The evolution of Russell Brand
Before Russell Brand entered the public consciousness as a Big Brother presenter, he was making Louis Theroux on acid esque documentaries for now defunct TV channel Play UK. Exploring cultural taboos in a post-Gonzo style that made Hunter S. Thompson look like Reggie Yates, Brand could be found bathing with the homeless, dating pensioners and debating with youth leaders of the BNP.
In the intervening years we have witnessed Brand's development into a political activist. Here's our favourite episodes of Brand's YouTube channel The Trews, in homage to his intellectual and political journey.
Guess Who’s Back (E367)
Upon Russell's return to YouTube, he investigates Trump and Clinton’s election battle -the strange nature of the televised debates, the emptiness of the candidates rhetoric. Russell also attacks Trump’s narcissistic nature and the way his language naturally gravitates towards self-aggrandisement. Towards the end of the episode, Russell articulates the public's distress in having to choose between the lesser of two evils. He goes on to imply the debate spectacle is the veil that disguises the real machine of power. It’s refreshing to have Russell back and expressing a lot of the thoughts that weigh on our own minds. When push comes to shove, someone has to be bold enough to compare a political debate to a hip-hop battle.
Is David Cameron The Terrorist? (E164)
Under an eye-catching title, Russell is joined by Hollywood star, Alec Baldwin, Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert. It’s Max Keiser who makes the bold claim of Cameron’s affiliation with terrorism, however all four of the talking heads engage in an interesting conversation about the paradoxes of the modern world. The 2014 Ebola outbreak is the first topic of conversation in which the panel examine how Ebola in West Africa never appeared important to the media until it began to threaten white people. Russell and Alec are fun to watch as they share a chemistry from previous collaborations; Russell even gives Alec a big affectionate kiss on the cheek during the episode. The conversation soon shifts to ISIS in which the panel emphasise the hypocrisies of the UK’s foreign policy. They openly criticise the UK government’s double standards in condemning ISIS while indirectly funding them at the same time. Russell doesn’t get to do all the talking for once and it makes for a refreshing change to see him engaging with the opinions of his like-minded companions.
Final Episode Of The Trews – Goodbye, Good Luck (E366)
In one of Russell’s more reflective moments, he studies previous Trews episodes. Brand expresses his concern with the current state of mainstream news, suggesting he’s fatigued by the ordeal of reporting the counter narrative. The episode has an emotional feel as he tells his followers that he’s leaving them for a while in order to improve his knowledge and understanding of the world. He reflects on some of the negative media responses he’s had and suggests that it represents a kind of cognitive dissonance occupying modern day society. Elaborating on this point, he explains how the UK has funded arms to countries on its own human rights abusers list but still expects us to give a minute’s silence for casualties of war. It all begins to feel a bit Orwellian at times but Russell reminds us that we do live in a real world with real problems and they shouldn’t be ignored just because we don’t always understand them. He ends the episode by encouraging those who want to see a fairer world to go ahead and start their own independent media platforms.
Are You Outraged By Halal Pizza? (E51)
In this humorous episode, Russell begins with his delight at being included in the A-level curriculum despite never managing to get any A-levels of his own. The episode’s main focus is on the triviality and racism of The Sun's report on 'Halal pizzas'. Russell questions why killing an animal by Islamic law is so much worse than killing them in a British slaughterhouse.
He goes on to highlight a piece in The Sun newspaperwhere one of Halal’s criticisms is that “the chickens must be alive when they’re slaughtered”. Amused, Russell reminds us that all living creatures must be alive before they’re killed. Towards the end of the episode, he picks out a separate Daily Mirror headline and responds to why young people may feel deterred from the voting system. He then ends the episode with a pleasant passage from Eckhart Tolle and conveys his own belief that all humans have the same spiritual objectives.
Milibrand: The Interview (E309)
“Milibrand” is easily one of the most entertaining episodes of the Trews and its one and half million views speaks to that fact. Russell faces off against Labour’s ex-prime ministerial candidate, Ed Miliband, and decides to confront him on why people feel so disenfranchised and alienated from Westminster politics. Miliband does his best to explain the slow nature of political change, however his learned ability to speak in a politically scripted manner goes on to frustrate Russell and his Trews audience. Russell asks Ed how he proposes to fight against the privatisation of public institutions and the transfer of wealth to the 1%, after which Ed politely tip-toes around the question by reiterating the positive changes of the past.
While Ed expresses an interest in wanting to see the same changes as Russell, he doesn’t quite outline how he plans to implement them. It’s frustrating and entertaining to watch two very different personalities attempt to find common ground on a such an important subject. The interview isn’t great and Ed’s answers are a little wooden but the attempt to expose a prime ministerial candidate to a younger audience was commendable and should be revisited in the future.
Russell Brand is on tour from April. Book here.