Russell Brand: Scandalous
Show type: Tour
This show has not yet got a description.
Given his phenomenal fame, it’s hard to believe that Russell Brand hasn’t played the O2 before. He’s certainly had no problem finding 16,000 adoring fans to fill the venue for the biggest gig of his career.
A little too adoring, perhaps. It’s not many a comedian who has to contest with his audience flashing their breasts, handing over their bras or brandishing placards suggesting a threesome. Every pause in his set is interrupted by wolf whistles and hollers of: ‘We love you, Russell’ echoing around the hideously vast space. It could play havoc with a chap’s comic timing.
But he’s always admitted: ‘My personality doesn’t work without fame’ and he, more than most, is well aware of all the side-effects that tabloid celebrity entails. Indeed, Scandalous is a show dedicated to those very side-effects.
First off, there’s those phone calls to be addressed. The show opens with a dramatic fast-cut montage of news footage of the event, set to a stirring soundtrack of imposing classical music. It’s been put together like it’s a History Channel documentary on the first day of Passchendaele, not a couple of idiots making a childish misdemeanour.
Brand apologises to Sachs, but is hardly contrite – showing a YouTube clip of one of the calls and complaining that he never got the credit for his improvisational skills. Yet the fallout intrigues him. He’s not so much angry at being hounded by the Press or used as a whipping boy for those who would destroy the BBC, than fascinated by it. After all, for a self-confessed narcissist like himself, the blanket coverage was simply fodder for his already well-stoked ego. He jokes that he even began to consider the News At Ten his own show, complete with theme tune: ‘I Am The News. Dah-dah dah dah…’
This is, indeed, a very vain show, but to complain that all Brand does is talk about himself would be like going to an Eric Clapton concert and complaining there’s too much guitar. Narcissism is simply what Brand does, and in the brief moments he does talk about something else, the material is much more pedestrian.
The only problem with talking about events in his life that have been played out so publicly – Sachsgate, his disastrous hosting of the MTV VMA awards that was supposed to propel him to US stardom, his inappropriate thoughts when meeting the Queen and his oedipal crush on Dame Helen Mirren – is that all the tales, and many of the self-deprecating quips, are very familiar to anyone who’s followed his career. And you can bet this crowd falls into that bracket. Another question, for another time, is how topical this material will be when this performance is released on DVD in six or seven months’ time.
Very often Brand just lets the reality speak for itself. Just a little too frequently he’ll read out the hate mail he’s been sent or the coverage he’s received with an incredulous tone of voice, letting the idiocy speak for itself. Given that internet message boards are hardly the home of serious debate, using the stage as a platform to respond so often can seem easy, petty and – surprise, surprise, self-indulgent.
But Brand’s charm is undimmed by the hullabaloo that surrounds him – and it almost overcomes the severe limitations in playing one of Britain’s worst venues for stand-up. Even as a speck on stage, he manages to bring some level of intimacy to the impersonal cavern, thanks to his mischievous persona and lithe physicality. All that yoga seems to have paid off as he prances around the stage with the flexibility and overt posturing that you need if you’re to have any impact on those sitting in level 4, row ZZZ.
This puckish sprite certainly plays up to his well-deserved lothario image. Encouraging his more stalkery fans, he assures the audience he’s not exactly picky when it comes to sexual partners and encourages girls to have a go on his ‘wand of fame… turning sluts into celebrities’. But his incorrigible come-ons are half-neutered by the comedy. As he’s reminiscent of the Fast Show’s 13th Duke Of Wyborne, lasciviously asking of every situation: ‘Me? Here? With my reputation?’
This is Brand’s shtick: that he can’t possibly be taken seriously as a sexual prowler or corrupter of the nation’s morals because he cuts such a ridiculous figure. Which means he has to get more and more ridiculous to get away with it.
With ever increasing fame, Brand may be on the verge of such monumental self-parody that he’ll be unable to keep a vital humanity in his act. But for now, he has the grip on reality – albeit a slender one – that allows him to succeed in the one medium that gives him the true freedom to indulge his extravagant personality: stand-up.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
London, April 2009
Date of review: Apr 2009
Charles Thomson - 26/05/2010
First saw Russell live on his 'Shame' tour in 2006 and thought he was absolutely amazing. However, I think each subsequent tour has deteriorated significantly and thought his 'Scandalaous' show at the O2 was poor at best. Britney's mad, Jacko's weird and the Daily Mail's not very nice? Astute.
mel - 19/04/2009
We saw Russell at the 02 and loved every second of it a good old up yours to the press. He who laughs last laughs longest. Can't wait to see him again.
mellaD - 28/02/2009
Saw Russell Brand tonight in Bournemouth - excellent show. Mr Gee way better than last tour and Russell on top form - darky genius. Good to see the Russsell getting a chance to answer back after 'Manuelgate' stupidity from the press. Really funny evening - 4th time seen him and every time has been different and fresh
Andy - 07/02/2009
Saw Russell last night in Manchester. Brilliant, although he did keep us waiting 40 minutes before he took to stage. Then after promising autographs after the show we waited for 30 minuites to be told he had changed his mind, leaving hundreds of fans a bit pissed off. Come on Russell!
Paul Mc - 02/02/2009
Went to the second of Russell's two shows at Newcastle City Hall at the weekend, and loved every second of it! Mr Gee was a superb support act, restoring some quality to the name after all the damage done by Dustin. Russell Brand was fantastically belligerent in the wake of the Andrew Sachs nonsense last year. So much so that within 20 minutes of the start, he'd managed to upset someone via the medium of prank phone call. This was a great example of a comedian absolutely thriving in his environment, interacting easily with the audience, flitting from topic to topic with barely a missed beat and delivering brilliantly absurd, lurid gags throughout. Loved the show, can't recommend it strongly enough!
ali - 29/01/2009
We saw Russell in Oxford last night and thought the show was brilliant would def see him again!