Stadium comedy makes about as much sense as inter-continental pub darts and you really have to question the motives of any comedian or musician touring that way. I suppose I understand organisers wanting to maximise profits but I really don’t fathom people wanting to pay upwards of fifty quid to watch a show from a distance of about half a mile. I understand even less artists who risk their lasting appeal for short term gain. Leonard Cohen recently came to Manchester and though I’ve always liked his albums, the £100 asking price for tickets in the O2 filled me with a slit-your-wrists-to-a-Leonard-Cohen-album level of horror. His current touring seem to have little artistic merit and total commitment to making as much money as quickly as possible to replace his career earnings which were embezzled by a dodgy manager. I feel sorry that he has to compromise his art that way but I’d prefer not to be complicit in the whole sad business.
Yet Brand is a different kind of performer and grubbing for cash fits his profile. The O2 also seems suited to his zeitgeist and is probably had enough headroom to contain his ego, at least for an hour or so. Yet what most struck me about the promotional material were the following lines in the show’s description. They sounded like they’d been dictated by the man himself:
Messiah Complex is a mental disorder where the sufferer thinks they might be the messiah. Did Jesus have it? What about Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X and Hitler? All these men have shaped our lives and influenced the way we think.
All great people are flawed, all of us, flawed people are capable of greatness and for every identifiable icon there is an anonymous mob of unrecognised bods doing all the admin and heavy lifting.
The ugly writing of the second part is fun and sounds so typically Brand. ‘Great people are flawed’ it says, followed by ‘all of us’. All of us? Meaning all great people? Meaning Jesus, Che Guevara, Gandhi, Malcolm X, Hitler, and Russell Brand? I wonder who’d dominate the conversation at that dinner party… Or perhaps I don’t wonder. It would the guy in the taffeta scarf and leather pants telling Hitler that ‘you got it all wrong mate’.
Perhaps I’m being needlessly critical. Perhaps the ‘all of us’ refers to the flawed people. As in: ‘all of us flawed people are capable of greatness’. It’s more humble perhaps but I’m not sure about the next bit which sounds like an Oscar acceptance speech. ‘I wouldn’t be here because of all the little people…’ Brand probably believes that having achieved that super stardom, he’s qualified to talk about it. To me it feels like one of those instances where by demeaning their fame, a celebrity actually draws even more attention to it. And that’s the thing about stadium comedy: it makes the little people even smaller while the comedians are raised to the level of the new messiah and the O2 becomes the new Mount of Olives.