He's played an out-of-control rocker in Hollywood movie “Get Him to the Greek” and a drunken playboy in “Arthur,” but in his first US television show, Americans will see raucous British comedian Russell Brand as they haven't before - doing stand-up.
Brand returns to his roots in new show “Brand X,” a late-night, once-a-week program debuting on the FX network on Thursday. It shows off the comedian's sexually charged humor, as well as his more serious take on spirituality, consumerism and celebrity culture in front of a live audience.
“I love doing stand-up because you have a direct interaction with the audience. There is no mediation, no script, no direction. It is my great love. What is it other than telling the truth to human beings that are identical to me?” Brand told Reuters.
Inspired by topical events and filmed in a small, nightclub-like studio north of Los Angeles four days ahead of broadcast, “Brand X” finds the ex-husband of pop singer Katy Perry in reflective and provocative form.
No target is off limits for the 37-year-old, whose discourse in Thursday's first episode begins with an account of his recent meeting with the Dalai Lama (Brand is an ardent disciple of transcendental meditation) and takes in Charlie Sheen, circumcision, Mel Gibson, Oprah Winfrey, oral sex, the media, Nietzsche, capitalism and hiccups in under 30 minutes.
Audience participation and off-the-cuff mockery also play a part in the show that the FX basic cable network says brings “an unmistakably irreverent attitude” to its late-night programming.
“The main thing I am interested in is the difference in the way information is portrayed and the truth behind that information,” Brand said of his themes.
“If you read a news story and it is clearly biased and designed to elicit a certain reaction, who benefits from that reaction?” he added.
Brand made his name in his native England around 10 years ago, starting in comedy clubs and moving to radio, TV and award shows. Using his own history as a drug, alcohol and sex addict, he courted controversy (and lost several jobs) through his jokes and pranks.
The British comedian says FX has placed no restrictions on his act. Although the TV show contains some language bleeps and edits, one-liners about Oprah Winfrey ('Here she is! Arms out in a crucifix!'), as well as penises and microphones, remain.
“I would never like to hurt a person's feelings. But other than that, no, nothing is off limits,” said Brand.
He said Americans probably think of him as “that bloke out of those films (who) seems to be presented through the mainstream media as relatively edgy within the safe confines of the homogenized entertainment industry.”
As for what US audiences will think after watching “Brand X”? “I imagine they will say, he is quite warm and sweet. But chaotic,” he said.
FX, which is owned by News Corp's Fox Entertainment Group, has ordered six initial episodes of “Brand X.”