Russell Brand’s transformation from an outrageous comedian know for puerile jokes, a history of drug abuse, and one-night stands with Hollywood starlets to one of the U.K.’s most popular essayists was certainly an unexpected turnaround.
However, recent writings on events personal (the never-ending fears of relapse for a former addict) and political (the death of Margaret Thatcher) have won a lot of plaudits. Perhaps his biggest task to date is being the guest editor for this week’s issue of the New Statesman, one of the most popular and historically important weekly magazines in the U.K.
To publicize this, Brand went on BBC Newsnight to talk with Jeremy Paxman, a journalist known for his incredibly combative style of interviewing (he once asked a government minister the same question 12 times in succession).
The anticipation for a battle between two of Britain’s most outspoken public figures was huge — and it didn’t disappoint. The interview turned to the topic of “revolution,” the subject of a 4,500-word essay by Brand in this issue of the New Statesman.
You can watch the entire interview, 10 minutes in length, below:[youtube height=”400″ width=”550″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk[/youtube]
So who won in this battle? Well, while Paxman calls Brand a “very trivial man” and refers to him dismissively as an “actor,” Brand held his own and got in a few jabs. One retort is worth quoting in its entirety:
“Jeremy, you’ve spent your whole career berating and haranguing politicians and when someone like me says they’re all worthless, and what’s the point in engaging with them, you have a go at me for not being poor anymore.”
He goes on to explain why he doesn’t vote:
“It is not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations.”
(On a lighter note, Brand also advised Paxman to keep growing his “gorgeous beard.”)
Many of those watching seem to have sided with Brand. “Russell Brand is far from trivial. On Newsnight, he made Paxman look ridiculous,” wrote Simon Kelner for the Independent, while Gawker says that he “may have started a revolution.”
Not everyone is positive about the vagueness of Brand’s ideas or his elaborate linguistic style, of course. However, judging by the huge response to this interview and his other work all around the world, you have to wonder why his brand of political apathy and hope for change speaks to so many people.