Modern times are fantastic, aren’t they? They allow two perfect strangers (you and me) to communicate via open letters. As you wouldn’t know, I am respected in my retinue to be entrepreneur minded, so let me start this conversation.
Russell Brand, let me first praise the verbosity of your prose, your elaborated vocabulary, the richness of your references (from Gandhi to Tupac Shakur), the vividness of your metaphors, your cynical humor, and the impact of your visual appearance. Your natural qualities for Inszenierung make people laugh with you, vibrate in the same frequency range as you do on stage, pretty much like Joseph Goebbels speeches did back in the thirties (historians agree that Goebbels displayed sarcastic humor).
“What?”, you might be thinking, actually adding some f and s words.
I have to admit it, it sounds quite odd to have these two names (Brand and Goebbels) in juxtaposition… for now. Let me try to explain with one concrete example: Dieudonné.
Lately you wrote a column in The Guardian against Rupert Murdoch, con brio. Using improbable words that could make this material interesting in a century to be studied during modern English lessons. There is only one thing I regret about this intervention, it is when you mention in the same paragraph Adolph Hitler and Rupert Murdoch. You might be referring back to some dubious “Jewish-owned press” tweet Rupert Murdoch released one year ago, but you pooh-bah that is just a coup bas!
I must admit, as a humorist, your work is difficult as you always have to walk a fine line between making fun of people and denigrating them.
Lately, you made me laughing, but thinking too. Like when you accepted a trophy sponsored by a German fashion brand that you joked supplied uniforms to the Nazis. Or after Rupert Murdoch tabloids “lied” about your private life, you wrote an acerbic note on him, taking a big risk there as his group has produced some of your artistic work. I am getting the impression that you are not going to be invited to a ceremony or a tele show any time soon.
Henri Bergson, a French philosopher, wrote that (approximate translation) “A good laugh confronts us with our flaws pretty much like illness confront us to our excesses, but it does it in a blind manner, sometimes striking doves and letting the culprit run free“. He captured there all the strength and weakness in the weapons you have to defend yourself.
While making us laugh (but overusing the f word) you are raising some valid points about imperfections in our society. In your own personal manner you are wishing for a better “us living together” and “carrying about each other”, like when you advocate that the wars on drug have failed and you advise your government to consider drug addicts as ill people rather than criminals, a cause for which you took actions. But as many stand up comedians, you are in a way a good sociologist, what a disappointment that you missed the opportunity to dress up formally when invited by the Members of Parliament to defend your views on abstinence-based recovery approach but rather went there to display your tattooed arms, black hat and overcrowded necklace. Right after that you complained that the MP committee didn’t really listen to you… When you discredit David Cameron for having a face like a painted egg, can’t you make the parallel that you may loose credit if you dress up like you did in front of the MPs, and be grateful because Dave can’t repaint his egg but you could have put a shirt on to defend a cause worth dressing for. Or were you just trying to promote you new show, in which case I would understand better your gesture?
To add an example from your last show “Messiah complex”, your humor made a bulls eye against violent christian homophobia when you joked: “you’d think that if Jesus was that concerned about homosexuality, he had the perfect opportunity to address this issue in his top ten do’s and don’ts. As far as the ten commandments are concerned, homosexuality is not considered as important an issue as thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s oxen.” You recognise in your show that the Bible isn’t really advocating homosexuality but you rightly wonder why some people are using this book to persecute homosexuals. Such humanist questions could also be raised about islamic laws and the Qur’an, etc.
In a nutshell, I really appreciate your writing skills, I think you are fighting for some valid causes, but I am afraid you might have fallen into a “media’s persona non grata trap”.
I am not mentioning here the Sun’s weak response to your note. It is so badly written it made me think you are cleverer than I thought you were. You having sometimes some anarchist ideas doesn’t imply you should give up your millions, ads campaigns, or designer suits to be consistent. On the contrary, it serves all the more your message if you are somehow part of the establishment. You proved that one can make money advertising for the iPad while denouncing how workers get treated to “make them thinner”, I strongly believed your unique posture magnifies the impact of such a statement if only because it puts you in a position were you are not a grumpy have-not spitting at “all those rich corrupted people” but rather a vocabulary genius that is ridding the wave and while on top of it look at the people left on the rocky shore and make a remark that you may have all that luxury without them suffering.
But I am afraid you might be at point break. The media waves might actually soon throw you on that rocky shore. Let’s face it, you just publicly insulted your employer (Rupert Murdoch) for not being trustworthy, I am not convinced this will go down well at your next job interview. And also, I have some doubts that any marketing agency, PR or actually any industrial group, might want to have you at any public event in the near future.
I would actually recommend that you don’t give your fortune away just yet, but like rapper outcast from the mainstream media, you start your own media company.
I wanted to tell you this, because I have been traumatised by a comedian, who across the Channel actually got quickly out of the french channels. When I was a kid, there was a stand-up comedian who would make me laugh, Dieudonné. But in the naughties, he did a very unpleasant and not funny stand up act on live television acting as a “zionist”. Instead of apologizing and saying that all he wanted was to mock any form of extremism, he pretended to fight for his freedom of speech. More than ten years after now, he has (in my view) become a poor and grumpy person never invited to mainstream media, which sadly feed the vicious circle that makes him pretend there are “some obscure forces” orchestrating his outcast… Well no, he is just not funny any longer, he has become an “infréquentable“, and a lot of his new friends are from the far right and their political intentions are far from being funny and if ever applied wouldn’t be promoting freedom of speech, if History has taught us anything. A striking example of Dieudonné’s drift: he invented a funny visual concept in which you take a quenelle (sort of French sausage) and put it up someone genitals after showing his ideas are stupid. The sad reality is that now the extreme right French party is using this visual gesture as a “rally” and some photographs made controversy with portrayed soldiers doing such a gesture in front of a synagogue or a dubious writer doing such a gesture in front of the Berlin Holocaust memorial.
Russell, you made some valid points about and a bit against the establishment. I am afraid you won’t be invited as much as you have been in the past on main stream media. I have been traumatised by a French stand up comedian who saw the same treatment ten year ago and that today’s only remaining friends seem to be fetid extremists.
Russell, now that you’ve fall into this “media’s persona non grata trap”, please show some resilience and I beg you, don’t do or say anything that would blacklist you from mainstream media for ever and would viciously motivate you to spit on it all and end up being a grumpy old man surrounded by extremists or pariahs. You’ve got a unique talent, but after some of your jokes and statements, the sun might come down for you for a while, have a rest, don’t wake up any unpleasant neighbor or throw parties with obscure “thinkers”, if you are patient enough and why not set up your own media company, you’ll raise and shine on the Channel again.