Russell Brand Booky Wook 2 tour

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

During an interview Jeremy Paxman presented Russell Brand with the chunky sheath of papers that is the BBC’s new compliance form. ‘You did that,’ the grand inquisitor told him.

But while much of the media hasn’t escaped the fallout from the phone call he made to Andrew Sachs, egged on by Jonathan Ross, the comic himself hasn’t suffered too may ill consequences. It’s not much of a setback for a comic known for his morally questionable behaviour to be at the centre of controversy.

But still his first public appearance with Ross creates something of a buzz, with the notorious furore never far from the surface. In his stand-up section that precedes the interview, Brand teases the audience – and the press within it – with pointed asides about people ‘deliberately misunderstanding’ his motives and teasing the audience to link the Daily Mail with the Nazis. He would never say that, of course, perish the thought.

But he has even more fun at his own expense. ‘I not very good at judging time,’ he announces when wondering whether it’s time to wrap up for the interval. Or judging right from wrong.’

He issues the requisite apology for being an idiot, but his lack of concern for the consequences of his actions is what’s made him such a fine stand-up, if perhaps not always such a fine human being. There was a time when every day produced an anecdote, ripe for the sharing. He mines indiscretions from his life for our vicarious thrills, in lively, eloquently verbose routines, powered by his mischievous energy.

The stand-up sections here reiterate what a fine comedian he is. Whatever his Hollywood career – and he has the usual moans about the tedium of the filming process – when he’s onstage, unfiltered and connecting with an audience, he is a thrilling performer.

These routines have to compete for space tonight with the readings to plug his Booky Wook 2, and, as expected, the extracts that deal with his rampant libido and hedonistic lifestyle make for the most entertaining moments. When a section starts with ‘breast milk is wasted on babies’, you know you’re in for a typical dose of shameless honesty. But it’s never over-the-top; Brand plays his life out like a bawdy Seventies British sex comedy, more than an X-rated internet clip.

He also reads a chapter of e-mail that he exchanged with his hero Morrissey, and rarely will you hear such effete camp. Morrissey’s in the audience tonight, as is David Baddiel and Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh. There’s a risk of name-dropping: David Walliams features heavily in another anecdote while Ross asks the most showbiz question ever: ‘Want to hear what Tom Cruise said about you?’

The much-vaunted interview was a little patchy, perhaps because Brand and Ross have become so close in the wake of the media tsunami that anything too revelatory is off the menu. Though whenever things droop, a sex tale will perk it up again, and here he tells of a threesome in the Hollywood Hills where he ‘lived like Charles Manson… but better behaved.’

There’s some question of whether setting down with Katy Perry will tame him; and some self-indulgent guff about his spiritualism. Whatever gets you through the day, I say, but sharing this is as tedious as a Bible reading. He’s wary of appearing to take himself too seriously, but not so wary he doesn’t go on about it a bit too long for comfort.

There was, of course, discussion of Sachsgate… though nothing you won’t have heard before in this saga that has been played out very much in the public arena. Brand’s surely beyond that, even though Ross’s subsequent career has yet to be definitively settled. Here, he indulged Brand a little too much, but also showed off his smart-as-a-button skills for the perfect quip that won him the mega-money contract in the first place.

Ross won’t be around for the rest of the tour, which should serve as a welcome, but ultimately too-brief to be satisfying, reminder of how great a stand-up Brand can be. Lets hope a movie career, sobriety and a married life don’t change that.

Click here to order Brand's book from Amazon for £9, rather than the £20 rrp.

Review date: 1 Oct 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Hackney Empire

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