Witty, opinionated and laced with British charm, Russell Brand is as fascinating and entertaining a character in real life as he is onscreen. Despite delivering an interview minutes before partaking in a photo shoot, the comedian remained remarkably engaged in the conversation, firing responses that ranged from insightful to did-he-really-just-say-that?
Tonight at 8 p.m.
EMU Convocation Center
Known for his roles in films like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Get Him to the Greek” and “Arthur,” Brand also has a long history as a stand-up comedian. On his “Keeping It Simple” tour, he plans to shock, entertain and perhaps invite audience members to join in on his act at EMU Convocation Center tonight. In an equal combination of sharp-tongued banter and fervent viewpoints, Brand gave a preview of his routine in Ypsilanti. He was actually quite specific as to what to expect.
“It’s going to be absolute unbridled insanity,” he told The Michigan Daily. “No universities are going to be the same. We’re going to transform everyone’s mentality, everybody’s outlook. … It’s going to be absolute devilment, ribaldry and chaos. I imagine that after this gig, the student pregnancies will go through the roof. There’s gonna be a lot of erotica and a lot of mating.”
Hold on. Did Russell Brand just say people are going to be having sex during his comedy act?
“Sure, there’s gonna be conceptions happening all over the stage,” Brand claimed.
His lighthearted response was not completely unexpected (maybe the orgy part was a little surprising). But while Brand was joking (hopefully), he also stressed the importance of recognizing when a certain situation calls for seriousness. Toting a long history of addictions and arrests, Brand was comfortable discussing his past and how he is able to morph it into a humorous subject.
“You think about your own personal experience,” he said. “Drugs are a serious subject … but also very, very funny.”
He added, “In certain situations people are ready for certain kinds of information. The ability as an artist, you have to recognize the situation in context and make sure that the narrative you give people is the narrative that they’re ready to understand.”
But rather than reiterating the age-old idea of a fine line between comedy and tragedy, Brand provided his own interpretation.
“There’s a massive great big tangent between comedy and tragedy,” he said.
His responses were emphatic and charged with a sense of authenticity not commonly seen in modern celebrities. Brand upholds this realness in his own comedy routines. While he admires comedians like Richard Pryor and Bill Hicks, a key inspiration for his jokes is his own story.
“The embarrassing things in my life, the peculiar things that people around me say … can make you laugh a lot more than things on the TV,” he said. “So that’s what you look out for. Situations where I’m embarrassed, and I try to overcome that embarrassment through comedy.”
Sometimes Brand actually gets comically inspired mid-routine. What does he think of people who interrupt his act?
“That’s someone auditioning for a part in your show,” Brand said. “I encourage people to heckle and be ready for the consequences.”
A true comedian, Brand revels in the opportunity to make light of any situation. When asked whether he prefers the volatility of stand-up or scripted comedies like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” Brand seemed almost indignant at the question.
“Stand-up! Scripted comedy … it’s fucking boring,” he said.
While fans of his films would probably disagree that there’s anything boring about them, it’s hard to argue with the opinionated comedian. If you really want to take it up with him, just pipe up during his act in Ypsilanti — he’ll be happy to respond.