I went to see Russell Brand last week doing his Messiah Complex tour. The concept is an ironic (yet not) look at himself as a parody of four great revolutionary leaders: Ghandi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X and Jesus. The format? Interesting information about the great men, silly anecdotes about Brand, with “I bet you didn’t see that coming” hilarious tie-ins to why he was like each of the aforementioned heroes. All sewn together with a mix of anti-capitalist rhetoric about modern culture, a nod to the irony that he epitomises the cult of celebrity, and a heck of a lot of rude sexual banter.
Now chances are he is just a bit of a perv, born of a generation that is increasingly supportive of boundary-less love between any number of consensual adults, all in the name of liberty and hedonism, but now with added spirituality.
Actually, there’s no doubt about it, that is who Russ is. But I can’t help but get the impression that, either subconsciously or not, he is set on burying really powerful ideas, immense intelligence and wit in a big pile of filth, so as to hide it from all but the most persistent and liberated folk. Like if you have no time for his boundary-pushing edginess then you don’t deserve the gold inside.
Is that a move to mediate an otherwise too powerful or serious message with something light-hearted, or subconscious self-destructive behaviour patterns that he is inwardly battling? Maybe he has a strategic plan to bring people in with the smut and send them out converted to socialism (and threesomes)? Perhaps he just doesn’t want stuck-up types at the rallies that he will no doubt be organising down the line. Turn up for a riot; end up in an orgy – that is Russell B’s style.
Yet despite cringing, I wasn’t troubled by that side of things. I was, however, confused as to the blatantly uneven-handed treatment that he gave to JC. With all the other guys he really went into what they were about, told little-known anecdotes of their lives, such as the time Malcolm X dispelled a crowd with a hand gesture, or when Ghandi made hypocritical decisions about Western medical treatment. He didn’t build them up to be perfect, and I left feeling like I’d had a bit of a history lesson.
Jesus got at best a sentence referencing some good stuff he said about turning the other cheek, and then Russell turned the whole dialogue to sex – with graphic descriptions of “gay lovin’” and calling it a small print note in the Old Testament, that isn’t as big a deal as coveting thy neighbour’s oxen. (Which I totally agree with, as it happens.)
I definitely concur that whatever God thinks of homosexuality, he is more concerned about the attitude of our hearts in whatsoever arena of our lives we care to look at. However, given he acknowledged that Jesus didn’t have anything at all to say about homosexuality (ignoring the contested bit in Matthew 19), I really don’t know what Russell’s point was. His agenda to talk about that totally overshot the purpose of the show. The riotous link back was some pun about coming second, which was neither offensive nor clever, but we didn’t learn a single thing about Jesus, and I would have loved to hear why Russell actually chose him – surely not just because of his claim that he looks a bit like him?
I left feeling like Jesus was too big a personality for Russell to come to terms with so he chickened out and went for the cheap shot. It was illogical – much more so than the reputation upholding, money-making sex banter which we all expect of him. I sat through a lot of grime waiting to hear something actually revolutionary – because Jesus being given his dues in that context would be truly remarkable and I believe could even spark a revolution, akin to the sort he started in the first place – and it didn’t happen. That was what really disappointed me.
The way I see it, the only guy up there without a photo, the only one from way before cameras were invented and who wasn’t famous enough in his day to get an original portrait made, the two-thousand-year-old revolutionary who was big enough to outlast all his contemporaries and many who came after him to make it to the stage of a world-famous comedian, was also too big to be put in the show.
Man up Russell. Tell us why you really like Jesus.