Last week as many of us were planning our Thanksgiving holiday dinner, FORA.tv kicked off TimesTalks: Celebrated Chefs, a series with food as the main entrée. This week, FORA.tv presented another TimesTalks series, Comedy Stars, featuring interviews with famous stand-up comics and comedic actors, such as Tracy Morgan of NBC’s 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live, and Ben Stiller of blockbuster hits like Meet the Parents and Tropic Thunder. Russell Brand, TV and radio host, actor and husband to pop starlet Katy Perry, also appeared on TimesTalks and shared stories about his childhood influences, musings on music, and a curious adventure with P. Diddy.
Compared to his contemporaries, Brand is a relative newcomer to the comedy circuit, making his first significant stand-up appearance while he was a video journalist at MTV in 2000. In the FORA.tv program New York Times culture desk reporter Dave Itzkoff asked Brand about who influenced him in his career. “Peter Cook is an English comedian I admire and, of course, Dudley Moore, but those are comedians you retrospectively choose as an adult to make yourself seem more grandiose and erudite,” Brand quipped. “As a kid I would’ve picked shows like Fawlty Towers, Black Adder, and other English sitcoms that really helped me with one-liners and wordplay.”
Before Brand’s triumphant rise to fame in the early 2000s, he struggled with addictions to drugs and sex, both subjects he discussed in vivid detail in his memoir, My Booky Wook. Itzkoff asked Brand what he could do for an encore book that would top the success of his first memoir. “Well, I could talk about loads of things because I carried on living, that’s the thing,” Brand joked. “Because I survived, I wanted to just keep adding chapter after chapter to the end of the book, but the publishers insisted that I come to some sort of climax.”
One of Brand’s most famous roles is that of Aldous Snow, lead singer of a fictional rock band who appeared in Forgetting Sarah Marshall in 2008 and Get Him to the Greek in 2010. Brand received rave reviews for his portrayal of the hard-living Snow, and Itzkoff asked if he ever considered releasing an album or going into music on his own. “Musicians are serious people. They aren’t exactly self-effacing, like me,” he said.
Even though he doesn’t feel he could be a rock star, Brand loves working with musicians, such as rap artist P. Diddy, who he collaborated with in Get Him To The Greek. “There was a moment during the filming when P. Diddy wanted to see a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao, and all of a sudden I found myself between P. Diddy and Jay-Z in Las Vegas,” Brand explained. “After that, he wanted me to spend the entire weekend with him in Vegas, which I can only describe delicately as a ‘soft kidnapping.’ I found out the saying is true: What happens in Vegas really stays in Vegas.”