June 4, 2013
At some point circa 2003, RUSSELL BRAND (born 1975) became his own avatar. He’d been a good standup comedian on the London circuit for a few years by then and he’d worked his way into trendy television presenting. After being fired by MTV for dressing up as Osama Bin Laden and welcoming his drug dealer into the offices, he underwent an image overhaul inspired — he’s claimed — by Matt Groening’s dictum that a truly successful character should be recognizable solely by his silhouette. (Given that Brand’s silhouette could only be mistaken for those of Amy Winehouse or Edward Scissorhands, he’s done a smashing job.) When asked, while on the BBC panel show Have I Got News for You, to comment on the fact that his autobiography My Booky Wook was outselling apparently more substantial literary works, he pointed out the phrase “booky-wook” was a nod to the Natsat of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and he’d chosen it in the spirit of having fun with language. Then he shouted “monkey government!” at the top of his lungs. He followed that highbrow stunt with a lowbrow one: He and talkshow host Jonathan Ross left lewd prank messages on the answering machine of beloved sitcom actor Manuel Sachs, which annoyed seemingly everyone and almost destroyed the BBC. Brand then left for the United States, where he stars in sub-par comedy movies written by British ex-pats.
HUMORISTS at HILOBROW: Michael O’Donoghue | Jemaine Clement | Andy Kaufman | Danny Kaye | George Ade | Jimmy Durante | Jack Benny | Aziz Ansari | Don Rickles | Godfrey Cambridge | Eric Idle | David Cross | Stewart Lee | Samuel Beckett | Jerry Lewis | Joanna Lumley | Jerome K. Jerome | Phil Silvers | Edward Lear | Tony Hancock | George Carlin | Stephen Colbert | Tina Fey | Keith Allen | Russell Brand | Michael Cera | Stan Laurel | Ricky Gervais | Gilda Radner | Larry David | Chris Pontius | Dave Chappelle | Jimmy Finlayson | Paul Reubens | Peter Sellers | Buster Keaton | Flann O’Brien | Lenny Bruce | Sacha Baron Cohen | Steve Coogan | PG Wodehouse | A.J. Liebling | Curly Howard | Fran Lebowitz | Charlie Kaufman | Stephen Merchant | Richard Pryor | James Thurber | Bill Hicks | ALSO: Comedy and the Death of God
On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Bruce Dern, Dagmar Krause, Wendy Pini.
READ MORE about members of the Revivalist Generation (1974-82).