Russell Brand, the lovable rogue amongst British comedians, takes his comedic material to the US in a new six-part topical stand-up show. Each week, Brand will present a subject matter (for episode one, spirituality) and impart his personal opinions with the requisite controversy and sarcasm.
Brand’s monologues never become tiresome: his eloquent lexis exudes charm and allure; and the use of visual aids (such as a photo of Brand and the Dalai Lama) steer the show in the right direction and provide some comedic moments (notably Brand’s comparison of Oprah Winfrey and Jesus).
BrandX is essentially “Ponderland crosses the pond”: it follows the blueprints of Brand’s BAFTA-nominated success in Blighty and tests the waters of his divisive comedy and public image in the US; all of this – in Brand’s own Essex boy words – “in a’ accen’ that y’ can barely understand”.
One would assume, however, that Brand has an advantage over fellow Brits who have tried to succeed in the American entertainment industry (think Cheryl Cole, for example). He’s already known and relatively popular in the US, brought about by the attention surrounding his matrimonial affairs with a certain Ms Perry.
Despite this, Brand fails to establish a rapport with the audience. Midway through the episode, a joke concerning Muslims and Jews fails to gain a modicum of laughter, at which point Brand is forced to embarrassingly point out to the audience that they are allowed to laugh (cue the awkward tumbleweed).
The professional relationship between Brand and on-stage advisor Matthew Stoller also leaves a lot to be desired. Supposedly, the purpose of Stuttering Stoller (introduced as a Harvard graduate and former Congressional advisor) is to prompt Brand with help about American popular culture. The intelligent Brand does not need patronising by a pointless, uncharismatic, and forgettable man.
Far from the self-indulgent spiel I expected, Brand has been brave by taking a topic as fundamental as spirituality and presenting it with a comedic spin. However, for a show marketed as topical and satirical, I fail to see how this fits in with current affairs. More audience participation would have been welcome too.
Hopefully Brand is just settling in, but this is still a promising start to a series which has the potential to be successful. Not hilarious, but amusing enough to be likeable.