.

Is there any other presenter who takes such a kamikaze attitude to their career, who can't think any further than what's tumbling out of their mouth right at that moment? It's this fearlessness that makes Brand so ridiculously funny, and always teetering on the edge of a lawsuit.

And Gallagher? I've read enough interviews with him to know that he's got a gob on him, that he's like an old drunk still setting the world to rights. What I didn't know was that, despite his caustic one-liners, he is equally happy to let others do the talking. This show was originally going to be a solo gig for Noel before he decided to bring in, as he put it, "that hairy, skinny-legged yogameister... last seen shaming the nation at them Olympics."

It was a wise move. By inviting Brand, he quadrupled the audience and quartered his own workload. His role here was less to generate conversation than to reel Brand back in whenever he started prattling on about "higher realms of " while repeatedly forcing him to relive the "horrific sonic murder" of his appearance at the Olympic closing ceremony.

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There was a strange conversation with David Icke who exhorted us all to bring anarchy to the streets by leaving our wheelie bins on the pavements, and a daft chat with Noel Fielding.

These were mere distractions, however, from Brand's precarious stream-of-consciousness babbling, leavened by Gallagher's verbal grenades. When I rule radio, I'm going to give them a show each: Brand in the morning, Gallagher in the afternoon and both of them together in the evenings. There'll be lawsuits, for sure, but it'll be worth every bloody penny.

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