Russell Brand doesn’t hold back when it comes to getting a laugh or telling a painful truth, but when there’s an opportunity to do both – look out.
Case in point: the British GQ Men of the Year Awards, where Brand recently stunned and amused the audience by saying fashion giant Hugo Boss — the main sponsor for the event — had “made the uniforms for the Nazis.”
“The Nazis did have flaws, but you know, they did look (expletive) fantastic, lets face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality,” Brand said with a wry smile while accepting something called the Oracle Award. A video of the speech is on YouTube.
British newspapers reported Brand was kicked out of the awards show’s after-party over the comment.
“No, I wouldn’t say ‘kicked out,’ but the media tends to blow these things up. There was certainly a bit of a confrontation,” Brand said when he called the Tampa Tribune a few days later. “The problem, I found out, is that it’s frowned upon to point out that the sponsor of the event you’re at made fashionable outfits for a genocide, because the sponsor sort of owns the event. I just looked at the night as me and my mate (Oasis songwriter) Noel Gallagher having some fun. We were trying to make each other laugh.”
Brand, 38, who starred as flamboyant, sex-crazed rock star Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,“ and a flamboyant, sex-crazed billionaire man-boy in “Arthur,” said the freedom to talk about anything is part of what fueled his current return to stand-up comedy. His Messiah Complex tour stops at the Straz Center in Tampa on Friday.
The tour poster by artist Shepard Fairey (known widely for designing the 2008 Obama campaign poster), shows Brand wearing a necklace with a cross, an Islamic crescent moon, a Hindu om, a star of David, a swastika and the McDonald’s arches. In the show, Brand talks about historical figures Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X and Jesus Christ (with a guest appearance by Hitler).
“I want the audience to think about the way these icons are appropriated. By definition, all icons have a deeper meaning, but who is giving them their meaning, and to what ends are they using it. That’s the question,” Brand said. “Think about Christ. It’s an interesting space he occupies culturally. He’s really perceived differently depending on who’s using him as a sign.”
If it sounds like better fodder for a university theology or philosophy class than a comedy show, don’t worry, Brand said. Even though he is making a point, the show is full of laughs, improvisation and audience participation.
“Well first of all, it’s being done by a professional comedian, so there’s that,” Brand says in response to a question of where the comedy factors into such a serious discussion. “But there’s always plenty of opportunities for jokes. Everything is a joke really. You don’t want to analyze it too much. Humor is like sex really, once you start to analyze it, then it stops being fun.”