By Monica McGivern
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Alex Rendon
By Monica McGivern
By Ian Witlen
By Christina Mendenhall
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Monica McGivern
Russell Brand's successful pond-crossing into mainstream America gave us lucky viewers more than another movie star in skinny jeans. Brand is the type of comedian who always has something to say or, rather, who never stops talking. These days, he's trotting the globe sharing his views on current political happenings and social issues that will never be solved.
Originally brought to the States by way of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand is now here on the Messiah Complex World Wide Tour. With pit stops in South Africa, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and, of course, Coral Springs, Brand has been taking advantage of this global podium to start a conversation about historical leaders like Gandhi, Jesus Christ, and even Hitler. Why do people need someone to look up to? he muses. How does this affect your psyche? Trippy stuff, huh? No "what's up with airplane food?" jokes in sight. But don't worry, his opinions — however heady the subject matter — always come with an extra scoop of funny, as we learned while talking with the comedian about cheese, the VMAs, and what it would take for him to consider cutting his hair.
New Times: I know you just wrapped a bunch of shows in Canada. How do you feel about our northern neighbors?
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Russell Brand: I had a fantastic time there. It was wonderful, actually. I really enjoyed Vancouver and Toronto, especially. I had a beautiful time. And I also just did shows in San Francisco and Seattle and Portland, and they were great as well.
The Messiah Complex World Wide Tour got a little less worldwide when your dates in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon were canceled. You seemed pretty excited about those gigs. Do you hope to get back there one day?
Yes. I hope so. But I am sure that there are other priorities in that region at this time. And that can't go on forever, can it?
The idea behind this tour — where you are looking at these famous leaders and dissecting why people honor them — how did the idea of building a show around that concept first come to you?
I realized what a privileged position I am in as a comedian, and I can talk about anything I want. And I thought about, "Well, what really interests me?" And what really interests me is people who come up with ideas that change society. I don't mean in the world of consumers and technology. I mean ideas: spiritual or philosophical or political ideas or the way people live their lives. And people devote their lives to what they believe in at a time where we have quite narrow descriptive parameters, a time where we don't really challenge the nature of our reality.
I've been reading My Booky Wook, and I love your style of writing, but I can't help but flip back to those picture pages of you as a kid with short hair. Your hair has become such a big part of your look. Would you ever consider cutting it?
I never thought there would be any reason to. I've never had the reason to. If there was a reason to, I suppose I could.
I see some sort of big charity thing around that one day, maybe.
Oh my God, it would have to be big! It would have to be to bring peace to the Middle East.
I happen to be a big comedy music fan, and you were great in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. Have you ever thought about putting out an album?
I sometimes think about it. I am not really musically especially gifted. I can sing a bit, but all of the songs in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and a lot of them in get Get Him to the Greek are written by Jason Segal. He has such a natural gift for that kind of thing. Whenever I sang Jason's songs, I think I just made them a bit worse. I have other friends that are very gifted in that. I really like the Rubber Bandits — you should check them out if you like that. They are an Irish group; they're brilliant.
I always thought your big jump into American mainstream was when you hosted the MTV VMAs in 2008. This year's show made a lot of news. What do you think about the media making a big deal out of Miley Cyrus instead of focusing on more important things like what is happening in Syria?
I suppose that is the way that the media functions. It is so entrenched that it seems almost childish to criticize one issue. That's the frequency that we broadcast and receive our news now. So unless we see a significant change, that's not really worth complaining about. Also I think anything that happens onstage at the MTV Awards isn't particularly significant unless they start beheading each other. Even then, only if it's on a larger scale. An isolated beheading wouldn't mean anything.
Your awesome bit on Morning Joe went so viral that my mom was actually the one who told me to watch it. That's such a great example of today's technology. What is your favorite way to harness the power of the internet?
I think it is a significant tool. As much as the internet can mean freedom, it can also restrict freedom, as we witnessed with the Edward Snowden-in-prison situation. So really, as long as we have power structures that have a certain mentality, then the tools that we have will be blunted by the dominant authority.
You do about an hour and half show, sometimes six nights in a row. How do you keep yourself centered with such a rigorous schedule?
I meditate, I do yoga, I eat really healthy food, and I don't really do anything else. I don't watch films or have sex or anything. I just drink juice, green juice, meditate, do yoga, go on runs, and think about the show. It's all I do.
That sounds like the way to do it. You've been a vegetarian since a young age, and you became vegan just in the last few years, right?
I wish I would be vegan; I'm a vegetarian. I'm pretty good and responsible with the way I eat, but I mean, once in a while I have to have an egg.
Right, I was going to ask if you miss cheese.
Yeah, I fucking like cheese. I think anything that is cruel to animals or butchers animals, we need to work towards remedying, for them and for us.
You are many things: a writer, comedian, actor. Sometimes you refer to yourself as an entertainer. Is that your preferred title?
I am a comedian. I am a comedian in film. I'm a comedian on the telly. I am a comedian live onstage. I am a comedian when I am not too. I try to look at it from that respect.
What's your favorite kind of sandwich?
Hmmm, I suppose it would be like a nice bread, sort of lightly toasted. With a poached egg on it, not well but perfectly done. Some spinach on there or maybe some tomatoes. Some avocado, just the right kind of avocado, drizzled lightly with some oil. Oh, God. You're making me hungry. And sexually aroused. Now I am confused by all of my instincts.