Russell's brand of humour

Russell BrandScandalousThe Regent, IpswichTowards the end of last year there was a, shall we say, bit of a hullabaloo in the media about a couple of comics who went a bit too far on a radio programme.

Dominic Castle

Russell Brand


The Regent, Ipswich

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Towards the end of last year there was a, shall we say, bit of a hullabaloo in the media about a couple of comics who went a bit too far on a radio programme.

You may have picked up something about it at the time; if you didn't you were either a) in a hole in a very remote place or b) lucky.

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Last night one of the guilty pair, Russell Brand, strode on to the stage at the Regent to an ecstatic reception and to remind us what the fuss was all about, just in case we'd forgotten.

From the opening video montage Brand, looking a little less tousled than usual but still striking in leggings and mini-dress, treated the audience to a long self-justification of the Sachsgate affair.

It was, he explained, his mental illness what made him do it, what makes him do all the bad fings he does. He told how his ego loved being on the top on the news heap when the economy was crashing and people dying in wars; "I am the News!" he exulted, while making the entirely reasonable point that he wasn't Harold Shipman and he perhaps didn't entirely deserve the full weight of the national media's crushing boot.

Even though he did a good job of showing just how out-of-hand and silly the affair became, after a while he started to sound ever so slightly whiney about it, claiming victimhood as his own, before he finally got over himself and on with the rest of the show.

And what a very good show it was. Brand is a wonderful performer in stand-up mode, clever without being smug (though French philosopher Michel Foucault did get a name check, for those paying proper attention) eloquent and gifted with a surreal world view.

He does enjoy a good name-drop, part of his narcissistic nature no doubt, and you have to hope his famous friends have a sense of humour.

He also has a stage presence that a companion suggested resembled a giant black spider, all legs and angles. Sometimes seeing a lone comedian on a bare stage gives you time to check out the theatre fixtures and fittings, or the back of the head of the person in front, but Brand is a compelling, almost mesmerising figure to watch as he strides, shuffles, squats and high-kicks his way through his act.

He spent some time in the USA and while there presented the MTV Video Music Awards, a seriously big deal, which he messed up big time. He did such a good job that Outraged of America piled in with death threats, which he shared with us before moving on to a story about Dame Helen Mirren and his yellow underpants, which gets no further explanation, and how he might be the only person on the planet able to give Prince Harry good PR advice.

This Friday his fellow miscreant, Jonathan Ross, returns to the BBC after a three-month ban. He'll have to work pretty hard to match Brand's comeback.

Dominic Castle

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