First I really, really disliked him. Then I couldn’t see the point. Then I could stand his radio show in the background, but was incapable of dealing with the trailers for it. Now, as 2007 comes to an end, I’ve sided with Charlie Brooker: there’s something about Russell Brand.
His wits are incredibly sharp, and he’s clearly overeducated (and mis-educated) to the point where it spills out compulsively. His personality, his status as a human being, is admittedly the material of headshaking school reports down the years, and you wonder why he hasn’t grown up yet. It’s a bit like watching a 21st-century Stephen Fry imploding his way through his difficult teens, only with a good deal more actual sex and hard drugs. I still can’t listen for long when he pretends to be stupid, because it’s a bit of a waste; and I grimace a bit when some sort of editorial control should be reining him in. But as Brooker says:
… In a relaxed, ballbag-and-dinkle-free frame of mind, he’s funny, charming, intelligent and lucid. The man’s kicked heroin and transformed himself into a preposterous dreaming clown; a cross between David Bellamy and a startled cat. He’s done a beautiful thing, for God’s sake. TV hasn’t found the right platform for him yet, but it will….
The episode of Have I Got News For You that Brooker talks about was the first programme I saw on the flash version of the BBC iPlayer. HIGNFY has, post-Deayton, become an odd combination of cult comedy and overweening smugness. But into all this chucklesome mateyness landed our Russell, as if from another planet, entirely ignorant of the show’s institutional status. As such, he was a breath of fresh air that blew away all those sticky cobwebs. It was all Jack Dee could do to keep a lid on his breeziness, and Jack Dee does damp-towel very well indeed.
His bizarre, uncompromising behaviour peaked in a boggling tearing-down of the fourth wall (and many a hallowed televisual convention) by asking everyone if he could pop off for a quick wee, part way through. And he did, stalking to the studio door like something by Quentin Blake. The show continued for a couple of minutes before he wandered back, surprisingly quietly, in the middle of a later question, grinning exactly like someone who had just had a really nice wee.
K’s right when she says he’s not so much pretty as about two stones away from being incredibly ugly, and that he’ll need those two stones sooner or later to avoid osteoporosis when he’s older (stones and bones). He’s also missing a format, or a presenter, or some sort of off switch, that can make him shut the bleeding hell up. But at least for now we can all have that brief Brand break while he’s in the lav.