'This will be hostile, let's face it head on'

Russell Brand on his Late n Live furore

Russell Brand has spoken about his notorious Late 'n' Live gig in Edinburgh – which ended up with Australian comedian Fiona O’Loughlin injured by the flying glass hurled at him.

Brand played the famously hostile late-night club in August 2001, at the height of his wild days, and goaded the audience to hate him.

In the ensuing chaos a pint glass was hurled on stage, missing Brand but hurtling into the backstage area, where it smashed, embedding a shard of glass into O’Loughlin’s leg.

Footage from the night is to be screened during the four-part BBC Scotland programme about the club, which starts on Monday.

Brand said he suspected the night wouldn’t go well after he decided to mess around in the spirit of late American comedian Andy Kaufman, having recently watched his biopic, Man On The Moon.

He said: ‘I had an inkling it would not be a productive or helpful or spiritually enriching experience, but like most the things I was doing at the time, I was thinking it will be some kind of buzz, it will be a feeling, so I did it for that, thinking “yes this will be visceral”.

‘I was early on my journey as a comedian; I’d probably done 20 or 30 gigs or something but I was up for it. I think I’d seen the film Man On The Moon and I thought “Situationism, that’s what I’m going to do”. Yet another way of avoiding writing material. I thought this is going to be a hostile thing, so let’s face it head on.’

So on stage, he smashed a glass on the proscenium arch and appeared to slash himself with it, giving the audience the blood they craved – although it was actually a capsule of fake blood hidden under his T-shirt.

But the stunt was met with a deafening chorus of boos from the audience.

Adam Hills, who was compering the night, said: ‘I remember going out and amid all the boos, one voice going “More!”’

So he brought Brand back out, whose antics further enraged the audience, who by this time were yelling: ‘Fuck off and die.’

O’Loughlin, who was in the corridor between the stage and dressing room, said she was terrified to go on next. ‘This was beyond nerves,’ she said ‘This was a blind total catatonic fear.’

The glass thrown from the audience at the Gilded Balloon smashed on the wall opposite her, and she recalls: ‘As Adam Hills was introducing me I was pulling a piece of glass out of my leg; I literally did have blood pouring down my leg as I went on.’

And she said that the next day the rumour had spread around Edinburgh that she had been stabbed at Late and Live.

Brand says his stunt was ‘making external the chaos’ in his life, and credits it with helping him clean himself up.

He said: ‘If anything, it probably expedited my journey to not taking drugs any more; expedited my journey to write material, to start taking comedy more seriously.’

The series includes contributions from the likes of Dara O’Briain, Ross Noble, Jenny Eclair and Dan Antopolski – who is seen standing his ground as the crowd bay for him to get off. Other footage shows Johnny Vegas inviting the audience to pelt him with coins as he sings and Andy Zaltzman dealing with seven and a half minutes of heckles about his appearance – from ‘Sideshow Bob’ to ‘Albert Einstein in colour’ – and recalling how ‘the rest of the gig struggled to live up to those seven and a half minutes’.

In the second show of the series, Ava Vidal recalls how, as a new act, she was heckled by king of Late 'n' Live Daniel Kitson, who was in the audience on his night off.

The lights mean she could not make out the heckler, but recalls: ‘As I new comic I only had a couple of lines that normally stop someone, but not in this case.That person would not stop. It was relentless.

‘As the voice was talking more and more I kinda recognised it – and it turned out to be Daniel Kitson.

‘After that I was furious. I stayed up all night writing and writing and writing. I thought if he ever tries that again..

‘I was quite keen to go back as you can’t have that as your only Late N Live story. And the second time it was better.’

Here are some clips from Late 'n' Live Guide To Comedy, which starts at 11.05pm on Monday on BBC One Scotland. It is also available south of the border on Sky and Virgin, and on iPlayer after it has aired.

Published: 19 Jan 2012

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