by Dave Stone

There have only ever been two biographies about Tommy Cooper. There will be three about Russell Brand in this year alone. That has to say something about modern celebrity.

Dave Stone’s is the second. Brand himself will publish his own memoirs later in the year, while journalist Tanith Carey got there first with a book that combined cuttings research with her own interviews. Stone didn’t bother with all that tiresome investigative work of his own, and still managed to be second out the gate, with a superficial run through every spit and cough that has already been published about the big-barneted dandy.

The lack of effort is painful. He mentions Russell stepfather, for instance, but doesn’t get as far as finding out his name (he should have read Carey’s book for that. Or even Googled it). He also seems to have rather an odd view of the comedy world he’s supposed to be writing about: ‘Russell eschewed the comedian’s wardrobe staples. There was no corduroy in his closet,’ he writes. How many comics do you know who wear corduroy? One?

With so many holes in the story and so many pages to fill – he manages 264, in well-spaced type – Stone calls upon all sorts of meaningless linguistic flannel, most of it painful. ‘Britain hadn’t heard of Russell Brand in the first half of 1975. How could it? He hadn’t even been born yet,’ says one hugely incisive comment.

The trying-too-hard-to-be-laddish tone grates, too. ‘The onset of fame meant that Russell got to fuck even more birds,’ Stone says charmingly. Likewise, gay men are referred to as ‘chocolate speedway merchants’.

The padding reaches ridiculous proportions. Take this hefty extract about the 1986 Mexico World Cup. ‘Unfortunately, that year Argentina’s captain Diego Maradona was in his prime and England came up against him in the quarter-final. He’d already scored five goals in the tournament, yet he saved his most majestic performance for the England game. He scored both Argentina’s goals as his team beat Lineker and co 2-1. His first effort was the notorious Hand Of God goal. The whole world-except the referee – saw the pint-sized genius blatantly punch the ball into the net past a flailing Peter Shilton. In his post-match interview Maradona, making light of his cheating, claimed that the goal was scored, “a bit with the head of Maradona and another bit with the hand of God.” But if his first goal was hand made, his second was created from pure genius. Often rated as the best goal ever scored, Maradona picked up the ball on the halfway line, dibbled past what seemed like the entire England team – some of them more than once – and poked the ball into the net as the goalkeeper rushed out to meet him.’

What, you might be asking, has this got to do with Russell Brand? Well, he watched it on the TV when he was ten and thought the first goal was a bit unfair. Err, that’s it. I’m sure it was hugely formative.

This account of Maradona’s performance takes about a page. Compare that to Brand’s liaison with Kate Moss – which was the very thing that got newspapers interested in him in the first place – to which Stone dedicates, ooh, three pages or so,

In a similarly pointless vein, we get a brief biography of West Ham boss Glenn Roeder, endless lists of what music Brand has ever said he liked with some of their discographies. Did you know he likes Tricky, but prefers the earlier work. Do you care? And there’s a list of all the guest that appeared on his 1 Leicester Square show, and what they said on the programme: Tom Cruise talking about fatherhood or Noel Gallagher getting annoyed that he wasn’t ahead of James Blunt in the Rich List. The amount of information you learn about Brand in these tedious accounts is nothing.

No detail is ever too small to be cut and pasted, even picture captions. For an Esquire photo shoot Brand sported a waistcoat by Filippa K, jeans by J Lindeberg, £99.95 boots by batwear but the shirt was his own, we learn, pointlessly. It’s as if Stone keeps forgetting what he’s supposed to be writing about, and just churns out those cuttings with no sense of editing or purpose.

The laziness is astounding. Russell was ‘expected to’ perform at the Comedy Heaven fundraiser at the last night of the Leicester Comedy Festival, he parrots at one point. ‘Comic might do gig’ is hardly worth mentioning in a biography in the first place, you might think, but Stone couldn’t even be bothered to check what happened. Brand didn’t appear in the end. So a gig he DIDN’T DO gets a mention, just because it showed up in one cutting or other.

Yet Stone has the cheek to claim the moral high ground, saying of the very tabloid journalists he’s pilfered all his material from: ‘It didn’t matter that they didn’t know what they were talking about. They wrote and wrote and wrote.’

This is the same author who writes that Brand got the most votes in a Time Out poll to be named comedian of the year. No he didn’t. It’s not decided by readers, but the magazine’s comedy editor. It’s just one of several sloppy slips.

I could go on, but would only get angry. This cynically opportunistic book is one of the worst biographies of a comedian ever to have been written. If a single tree is cut down to print this drivel, it would be one too many.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
May 5, 2007

  • Russell Brand Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know, by Dave Stone is published by John Blake is published on Tuesday, priced £7.99

Published: 6 May 2007

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