Brand provokes with chaos, humour

By James Penn

If you haven't already experienced the sheer amusement and admiration that is evoked when one witnesses Russell Brand turn an interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe programme on its head, as he did just a few days ago, finding and watching this video will almost certainly be one of the highlights of your weekend.

Brand, appearing on the show to advertise his upcoming standup comedy tour, The Messiah Complex, ultimately silenced the three programme anchors, taking charge of the agenda himself.

The hosts requested initially "like, you know, 30 seconds" of his stand up routine on the show. "Well, not really love. That's not how I operate,"came the distinctive English accent of Brand in response.

What the hosts were treated to instead was an impromptu performance of comedy, showmanship and insight, which was an advertisement for Brand but an indictment of mainstream media.

The comedian took the professionals to task after one appeared to forget his name. She referred to the prominent comedian as Willie Brand on three occasions, before he had obviously had enough, laughing incredulously: "Is this what you all do for a living?!"

He proceeded to take control of the show, pointing the topic of discussion at more serious subjects such as the morality of prominent US whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.

Swimming in the undercurrents below the comedic surface of the interview were a number of subtle and not-so-subtle references to the nature of modern-day media as a vehicle for sensationalism rather than fact; agenda rather than opinion. This is what is most significant about the interview.

It would be plainly untrue to suggest that the media comprises a vast and insidious agenda to deceive us. However, Brand strikes a chord when he tells the hosts to "look beyond the superficial".

"That's the problem with current affairs, you forget about what's important."

And Brand is right. The hosts' frequent references to his appearance clouded the more meaningful message the comedian initially tried to espouse when explaining the theme of his upcoming tour. He tried to open a discussion on the use of iconic figures posthumously to assign meaning or emotion to a particular cause.

But within a couple of sentences the host essentially just asks for some jokes or an impersonation of Ghandi. Indeed, the focus proceeds to be placed upon Brand's accent thereafter. Such focus illustrates the way a show that proclaims to be about current affairs and substance is more interested in the mouth the information is coming from than the information itself.

That said, one could argue that Brand himself is hypocritical in this respect. He forges an image as a faux rock star, as a sex addict, as a drug-loving psychopath.

This exaggerated image is one that he claims is not his natural self.

Yet he projects it, at least in part, as a fa?ade and an identity in a range of media, from radio to television to movies. This, one could argue, is buying into the very superficial demand that he derides.

So why should he complain when the hosts are treating him "as if I'm not here, and as if I'm an extra-terrestrial" when he, at times, acts like one?

What Brand criticises is, in many ways, the same culture he has bought in to.

But the beauty of this confrontation of the media is that it displays the way this culture must be fought - from within.

Russell Brand has adopted the persona that will attract attention but now attempts to push a message through that.

Comedy, it seems, operates on the same level for him. He adopts a framework that attracts and holds an audience's attention - humour. And from that basis, a message is advanced.

Lazy media like that displayed on Morning Joe can only be the product of a public that is lazy. The only way the media can reverse that trend is for individuals such as Russell Brand to use the powers of laughter, inversion, chaos and charisma to appeal to our lazy tendencies while criticising them.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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