Aug 16

Russell Brand says humor is a survival instinct

Editor’s note: As my loyal readers may have noticed, it’s been several months since I last posted on “She Likes to Watch.” The reasons for my lengthy absence include an increased work load, furlough and vacation time, and some technical difficulties that have since been resolved. However, I hope to begin posting again on a semi-regular basis as my schedule allows. Thank you for your patience, and happy reading!

Russell Brand survived a tough childhood to become one of comedy’s brightest stars

By most standards, British comic Russell Brand had a fairly horrific childhood.

Russell Brand will perform in San Luis Obispo as part of his Messiah Complex World Tour.

Russell Brand will perform in San Luis Obispo as part of his Messiah Complex World Tour.

His parents divorced when he was just 6 months old, leaving his mother to raise Brand on her own with only occasional visits from his philandering dad. At age 7, Brand was sexually abused by a tutor. Around the same time, his mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, then breast cancer, forcing Brand to live with relatives.

By the time the budding performer reached his teens, he was battling bulimia, drug and alcohol addiction and a host of other ills.

Brand survived, miraculously, to become a successful stand-up comedian and actor known to American audiences for his memorable turns in “Arthur,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek” and the “Despicable Me” movies. He’s currently entertaining audiences via his Messiah Complex World Tour, which finds the performer discussing such controversial figures as Jesus Chris, Che Guevara and Adolf Hitler.

“I think that adversity is very good training in character and possibly in humor,” said Brand, who performs tonight at the Fremont Theatre in San Luis Obispo. “There’s a universality around humor that suggests it can flourish in any conditions, but if you need to make people laugh for some reason, it’s a skill that you will develop. Giraffes have got long necks for a reason.”

And comedians have a sense of humor for a reason, he added, if only to “put distance between themselves and sadness.”

I recently interviewed Brand about his comedy, his convictions and his Messiah Complex World Tour. (You can read the bulk of the interview right here.) Here are some interesting tidbits that didn’t make it to the print edition.

Your on-air evisceration of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” hosts received a lot of play online. How representative is that interview of your typical interactions with the media?

Usually people are more polite. I’m not worried. I probably am emotionally affected if people are not polite to me but that’s not particularly pertinent or relevant. But it is relevant to have news organizations that propagate an idiotic agenda to keep people hypnotized and spellbound when there are important and effecting things happening in the world.

So when these interviewers are more fascinated by your wardrobe than your message, they’re probably missing the point?

You can’t blame any individuals. All of the people that are concerned about things that are important are filtered out of the (place) when they’re employing interns.

Do you feel that your rock-star persona has a way of overwhelming your message?

I don’t know. I don’t know what other people think, and it’s none of my business. And it’s also I don’t care. (laughs)

Your television show, “Brand X with Russell Brand,” wrapped its second and final season in May. What was your original vision for that show?

Just doing stand-up (comedy) on the telly, like really spontaneous … It’s really hard to make that television. There’s so many requirements. It was a learning experience for me.

What did you learn?

(To) allow the energy of what’s happening to guide you. Don’t try to force things. Do what is there. Do what is in front of you. You will get taken care of.

When the world wants that television program, that television program will happen. That’s not (to say) “Don’t be innovative,” but … It’s like nylon. All those people who were trying to design nylon in New York could have stayed home and watched the television, and nylon would have still got invented. Or all the people in London could have sat around smoking marijuana, and nylon still would have got invented because the world wanted nylon at that time.

Things will happen, even things that are innovative. I think that human beings are just a portal, a vessel, for a far greater, far more powerful, less easily discernible energy. So just allow that to guide your life and that will be fine.

Can you give me an example in your life where you followed that philosophy?

Yeah, in those films with Judd Apatow. I didn’t go right now to Hollywood. I wanted to be in movies for ages, but the world didn’t want me to be in movies so I wasn’t.

Then I went to America and thought, “Oh I’ll audition for this Judd Apatow movie.” … I hadn’t read the script so I was just myself and they put me in the film.

Which of your acting roles are you most proud of?

Dr. Nefario in “Despicable Me.” It’s the world’s most successful movie.

Which role was the most fulfilling?

All the stuff with Judd Apatow and Jason (Segel), what I call the Snow stuff. … I love working with those people. It feels good to improvise.

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