Brand is getting plenty of exposure in the British media at the moment as he plugs his new book, Revolution (and there’s no shame in that!).
It is worth noting the differences between the Brand who was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last year and the Brand who now faces off with Paxman’s dull successor, Evan Davis (see the interview below), as well as the differences in the reception of the two interviews.
On my reading, the media’s patience with Brand is running out. He was supposed to entertain us with whacky political ideas above his station as he played the loveable, roguish clown. But over time Brand has honed his skills, especially on his show The Trews, and is increasingly resistant to being pushed down intellectual cul-de-sacs in these supposedly heavyweight interviews.
Equally he is seemingly finding it harder to hide his irritation at the constant trivialisation of the issues he raises. After all Newsnight is the most serious political affairs show on British TV. Whereas Brand kept his confrontation with Paxman largely friendly and humorous, here his impatience makes Davis look like the real buffoon. That’s not good TV, at least from the BBC’s perspective.
A nasty backlash is already brewing, with the liberal media – of course! – leading the assault. The Guardian has brought out its big guns over recent days: its main columnist Polly Toynbee, with Toynbee then recruiting John Lydon (of Sex Pistols fame), followed, most depressingly of all, by the usually astute comic Stewart Lee.
Now the Independent is rushing to get in on the act (see here and here). It trivialises Newsnight’s already trivial interview by focusing on anything but the serious issues Brand tried to address. This kind of subtle character assassination works – just look at the feedback comments below from readers.
After that, if you can stomach it, try the FT’s interview with Brand. This part of their exchange had me howling in mental anguish at the sheer obtuseness of Lucy Kellaway:
When I ask how lucrative [acting] is, he shrugs.
“It makes me scared if I think about money too much, then it makes me feel guilty. The only thing I tell the people who look after my money is, ‘Make sure my fucking taxes are 100 per cent legitimately paid,’ and then I do my own shit.”
But isn’t he against taxes? “Only as part of a mass movement, not as tax evasion,” he says.
It’s a funny line but one provoked by the refusal of our pundit-gatekeepers to move out of the intellectual playground that is supposedly the media “conversation”.