At one point during our 20-minute chat with Russell Brand, things get a little heavy.
"At the moment, we really only have two choices: come together and change the story, or die."
He's not being morbid - Brand remains a very amusing man, who can talk like a high-speed train and dazzle you with his command of the English language (if you're in doubt, read anything he's written for The Guardian, particularly his essay on Margaret Thatcher, or his thoughts on the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman) - but lately the themes and ideas underlying his work have become pretty serious.
He's always had a talent for poking fun at the absurdities of the tabloids, men like George Bush and David Cameron, and big businesses. But his recent forays over the past 12 months into issues such as the way democracy is malfunctioning; the issue of capitalist and consumerist policies causing ingrained economic inequality; the housing crisis; drug laws; immigration laws; and his latest push asking the public to #lovethepolice, betray a much more comprehensive campaign against the troubles of our world. Brand may be famous for stirring things up to give us amusement, but now there's another reason.
"The function of it all is to help us to understand that the way we feel as individuals is the way we feel as a collective, and if we come together we can change the world. We're in a unique time because of technology and awareness, and we can create new connections and new communities and we can create change."
And to draw our attention to these issues, Brand is, of course, using humour. He's written books (his latest one is Revolution), he's made an excellent documentary about the financial crisis with acclaimed British director Michael Winterbottom called The Emperor's New Clothes and he's started his own daily webseries called The Trews (a portmanteau of "true" and "news").
Russell Brand appears on the cover of this week's TimeOut:
"I sort of thought, every day when I'm watching all this stuff and reading this stuff in the so-called news, I'm recognising that there's a total obfuscation of truth, and the stimulation of the lower aspects of our nature.
"And the feeling we have on an individual level, of feeling dispossessed, alienated and lost, strongly relates to the deterioration of our world, but by changing our own individual consciousness, we can change the planet. So I thought, if I just start going 'All right, here look at this thing, isn't it bollocks?' it would be funny, and honest, and it would be easy to do. And it makes me happy."
So he's changing the world one YouTube video, one barbed and witty observation, one stand-up show at a time. Or at least he's trying to channel the frustration and outrage that these issues raise, into entertaining comedy, and hoping that might spur people on. His levity, humour, and energy are the spoonfuls of sugar that help the medicine go down.
"I do sometimes have, as the title of my last stand-up tour indicated, a kind of Messiah complex, like a belief that I could actually solve everything. But I know that's a type of madness. I don't take it all seriously. While I might be making a video about how terrible I think the laws around drugs are, or this war is terrible, or these economic policies are crazy, I do also see it all as being kind of funny.
"I'm supposed to be a professional comedian, so if I can't bring the funny and absurd aspects of the world to light then it's all over."
He does want to rouse people from their apathy though - not to make them outraged necessarily (Brand is a keen proponent of yoga and transcendental meditation these days, so he's more interested in measured debate than getting red in the face), but to feel like speaking up has power.
"I do think it's good for people to realise that we do have some autonomy, that we can intervene with the way things are. Like at the moment, the fact that we don't get outraged worries me sometimes. You know - 'Oh there's paedophiles in Parliament? Okay, never mind. Oh, we didn't really kill Osama Bin Laden in the way they said we did? Okay, no problem'. We've become unduly tolerant of ridiculous phenomena. So, you don't want people to be outraged all the time, but you do want people to know that it's worthwhile becoming actively involved in the society you live in."
So if he could dream up an ideal society, a sort of utopia, what would it look like? If you read the British tabloids that love to hound Brand, accusing him of deviant ways and daft ideas, mocking him at every opportunity, you might expect some wayward, hippie ideal. But he's much more pragmatic than that.
"How about representative democracy instead of democracy where the will of the people is ignored in the favour of big business? How about a true global community where there is fair trading and a fair deal for the ordinary people of the world? How about a police force that protects and serves instead of shooting people in the back? It's not like we specially need anything new, we just need the things we're supposed to have already."
The famous ex-drug addict with the pop-star ex-wife and a string of Hollywood films in his CV has become something of an accidental champion for the downtrodden - for the everyman overwhelmed by widening economic disparity, and barely able to make ends meet. He was asked to speak at the recent anti-austerity march in London, at various Occupy protests, and is frequently interviewed about his thoughts on drug laws.
Somehow, despite his fame and success (and corresponding wealth) he seems genuinely concerned with the plight of others. "Whether you're in New Zealand, or America, Australia, or England, what you're experiencing is the total commercialisation of your world.
"Everything is sold back to you, you're being spied on and monitored, you can't afford to live anywhere decent. Because whenever the interests of big business come up against the interests of ordinary people, or of the planet, big business wins. And there's no chance for us to have any leverage unless we organise differently, and come together."
And one of the key reasons people keep listening to him? Because he admits his flaws so readily, will modify his views when new information arises, and acknowledges that part of his enjoyment of all these activities is because "my own ego is excited by ideas of power".
"It's lovely to feel like I'm part of something, some sort of movement, that was important to me. But the reality is, I'm just a loud voice saying something that a lot of people think and feel."
Who: Russell Brand
What: Trew World Order world tour
Where and when: Performing one night only at Vector Arena in Auckland, October 14
Also: New documentary made with Michael Winterbottom, The Emperor's New Clothes, in selected cinemas today.