Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #187: Rebel Without a Clue

The BBC in Merry Olde England has so far received over 18,000 complaints by listeners over a prank by radio personality Jonathan Ross, and comedian Russel Brand. The prank involved the two men repeatedly leaving obscene phone messages with the voice mail of 78 year old comic-actor Andrew Sachs about his 23 year old granddaughter. The two modern wits then topped it all off with cruelly joking about how it probably drove the elderly man to suicide and how funny that is and how cool that made them, and so on, and so on...

Sachs is probably best remembered by American audiences as Manuel, the naive, kind-hearted, but klutzy Spanish waiter on John Cleese's classic sit-com
Fawlty Towers. Russel Brand is best known for low brow jokes, his drug addled past, and his hair which is carefully styled to look like he ran it through a blender in a bowl of lard.

So it raises the question:
Why did Brand and his cohort Ross choose to verbally and obscenely attack an elderly man and his granddaughter on the national radio?

Well the answer is image.

I find Brand
merely okay as a comedian, and I think that he knows that he's mediocre, so he tries to make up for it with heavy doses of image. Hence the hair, the make-up, the black clothing, the rock-star posturing, and the vain attempts to be edgy and daring.

Before his recent purchase by Viacom for their MTV Awards Show which he got after landing a supporting role in a Judd Apatow comedy, he was most famous for getting fired from MTV Britain for dressing up like Osama Bin Laden the day after 9/11/2001. That stunt got him better work in TV and radio with the BBC and his eventual selling out to that Empire of Hip called MTV/Viacom/Paramount in America.

Now how did dressing up like Bin Ladin the day after 9/11 help his career?

Because Russel Brand is what I call "Corporate Edgy."

He makes BBC bureaucrats and media conglomerate stuffed suits feel that they're as rebellious and daring as they were during their youth in the 1960s and 1970s. (Youthful rebellion usually having more to do with bad taste in clothing than really challenging any status quo.) He shares their fashionable beliefs, and prejudices, but makes himself appear apart from them by presenting a faux-"I Don't Give A Fuck" attitude, while carefully avoiding any rebellion that might cost him money.

You see, being truly edgy and rebellious in comedy is to challenge the power of popular culture's elite class. It's about tackling the shibboleths, political correctness, and prejudices of this elite class, come hell or high water, because in the end, they don't matter, it's the audience.

That is not Brand's brand, so to speak. Challenging the media elite is dangerous, potentially costly, and he knows that he doesn't have the talent to beat it in the end, so he plays along. He avoids anything that may be declared "politically incorrect" or "offensive" to the people that sign his paychecks, preferring to mock Americans, Christians, the politically and socially conservative, and when his limited talents have pretty much exhausted those oft-tread paths, (one can only make so-many Jesus jokes before repeating oneself) he attacks a 78 year old man and his grand-daughter.

I guess you could say that Brand is the comedy equivalent of gangster rap. He sells at first because he annoys the parents of his pubescent target audience, who have to take whatever rebellion they can get, even if it's spoon-fed to them by a major corporation, owned by a 90something oligarch. However, this never lasts eventually the audience figures out that deep down it's all about selling sneakers, clothes, or hair gel. Corporate edgy never lasts long at the top, and is usually just as quickly forgotten.

Brand and his cohort have been suspended by the BBC for their antics, but not fired, and he won't be until people start to see through the carefully stylized scruffy image and see the bland corporate toady beneath it.

Which won't be long after a creatively bankrupt stunt like this.

UPDATE: It's reported that Brand has quit his radio on the BBC. Now I think he did this whole thing deliberately so he could quit the BBC and keep selling out to the Viacom/MTV bottomless chum bucket. I predict a couple of movies, that might have good openings at first, but the heat won't last, considering he's essentially a 1 joke caricature and not a comedic actor, ending in a reality show on MTV where he tries and fails to get ex-porn stars to sleep with him.

1 comment:

  1. Brand's future is bright. He's likely the next Hugh Grant.

    Women really love this guy ... go figure but there it is. It's all about attitude.