Russell Edward Brand (born 4 June 1975) is an English comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist.
In 2004, Brand achieved notoriety as the host of Big Brother's Big Mouth, a Big Brother spin-off. In 2007, he had his first major film role in St Trinian's. In 2008, he had a major role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall; the film led to him starring in the spinoff Get Him to the Greek in 2010. He also worked as a voice actor in the animated films Despicable Me in 2010, Hop in 2011, and Despicable Me 2 in 2013. He played the title character of the 2011 remake Arthur.
Brand has received significant media coverage for controversies such as his dismissal from MTV, his behaviour as a presenter at various award ceremonies, and his drug use. In 2008, he resigned from the BBC following prank calls he made to actor Andrew Sachs on The Russell Brand Show. He has incorporated his drug use, alcoholism, and promiscuity into his comedic material.
Since guest editing an edition of the New Statesman, a British weekly magazine, Brand has become increasingly active politically. This includes a widely publicised interview with Newsnight host editor Jeremy Paxman, in which he encouraged the British electorate not to vote and endorsed a system based on the 'massive redistribution of wealth' to replace the status quo.
Russell Edward Brand was born in Orsett Hospital in Grays, Essex, England. He is the only child of photographer Ronald Henry Brand and Barbara Elizabeth Nichols. Brand's parents divorced when he was six months old, and he was raised by his mother. He has described his childhood as isolated and lonely. When he was 7, a tutor sexually abused him. When Brand was 8, his mother contracted uterine cancer and then breast cancer one year later. While she underwent treatment, Brand lived with relatives. When he was 14, he suffered from bulimia nervosa. When he was 16, he left home because of disagreements with his ill mother's live-in partner. Brand then started to use illegal drugs such as cannabis, amphetamines, LSD, and ecstasy.
Brand says he had a "strange relationship" with his father, whom he saw sporadically and who took him to visit prostitutes during a trip to the Far East when Brand was a teenager.
He made his theatrical debut at the age of 15 in a school production of Bugsy Malone, and then began work as a film extra. Brand attended Grays School Media Arts College and in 1991, he was accepted to the Italia Conti Academy and had his first year of tuition funded by Essex County Council. After his first year at Italia Conti Academy, Brand was expelled for illegal drug use and poor attendance.
Brand performed stand-up at the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year final in 2000. Although he finished fourth, his performance attracted the attention of Gagged and Bound Comedy Ltd agent Nigel Klarfeld. That year, he also made his Edinburgh debut as one-third of the stand-up show Pablo Diablo's Cryptic Triptych, alongside ventriloquist Mark Felgate and Anglo-Iranian comic Shappi Khorsandi.
In 2004, he took his first one-man show, the confessional Better Now, to the Edinburgh Festival, giving an honest account of his heroin addiction. He returned the following year with Eroticised Humour. He launched his first nationwide tour, Shame, in 2006. Brand drew on embarrassing incidents in his own life and the coverage about him in the tabloid press. The show was released on DVD as Russell Brand: Live. Brand appeared in a sketch and performed stand-up at the 2006 Secret Policeman's Ball. In March 2007, he co-hosted an evening of the Teenage Cancer Trust gigs with Noel Fielding. In December 2007, Brand performed for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as an act in the 2007 Royal Variety Performance. His second nationwide tour, in 2007, was called Russell Brand: Only Joking and released on DVD as Russell Brand: Doin' Life. Brand began performing in the US, and recorded a special for Comedy Central titled Russell Brand in New York, which aired in March 2009.
Brand began touring the UK, America and Australia from January to April 2009 on a tour called Russell Brand: Scandalous. In October, a further four dates that were performed in November were added to raise money for Focus 12, the drug charity for which Brand is a patron.
Brand's first presenting role came in 2000 as a video journalist on MTV. He presented Dancefloor Chart, touring nightclubs in Britain and Ibiza, and hosted the tea-time request show Select. Brand was fired several days after coming to work dressed as Osama bin Laden the day after the 11 September 2001 attacks and bringing his drug dealer to the MTV studios.
After leaving MTV, Brand starred in RE:Brand, a documentary and comedy television program that aimed to take a challenging look at cultural taboos. It was conceived, written, and hosted by Brand, with the help of his comic partner on many projects, Matt Morgan. The series was shown on the now-defunct digital satellite channel UK Play in 2002.
In 2004, he hosted Big Brother's Eforum on E4, a sister show to Big Brother 5. The show gave celebrity guests and the public the chance to have their say on the goings-on inside the Big Brother house. For Big Brother 6, the show's name changed to Big Brother's Big Mouth. Following Celebrity Big Brother 5, Brand said he would not return to host the Big Brother 8 series of Big Brother's Big Mouth. In a statement, Brand thanked all the producers for "taking the risk of employing an ex-junkie twerp" to front the show. Of his time presenting the show, he said, "The three years I've spent on Big Brother's Big Mouth have been an unprecedented joy".
Brand hosted a one-off special called Big Brother According to Russell Brand, in which Brand took a surreal, sideways look at Big Brother through the ages. On 8 January 2008, Brand was the fifth celebrity to "hijack" the Big Brother house, in the E4 show Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack. Brand next returned to MTV in the spring of 2006 as presenter of the chat show 1 Leicester Square, which initially aired at 8 pm on Sundays before being shifted to a post-watershed time of 10 pm on Mondays, allowing for a more adult-oriented theme. Guests included Tom Cruise, Uma Thurman, The Mighty Boosh, and Boy George. A second series began in September 2006 on MTV UK. After Big Brother 7 finished, Brand presented a debate show called Russell Brand's Got Issues, on digital channel E4. The viewing figures for the first episode were seen as disappointing, being beaten by nearly all of E4's main multi-channel rivals despite a big publicity and promotional campaign for the show. The poor ratings prompted the network to repackage the show as The Russell Brand Show and move it to Channel 4. The first episode was broadcast on 24 November on Channel 4, and it ran for five weeks.
Brand presented the 2006 NME Awards. At the ceremony Bob Geldof, who was accepting an award from Brand, said at the podium, "Russell Brand - what a cunt", to which Brand replied, "Really it's no surprise Geldof's such an expert on famine. He has after all been dining out on 'I Don't Like Mondays' for 30 years". Brand hosted the 2007 BRIT Awards and presented Oasis with an "Outstanding Contribution to Music" award at the event. He also hosted one hour of Comic Relief. On 7 July 2007, he presented at the UK leg of Live Earth at Wembley Stadium, London.
On 12 December 2007, BBC Four aired Russell Brand On the Road, a documentary presented by Brand and Matt Morgan about the writer Jack Kerouac and his novel On the Road. Brand returned to Channel 4 to host Russell Brand's Ponderland, in which he discussed topics like childhood and science through stand-up comedy. The show first aired on 22 October 2007 and continued for the next five nights. A second series began on 30 October 2008, drawing more than a million viewers, and was broadcast every Thursday night for four weeks, plus a Christmas special that aired in December.
Brand was later announced as the host of the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, which drew skepticism from the American media, as he was relatively unknown to the American public. Brand's stint as host of the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards created controversy. At one point, he said the night "marked the launch of a very new Britney Spears era", referring to it as "the resurrection of Spears". He also said, "If there was a female Christ, it's Britney". Brand implored the audience to elect Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and later called then-U.S. President George W. Bush "a retarded cowboy fella", who, in England, "wouldn't be trusted with scissors". He made several references to the purity rings worn by the Jonas Brothers, but apologized for the comments later in the show. These comments led to Brand receiving death threats by some offended viewers. Brand claimed that MTV asked him to host the 2009 awards after the ratings for the 2008 show were 20% up from the previous year. Also in 2008 Brand hosted a one-off stand up comedy show called Comedy Live Presents: Russell Brand and Friends shown on Channel 4 on 25 January 2008. Brand hosted the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on 13 September 2009, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The ratings for the 2009 show were the best since the 2004 VMAs. On 12 February 2011, Brand guest hosted an episode of the hit American sketch comedy Saturday Night Live. Brand also hosted the 2012 MTV Movie Awards.
While still a teenager, Brand appeared in 1994 episodes of The Bill and the children's adventure series Mud. In 2002, Brand appeared on the TV shows Cruise of the Gods and White Teeth. In 2005, he played Tommy in the BBC sitcom Blessed, which was written and directed by Young Ones co-writer Ben Elton. Brand auditioned for the part of Super Hans in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show; the role eventually went to Matt King.
In 2007, Brand appeared in Cold Blood for ITV, playing an ex-con called Ally. Brand played a recovering crack addict named Terry in the pilot for the ITV comedy The Abbey, written by Morwenna Banks. He voiced an Earth Guardian in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind. Brand appeared in a small role in the 2006 movie Penelope; although his first major film role was as Flash Harry in the 2007 film St Trinian's. He did not reprise the role for the sequel, St. Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold.
Brand achieved American fame when he starred in the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, in which he played rock star Aldous Snow, the boyfriend of the title character (played by Kristen Bell). Brand received rave reviews for his performance as Snow, and he revealed the character was changed from an author to a rock star because of his audition. Brand starred alongside Adam Sandler in the Disney film Bedtime Stories, which was released on 25 December 2008. He reprised the role of Aldous Snow for a buddy comedy titled Get Him to the Greek, co-starring Jonah Hill. He reunited with Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller and producer Judd Apatow for the film.
Brand starred in Julie Taymor's 2010 version of William Shakespeare's The Tempest, as Trinculo. In 2010, Brand voiced Dr. Nefario in the Universal movie Despicable Me, and reprised the role in the 2013 sequel. Brand also guest starred in The Simpsons episode "Angry Dad: The Movie" as himself. Brand also starred in the April 2011 live action/CGI animated film Hop with James Marsden, voicing the film's protagonist E.B. Hop opened at number one at the Friday box office in the US, earning $11.4 million. The same month, he played the title character in a remake of Arthur, written by Peter Baynham. Brand starred as Lonny in a film adaptation of the 1980s-set musical Rock Of Ages, released in cinemas in June 2012.
Brand's other projects include a remake of Drop Dead Fred; another Sandler film; a Sandler-produced film, co-written by Brand and Matt Morgan, about a con-man posing as a priest tentatively titled Bad Father; and a film adaptation of the children's programme Rentaghost, in which he stars as Fred Mumford.
As of October 2008, Brand's own production company is called Vanity Projects. The company's most recent production, Russell Brand Doing Life, was released in 2009.
Brand also established his own production company in 2011 with friend Nik Linnen. Called 'Branded Films', the company operates from the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank, California, United States. The company's primary focus is to develop films that Brand stars in.
Brand's radio career began in early 2002, when he hosted a Sunday afternoon show with Matt Morgan on London's Indie Rock station Xfm. Brand was fired from the job after reading pornographic material live on-air.
Brand co-hosted The Russell Brand Show beginning in April 2006 on BBC Radio 6 Music. In November 2006, the show transferred to BBC Radio 2 and aired on Saturdays from 9 - 11pm. The show regularly drew about 400,000 listeners. In an episode of the show broadcast on 18 October 2008, Brand and fellow Radio 2 DJ Jonathan Ross made a series of phone calls to actor Andrew Sachs that crudely discussed Sachs' granddaughter. Sunday tabloid The Mail on Sunday broke the story and regarded the phone calls as obscene. Both presenters were later suspended by the BBC due to the incident, and Brand resigned from his show. The BBC was later fined £150,000 by Britain's broadcast regulator for airing the calls.
Brand returned to radio when he and Noel Gallagher hosted a football talk show on 19 April 2009 for Talksport which led to a 250% boost in web traffic.
Brand returned to Talksport on 9 October 2010, with a Saturday night show that lasted 20 weeks. The show featured clips and back-stage recordings from his Booky Wook 2 promotional tour. Brand was joined by a host of guests, including Noel Gallagher and Jonathan Ross.
Brand's first autobiography, My Booky Wook, was released on 15 November 2007 and received favorable reviews. Andrew Anthony from The Observer commented that "Russell Brand's gleeful tale of drugs and debauchery in My Booky Wook puts most other celebrity memoirs to shame". The second book, Booky Wook 2: This Time It's Personal, was released on 30 September 2010.
Brand signed a £1.8 million two-book deal with HarperCollins in June 2008. The first book, Articles of Faith, examined Brand's philosophy and consisted of a collection of Guardian columns that were published between 2007 and 2008. The book was released on 16 October 2008, and also includes Brand interviewing Noel Gallagher, James Corden, and David Baddiel about football.
From 2006 until 2009, Brand wrote a column for The Guardian that focused on West Ham United and the England national football team. A collection of the columns from 2006 and 2007 was released in a second book entitled Irons in the Fire.
Brand continues to pen other columns for "The Guardian" that offer his perspectives on current events and pop culture, including the deaths of Amy Winehouse and Robin Williams. Following the 2011 London riots, Brand wrote a column in which he criticized the government's response to the rioters as a failure to address the root causes.
On 18 June 2013, the Business Insider website wrote about his appearance on the MSNBC program Morning Joe. The article was titled, "Comedian Russell Brand Humiliated These MSNBC Anchors On Live TV For Being Unprofessional." He appeared on the show to promote his comedy tour, Messiah Complex. The MSNBC anchors appeared uninformed, even referring to him as Willy Brandt. Brand interviewed the anchors and asked what they did for a living.
Brand was ejected from the GQ Awards show on 3 September 2013 after receiving the 'Oracle' award. In his acceptance speech he mentioned sponsor Hugo Boss's business making uniforms for the Nazi regime.
Newsnight and New Statesman:
In October 2013, it was announced that Brand would guest-edit an issue of the New Statesman magazine later that month. On 23 October 2013, Brand was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman for the BBC's Newsnight and was challenged about his call for "revolution" and whether someone who had never voted could edit a political magazine.
In the issue of the New Statesman, published on 24 October 2013, Brand's essay explained his objection to the destruction of earth by greedy exploiters and called for a change in consciousness to accompany political and economic measures to achieve a more sustainable future.Joan Smith dismissed the "canny self-publicist" who indulges in "adolescent waffle about 'revolution'" as "one celebrity, I'm afraid, who's more idiot than savant." Former Independent editor Simon Kelner largely defended his appearance on Newsnight: "It sounded rather attractive, even if it wasn't exactly worked through. But Brand's rhetorical flourishes made up for the lack of detail".
Brand dresses in a flamboyant bohemian fashion, describing himself as looking like an "S&M Willy Wonka", and has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and bipolar disorder. He also suffered from bulimia and experienced a period of self-harming. Brand has described the concept of 'fame' as "like ashes" in his mouth.
Brand has shown interest in the Hare Krishna Movement and wrote in a 2007 Guardian column: "I say Hare Krishna as often as possible, sometimes even when I'm not being filmed". Additionally, during an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2010, Brand talked about his love of Transcendental Meditation (TM). This love of TM was reaffirmed in a 2013 New Statesman editorial he wrote: "Through Transcendental Meditation, twice daily I feel the bliss of the divine..... I connect to a boundless consciousness that has no pal-pable relationship with my thoughts, fears or desires."
Brand is a vegetarian.
Brand met singer Katy Perry in mid-2009 when she filmed a cameo for his film Get Him to the Greek, although the cameo did not make it into the final cut of the film. They began dating after meeting again in September, when Perry threw a water bottle at his head from across the room during rehearsals for the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The two became engaged on New Year's Eve 2009 during a holiday in India. They privately married on 23 October 2010 in a traditional Hindu ceremony, near the Ranthambhore tiger sanctuary in Rajasthan, India.
Brand ended the marriage 14 months later by filing for divorce on 30 December 2011, a process that was finalized in July 2012. Perry's July 2012 autobiographical documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me, revealed that conflicting career schedules and Perry's unwillingness to parent children in accordance with Brand's desire led to the end of their marriage. In June 2013, Perry revealed in an interview with Vogue that Brand did not like the idea of her "being the boss" of things, and never spoke to her again after sending her a SMS message in which he initiated their divorce.
Brand first alluded to a new relationship in an early September 2013 Guardian article, written after his acceptance of the GQ magazine oracle award. A mid-September 2013 Telegraph article then displayed a photograph of Brand and Jemima Khan, an associate editor of the New Statesman, walking together in public in New York City. In an interview with Jonathan Ross in late January 2014, Brand explained that he was "very, very happy" in a relationship that felt unlike anything he had previously experienced. In May 2014 Brand received libel damages from The Sun following a story they had printed in November 2013 alleging that he had cheated on Khan. Brand said he would be donating the unspecified damages to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
In January 2009, Brand participated in a celebrity letter to The Independent--as a supporter of the Hoping Foundation--to condemn Israel's assault on Gaza, and the "cruel and massive loss of life of the citizens of Gaza". In February 2009, Brand and several other entertainers wrote to The Times in defense of Bahá'í leaders, who were on trial in Iran at the time. In April 2009, he attended the 2009 G-20 London summit protests and spoke to the press.
Brand was selected by the Dalai Lama to host the Buddhist leader's 2012 youth event in Manchester. The Dalai Lama's representatives explained that Brand was selected because he had proved "the power of spirituality to effect change in his own life", while Brand stated to the BBC after the event: "I said yes because he's the living incarnation of Buddha and I thought, if you're around the Dalai Lama, that can only be good for your spiritual quest through life. He's an amazing diplomat, an incredible activist, a wonderful human being and an inspiration to us all." In June 2013, Brand appeared in a video in support of Chelsea Manning.
Brand was invited by the Cambridge Union Society to participate in an interview, held in the Union's debating chamber with Leo Kirby, the Union's 2014 Speakers' Officer, in 2014. The interview ran for over one hour and was published on the Union's YouTube channel on 16 January 2014.
Brand launched the YouTube series "The Trews: True News with Russell Brand" on 27 February 2014, in which Brand "analyses the news, truthfully, spontaneously and with great risk to his personal freedom". The inaugural episode featured Brand critiquing the Daily Mail newspaper, followed by an open invitation to viewers who have suggestions on how the show can be improved. As of 3 October 2014, 160 episodes of "The Trews" have been published on the channel. The series is produced by writer and journalist Johann Hari.
Substance use and legal issues:
The media published articles on Brand during his drug-using period, typically in relation to incidents, and his public profile has since been associated with this era. Drug-related issues led to Brand's arrest on 12 occasions. Brand was ejected from the Gilded Balloon in Edinburgh, Scotland and following a subsequent show in the city in 2004, a reviewer stated that "you'd rather hug him than hit him", as he had embraced recovery by this point. Following the cessation of his use, Brand revealed through his stand-up performances that he introduced his drug dealer to Kylie Minogue during his time at MTV and masturbated a stranger in a public toilet for the purpose of research. In January 2014, Brand described his first experience with heroin as "blissful".
Brand has abstained from drug use since 2003 and became a patron of the Focus 12 drug treatment programme after his own use of the service. Brand's sobriety was instigated by his agent, John Noel, after Brand was apprehended using heroin in a bathroom during a Christmas party. Brand cites his practice of TM as a significant factor in his recovery from drug dependence and, as of April 2014, he has been drug-free for slightly more than a decade. Brand organised three fundraisers for Focus 12 in London, Dublin and Belfast in 2009, and has also acted as a "sponsor" for numerous people during the rehabilitation stage of their treatment process.
On 16 September 2010, Brand was arrested on suspected battery charges after he allegedly attacked a paparazzo who blocked his and then-fiancée Katy Perry's way to catch a flight at Los Angeles International Airport. The paparazzo placed Brand under citizen's arrest until the police arrived and he was released from custody the next day after posting US$20,000 bail.
On 15 March 2012, an arrest warrant was issued for Brand in New Orleans due to allegations that he had thrown a photographer's mobile phone through a window. The paparazzo was taking pictures of Brand with an iPhone when Brand wrestled the device from his hands and tossed it at a law firm's window. The warrant cited "simple criminal damage to property", leading Brand, who offered to pay for the replacement of the window, to voluntarily appear at a police station. Brand was filming a movie in New Orleans at the time of the incident.
During his Cambridge Union Society interview in January 2014, Brand explained that he observed the recreational use of drugs like heroin and crack-cocaine and believes that, if personal liberties do not cause harm to others, then the state should not interfere--this principle led Brand to also state that all drugs should be legalized and regulated. In the same interview, Brand stated that drug use appeals to a "pre-existing paradigm", making it very "seductive", and shared the "personal problem" that underpinned his own drug use: "I couldn't cope with being alive--I needed to take drugs." As a form of guidance for other people with drug-related problems, Brand encouraged people to seek out peers who no longer use drugs to benefit from the support of a community.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Get Him to the Greek
E.B./"Hoff Knows Talent" Production Assistant
Rock of Ages
Katy Perry: Part of Me
Despicable Me 2
Land of The Blind
Series 1 Episodes 1-6
The Peculiar Second Marriage of Archie Jones
Cruise of the Gods
Glynn (Woolly Hat Fan)
A Bear's Christmas Tail
A Bear's Tail
Tony the Ringmaster
Russell Brand's Got Issues
The Big Fat Quiz of the Year
2006, 2007, 2009
Russell Brand's Ponderland
2008 MTV Video Music Awards
2009 MTV Video Music Awards
Big Time Rush
Big Time Beach Party
Saturday Night Live
Season 36, Russell Brand & Chris Brown
2012 MTV Movie Awards
Brand X with Russell Brand
Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery
BBC Three Documentary
Music video appearances:
AKA... What a Life!
British Comedy Awards
33rd Annual Television and Radio Awards
Best Television Performer in a Non-Acting Role
British Comedy Awards
Best Live Stand-Up
Variety's Power of Comedy Award
British Comedy Awards
Outstanding Contribution to Comedy
GQ Men of the Year Awards
Live (20 November 2006),
Doing Life - Live (26 November 2007),
Scandalous - Live At The O2 (9 November 2009),
Live in New York City (21 November 2011),
Messiah Complex (25 November 2013)
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license