October 25, 2013

I don’t know why interviewers still insist on underestimating Russell Brand. Have they not watched any of his previous interviews? Anyone who has seen any interview or guest appearance he’s made in the past few months — or even years — will notice that he expresses himself clearly, has been following the issues and does not like being treated like a “trivial” actor/comedian, never mind what the chyron beneath him says.

Now he’s done it again, this time on Wednesday night on BBC’s Newsnight program with Jeremy Paxman. I can’t show the full clip, which contains an F-bomb (Gawker has it; you stand warned) but if you are an interviewer planning on casually dismissing Brand, please, alter your plans. Do not assume that he does not have a vocabulary at least as large as yours, and do not laugh him off or address him as though he is not in the room. This will not work. It will only make him and his revolution stronger, and will make you look like an idiot.

I sometimes wonder how long the Brand machine would thrive if we hired an American comic or actor to read exactly the same statements in an accent that was not British. Would they retain their power to impress? Probably. He explains his decision not to vote by fluently saying: “It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations.” Not the, “I’m not voting because I, uh, there was like a deadline or something and, um, cards and voting is, you know, ugh, you know?” as would probably come out of most of us were we put on the spot. He has mastered the art of being More Serious Than You Expected (MSTYE?) first pioneered by Jon Stewart. A comedian? With knowledge of the issues? And “lexicon” in his, er, lexicon? SURELY THIS IS THE NEW MESSIAH! LEAD US, RUSSELL, LEAD US!

I am paraphrasing a little, but this does seem to be the way the sentiment is tending. There are a few people hesitant to leap onto what is being termed the Brandwagon (well played!) but the response, if sheer volume of hits counts for anything, has been overwhelming. These awkward encounters offer all the raw enjoyment of watching newsmen cringe combined with the delight of seeing someone Susan Boyle an interview out of the park. Still, it’s been happening with such regularity that you might think someone would notice. It’s almost becoming Brand’s stock in trade — comedian Russell shows up and shows you up. As long as interviewers keep failing to realize what they’re dealing with, this publicity will spiral into — well, certainly more buzz for Brand’s tours, but at his present rate of virality, possibly some kind of Occupy 2.0 or mass stampede to redistribute everything. You can’t rule it out! Anyway, don’t underestimate him. That’s my point.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.