RUSSELL BRAND, PONDERLAND
In Australia, Russell Brand may not yet be the household name he is in his native England but that is set to change: someone this charismatic and confrontational doesn’t stay anonymous for long.
Blessed with a silver tongue and a quicksilver wit, this black-clad, long-haired actor, writer and stand-up comedian resembles Captain Jack Sparrow’s even more degenerate little brother.
He performs his comedy in front of sold-out audiences who treat him like a rock star. He’s won over Hollywood, having landed roles in several major films such as St. Trinian’s and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He says what he likes and rarely worries about the consequences.
And now he’s taking up residence in your TV, hosting his wickedly funny Channel Seven series Ponderland, which has him holding forth on various topics with the help of some wonderfully silly and strange archival footage.
My theory about you, Russell, is that people connect with you because you seem genuinely curious about the world and everything in it rather than bemused or blindly angry at the state of things.
So your theory is that people connect with me because of a lack of fury and because I seem approachable and nice.
Well, you seem approachable and nice … so far. But primarily it’s because you seem to want to understand what’s going on in the world rather than just rail against stuff.
I think I am a quizzical gent, yes, and I think your theory holds water. It will go down as one of the great theories; it’ll rank alongside the works of Pythagoras.
Thanks for that. Hey, when did you realise you were funny?
There are key moments throughout my life. I remember doing an impression of Frank Spencer when I was seven and everyone in the room laughed and said ‘Do it again! Do it again!’ And I did it again and my Nan said ‘Nah, wasn’t as good that time’. I was only little! But that was quite funny the first time, not so good the second.
I actually wanted to be a serious actor, and while I was at that drama school, tackling dense, academic and beautiful things like Moliere and Shakespeare and Brecht, the stuff I really enjoyed was when we were improvising and muckin’ about. My stand-up career started when there was nowhere else left to go, really.
So you’ve got this show on Seven called Ponderland. What’s it all about and why should I miss the cricket or something to watch it?
Do you like cricket a lot?
Not really, no.
This is better. It’s me talking about a subject I find interesting. My mates, who have produced the program, watch loads of old TV shows – mostly documentaries. Sometimes they’ll see something that’ll make them go ‘That’s f--king ridiculous’. And it might not even be a major part of the show – it’ll be someone in the background or someone making a bizarre comment. When television is made, it’s about narrative, innit? It’s about information being delivered in a certain fashion – ‘We’re trying to take you to this place’ – but when it’s outside this normal linear journey, that’s when it gets funny.
Speaking of things that are outside the normal linear journey, you cut a striking figure with your clothes, your hairstyle, your whole demeanour. Does the outer Russell reflect the inner Russell?
Yes, and that’s why it works. Like (singer) Morrissey said: ‘Black on the outside because black is how I feel inside.’ I think my external condition is a fair representation of the way I feel inside: spindly, confused and a bit sexy.
When my mum asks me, ‘Who’s this Russell Brand you talked to today?’, what should I tell her?
Say he’s a spiritual gent. And misunderstood. ‘God, he’s misunderstood. I could have followed him to the ends of the earth. I could have kissed him.’ And please indicate that in spite of my superficial renegade status, I’m a deeply spiritual and moral man. My moral codes are authentic, not based on arbitrary conformist mechanisms. She’ll probably be quite into me, your mum.