First the disclaimer.
I don’t find Russell Brand funny, not even mildly so.
Although some see him as the latest in a line of comedians with a social commentary/political bent that began with Will Rogers and ran through Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin, Brand has always struck me as Dane Cook with a better vocabulary and an accent. Brand’s style tends toward a rapid-fire stream of consciousness littered with esoteric references intended to be clarifying, while his eyes dart about the room as if he’s hoping that no one notices that it’s just mundane ‘rage against the obvious’ bullshit. He’s like Dennis Miller in that he seems to love the sound of his own voice, but parts ways with Miller in that he generally has a point, callow as it may be.
Brand likes to reference his history of addiction and abuse for street cred (awarded: 5 points), but is better known for his brief career-enhancing marriage to pop tart Katy Perry (deduct: 6 points) which wasn’t enough to land him an HBO comedy special, but made him the perfect host for the MTV Movie Awards where his style of humor is considered every bit as transgressive as a Misfits tee bought at Hot Topic.
Upon that shaky foundation, a career as a political commentator was born.
His outlook is anti-capitalist and his targets are the rich and powerful, which is all well and good, but his material is nothing you couldn’t have heard at any late night Occupy bull session. And like Occupy, he has vague answers about how to change the power structure, most recently saying “he’s willing to die for the revolution,” while conceding that it’s not necessary to die before adding, “We’re all in the death seat. We’re all waiting. It’s coming.”
That’s deep, bro.
Brand has recently had to defend himself after the Artist Formerly Known as Johnny Rotten called him out over his well-publicized comments about not voting.
Brand had previously stated that he has never voted because he believes politicians are all “frauds and liars, ” writing, “Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot.”
Cool theory, bro.
In an interview John Lydon responded, saying, “The likes of Russell Brand coming along and saying something so damn ignorant is absolutely spoon-feeding it to them. Your individuality, your sense of right. You must not forget 100 years ago, who could vote here? And to have that so easily, so flippantly, ignored, in that lazy arse ‘I take drugs and tell not funny jokes’ way”
“You have to vote, you have to make a change,” Lydon said. “You’re given lousy options, yes, but that’s better than nothing at all.”
Brand replied to Lydon, explaining that he’s a big fan and that he’s more of a big picture guy:
“John Lydon for me is a great cultural figure. I adore the Sex Pistols, I adore his music and I adore him, but it’s a common misconception that I told people not to vote. If there was a party worth voting for then I’d vote for them… and I would urge you to as well, but it’s difficult to create those kind of global political parties because of trade agreements preventing that kind of thing from happening on a national level, which is a complicated issue and I can see why John Lydon might have trouble fitting that into a tiny little interview.”
To which I say: horseshit. Or, bollocks, as they case may be.
The workings of the world are indeed complicated and political structures are not easily bent or changed, but it can happen although not fast enough for the ‘why is TMZ loading so slowly!’ generation. Voting, and not voting can bring about change. It’s the difference between seeing John Roberts and Strip Search Sammy Alito seated on the Supreme Court and two people with a slightly less corporatist worldview.
And if you want to start a revolution — and good luck with that if you think it will be grow from podcasting your complaints about how unfair the world is — you need to start somewhere, and that is at the local level and then upward. Conservatives knew that when they started packing school boards years ago, developing candidates who blossomed at right about the same time that the Tea Party suddenly appeared. They’ve worked themselves through the state legislatures and one need only take a look at some of the GOP candidates who might be elected on a national level in a few weeks to see how government can be made to work for you or against you or, as is current case: not at all.
So if you’re waiting for a political messiah to rise up and save the world, take a number and go wait with the End Timers over there on the bench.
And if you think that Russell Brand is that messiah, then you’ve got an even longer wait. He’s just Tiger Beat Che Guevara living in a digital world.
T-shirts available at Hot Topic.