Comedian and political commentator Russell Brand has delivered a scorching diatribe against the current state of politics in an interview this week that quickly went viral, inspiring countless internet users to voice their agreement with Brand.
Brand sat down with the BBC’s “Newsnight” to discuss his temporary position as the guest editor of the New Statesman magazine. The conversation began with Jeremy Paxman, a journalist known for his combative and aggressive tone, pressing Brand on why the public should take his opinion seriously when considering the fact that Brand has never voted.
“I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” Brand said. “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”
Paxman spent more than half of the ten minute interview pushing Brand to explain why he refused vote, challenging the comedian to expand on his mentality even as Brand overwhelmed Paxman with fresh ideas.
“I am not not voting out of apathy,” Brand said. “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…Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?”
Frustrated by his own failure to trip Brand, Paxman at one point calls the comedian a “very trivial man” and implies that the revolution Brand is advocating cannot be taken seriously.
“I think what it won’t be like is a huge disparity between rich and poor, where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as their 85 million poorest Americans, where there is an exploited underserved underclass being continually ignored, where welfare is slashed while [PM] Cameron and [Chancellor] Osborne go to court to continue the right of bankers receiving bonuses,” Brand said.
Brand is best known for his high-profile celebrity relationships and comedy career, where he mines a dark history of addiction into laughs. When asked to guest edit the most recent issue of The New Statesman, Brand chose to structure the stories around the theme of revolution.
“This movement is already occurring, it’s happening everywhere,” he goes on. “We’re in a time when communication is instantaneous and there are communities all over the world. The Occupy movement made a difference even if in that it only introduced into the popular public lexicon the idea of the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. People for the first time in a generation are aware of massive corporate and economic exploitation. These things are not nonsense and these are subjects that are not being addressed.”
For all of his bluster Paxman is, at times, visibly amused with Brand. He voices his agreement more than once and is speechless when the comedian references Paxman’s appearance on the British show Who Do You Think You Are? The program explores celebs' family histories and Paxman’s episode turned emotional when he visited the tenement where his great-grandmother was forced to raise her family.
“I remember seeing you on that program where you look at your ancestors and you saw the way your grandmother had to brass herself or get f**ked over by the aristocrats that ran her gaff and you cried because you knew that it was unfair, that it was unjust. And that was what a century ago? That’s happening now.
"If we can engage that feeling and change things, why wouldn't we?" Brand went on. "Why is that naive? Why is that not my right because I'm an 'actor'? I've taken the right. I don't need the right from you. I don't need the right from anybody. I'm taking it."
Brand most recently stirred controversy in September while accepting an award at a gala put on by British GQ magazine. At that event the comedian both mocked the prize as something that seemed to have “been recently made up” along with the sponsor for the evening, Hugo Boss, with a reference to the company’s prior history making uniforms for Nazi Germany. Brand followed up with a politically charged op-ed in The Guardian.
“The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them," wrote Brand. "They're not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history."