On a day’s notice, and after hosting the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, comedian Russell Brand decided he wanted to work out some new material in front of a live audience at the Green Room in New York City. Just days before, he stood in the same room rehearsing his MTV bits for an audience. This seems to be his go-to performance space when he’s in the States.
When you’re Russell Brand, the UK’s rock star comedian, a few hours is all you need to sell out an intimate space — which he did — with a few hundred folks; we’re talking about a guy who regularly plays to thousands at a clip.
With a ratio of what had to be three-to-one, I’ve never in my life seen so many female stand-up comedy goers. I assumed Brand had a following not unlike Dane Cook, wherein a large portion of both comics’ fans wouldn’t mind bedding the man onstage. But this was something out of a scene where girlies swoon over the lead singer in a cliched ’80s flick. At one point in the very informal performance, Russell brandished a banana, ate it and then asked if anyone had a napkin so he could wipe his hands. A woman near the front row stood up and told him, “You can wipe it on my shirt right here.” Brand politely refused, saying it wouldn’t be right to make her stink of banana.
Willing women aside, it was still mainly a night of comedy that found Brand working through a chunk of material about happiness– how to find it, what it is and how our consumer society effects our collective effort to achieve it. In fact, Brand told the crowd that he was making a film on the subject. To that end, he had a small crew with him filming the fluid performance, during which he announced jokingly that he’s trying to create a “spiritual utopia.” So fluid, in fact, that he regularly read from pages of what he called “research” and then commented on each point read.
At one point, Brand read the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem “Ozymandias,” a sonnet normally used as a tool to explore the idea that no matter how strong or big man builds his empires, the end is the same for everyone: rich and poor. Brand also told us about his meeting with Donald Trump, where he said to him about all the money he makes without helping the greater good: “It’s just like wanking in a room forever.” Trumps response: “Yep, that’s why I like it.”
Forty-five minutes into his workshop, Brand allowed the audience to ask questions. Queries ranged from, “Doesn’t consumerism create new helpful technology?” to inquiring whether he slept with pop star Katy Perry after hosting the VMAs. As an act of subterfuge, he walked four rows deep into the crowd, sat on the woman who asked the question and asked her, “How does it feel to be you?” Another woman asked this of Brand: What’s powerful enough to replace consumerism. Russell’s response? “Love.” Makes you feel all warm and cuddly.
After his hour-long performance, Brand happily signed autographs and chatted with fans. If you haven’t watched it already, check out the video above to see it first hand.