Comedy Central // 2009 // 61 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // May 20th, 2009
British pop icon. Rock star. Ladies' man.
Russell Brand is a peculiar fellow. Lanky, spastic, and crude, he runs the striking gambit between flamboyant rock star and cabaret performer. He's a runaway success in his native UK where his gothic styling (an "S&M Willy Wonka," in his own words) and faux-sexual charisma have made him one of the most recognizable and popular personalities -- and also one in constant trouble. The Brits love a good tabloid, and Brand gives them plenty to work with. He is a recovering sex addict, heroin addict, and alcoholic, and has been fired from the BBC and MTV repeatedly for misconduct and crude humor, only to eventually be hired back again because he's so darn popular. Here in North America, he is largely unknown, save for a movie-stealing secondary role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall playing (essentially) himself, or at least his persona. But boy, the ladies sure do seem to like him.
Russell Brand in New York City brings the comic to New York, where his fame hasn't quite preceded him yet, and this sets the stage for an interesting evening of comedy. Brand doesn't really do jokes or material -- he just comes out, makes some pelvic thrusts, and talks about how he likes to Google himself. It's all kidding on the square, of course, but determining how deep down the rabbit hole Brand goes with his idolatry is part of the fun. The 60-minute performance starts off agonizingly awkward, but by the end is unexpectedly hilarious. Brand has a comedic charm that appears annoying at first, but becomes surprisingly endearing the longer you spend in his presence, like a frenetic cross between Ricky Gervais and Captain Jack Sparrow.
Brand decorates the stage like Bam Margera's bedroom, full of candles and silk and velour and goth, and prances around like Mick Jagger with his mic stand. More glam-rock performer than comedian, he makes full use of the space, climbing about and interacting with the audience, making for an entertaining set. Some segments work better than you might think they would, like Brand reading aloud actual hate mail and death threats received after his infamously bad MTV Video Awards hosting in 2008, while others that would be almost guaranteed knockouts fall flat -- giving sex tips or talking about molesting the Queen. Brand rambles from subject to subject, seemingly at random, undeterred by audience reaction. This kind of comedy is risky, but in the right hands makes for a heck of a show.
Video quality is a bit of a quagmire; colors are balanced, and black levels are impressively dark for a television standup recording, but even the slightest of movement befuddles even the cleverest of DVD processing systems. Complete screen door effect is everywhere at all times, along with heavy aliasing and jagged edges. The 2.0 stereo presentation does the job well enough; Brand's performance is clear and well-balanced, and audience noises are rowdy and omnipresent, but never overpowering. Bass response is poor, but this is to be expected for the presentation.
Extras are about on par for Comedy Central's DVDs, with some outtakes and deleted scenes from the performance showing Brand and a drunk fan, as well as some footage of him running around the streets of New York City. The best extra is the inclusion of the heart-stopping awkward monologue from the 2008 MTV US Video Music Awards, where Brand, a relative unknown to the audience, managed to alienate and offend every single person in attendance. You can actually see the tumbleweeds fly by him in the distance. It is a glorious, horrific train wreck, but interestingly enough led to a twenty percent ratings spike for MTV, as people spent the next week frantically Googling the name of Russell Brand to figure out who the hell he was. Even bad press is good press, if you dress nicely.
Russell Brand in New York City is fun, filthy, and flamboyant. Whether Russell Brand has any staying power in America remains to be seen, but at the very least, the ladies will enjoy it.
Not quite my cup of tea, but Russell Brand in New York City thrilled my wife to no end...go figure.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Comedy Central
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 61 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes