True Bromance: Russell Brand Doesn't Read the Papers, Now That He's in Them-But That Doesn't Stop Him Having Opinions on Everything from the Meaning of Britishness to the "Spirituality" of Socialism. David Walliams Tries to Keep Up

By Walliams, David | New Statesman (1996), July 16, 2012 | Go to article overview

True Bromance: Russell Brand Doesn't Read the Papers, Now That He's in Them-But That Doesn't Stop Him Having Opinions on Everything from the Meaning of Britishness to the "Spirituality" of Socialism. David Walliams Tries to Keep Up


Walliams, David, New Statesman (1996)


I hated Russell Brand when I first met him. Exactly a decade ago, we were both cast in a BBC comedy drama entitled Cruise of the Gods. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon were the stars and I was beyond thrilled to be working with them. We were filming on-board a cruise ship and one day this hairy idiot arrived. Russell only had a minor role but he was taking drugs, trying to get off with the teenage daughters of passengers on the ship and worst of all talking bollocks. He was sacked. I never thought I would see him again, then there he was in my yoga class, sober, happier, and we became friends. Soon after, we both became very well known and we have stayed close. I love him now. So when David Miliband asked me who I would like to interview, I thought of Russell. I thought it would be easy--he has so much to say that I would barely have to ask any questions. I was right. Although David might be disappointed to know that Russell doesn't know who he is:

Russell Brand He's the leader of the Labour Party through this period of opposition ...

David Walliams No, that's Ed Miliband.

To me, Russell has become a national icon. Wildly famous, he has taken his place along-side British fictional characters, rather than real ones. He is a cross between the Artful Dodger and Harry Flashman.

First, I was interested in what he thinks it means to be British in this year of celebration, royal, sporting and cultural (the James Bond films are so years old this autumn):

RB Because I live mostly abroad, I feel especially British. I think patriotism flourishes in opposition. When I'm spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, I consider myself countercultural; I don't think of myself as an establishment figure. But over here, if I see an image of Her Majesty the Queen, I wince with national pride.

DW when do you see such an image?

RB I've had her tattooed on my inner thigh. And I spend quite a lot of time staring at that.

DW Patriotism, jingoism, being proud of your country--it's a complex area isn't it? You are a football fan, so do you wave a flag at a match?

RB Philosophically, I think tribalism leads to adversity and is very dangerous and leads to prejudice--but I can't help it.

DW But tribalism is part of human nature.

RB Yes, of course it's part of human nature but it's also part of human nature to be altruistic. I think it's better to focus on that sort of fraternal and loving aspects of human nature, because our more primal instincts are catered for by our relentless consumer culture, always stimulating sexuality, tribalism, individualism.

DW I went to a West Ham match with you on your stag night. So do you feel part of that particular tribe?

RB What I'd say about football--and obviously in my case West Ham--is it's a genuine opportunity to immerse yourself ... In the beginning, in the first five minutes, people want autographs and they're interested but, after the first five minutes, no one cares because the game has started and they're lost in it and there's a real sense of community and congregation, which is like religious and spiritual life ... And I suppose the reason you're saying that is this is an important year of ritual--the Olympics is an ancient ritual; the jubilee is a celebration of our monarchy--and people need ritualism. We've lost touch with our ancient nature, so people accept these odd, commodified versions.

For me, the reason football is successful is that a neglected aspect of British cultural life--the white working class--still has this access to festivity. I do feel part of it, though I primarily identify myself as outside of any group that I find myself near.

DW That's the comedian's standpoint, the fool in King Lear. He is commentating on events from the sidelines. Speaking of monarchs, when you see the Queen, do you have an emotional response? When I think about monarchy, it doesn't seem to make much logical sense but emotionally it does, because she's a living symbol. …

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