Comedy review: Russell Brand: Re-Birth

Russell Brand has changed, or so he would have us believe though his ego appears as large as ever, but he managed touches of humility too
Russell Brand has changed, or so he would have us believe though his ego appears as large as ever, but he managed touches of humility too
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There’s no other comic quite like Russell Brand, dispensing cookies to his audience made by the Hare Krishnas and remaining onstage during the interval, posing for photos with the multitude that want them. As ever, he swaggeringly reiterates his belief that everything is essentially nonsense because we’re all part of some higher, vaguely spiritual collective energy, which he then sets about testing with some lively crowd work that far exceeds normal audience participation.

Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow ***

Demanding that an electric wheelchair user transport him back to the stage as he 
straddled her lap, he’d previously requested that the emboldened fill in a questionnaire when they purchased their tickets, allowing him to identify them by seat number and put them on camera as their sexual humiliations were shared with the theatre.

For the most part though, Re:Birth is a companion piece to his previous show Messiah Complex, in that it relies heavily upon him reflecting on and mocking the distorted image of him presented by the media.

There’s a rather more contrite tone this time round as Brand is quicker to acknowledge his own mistakes and participation in the distortion, not least in his encounters with the likes of Donald Trump, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Paxman, which he dissects in episodes of often painful stop-frame detail.

But he also tries, unconvincingly, to attribute his burgeoning wisdom (and feminism) to becoming the father of a baby daughter, which frequently seems a stretch.

Although funny and self-deprecating throughout, a compelling mix of humility and ego, he’s at his most compelling as a recovered hedonist, recalling his drug-taking, sexually promiscuous past with self-aware wit and zero apology.

And he’s not as boorish as he threatens to be when he contrasts his wife’s experience of the birth to his own, his roguish charm allowing him to nimbly sidestep any charges of misogyny.

Still, Re:Birth is all rather bitty and lacks the coherence of thought and argument that Brand clearly aspires to. Moreover, whilst he derives great amusement from tabloid headlines suggesting that he’s going to Syria and the like, the joke, hardly lost on him, is that without all this press intrusion and twisting of events in his life, he’d have very little to kick against or even talk about.

Certainly, when he talks about Hollywood falling out of love with him, you can only conclude that more time out of the limelight might aid him in finding fresher angles for his comedy.

JAY RICHARDSON