Actor and comedian Russell Brand is certainly no stranger to controversy. It’s safe to say he thrives on it.
The eccentric star, who just wrapped up the second and final season of his FX television show “Brand X,” is perhaps just as well known for his ability cause trouble as he is for his drug-fueled escapades, both in real life and in the film “Get Him to the Greek.”
Most recently, the wild-haired funny man again made headlines for the wrong reasons following comments at the GQ Men of the Year Awards.
There, Brand took to the stage and made crude jokes that linked the show’s sponsor — Hugo Boss — to the Nazis during World War II.
“If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis. ... But they looked (expletive) fantastic, let’s face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality,” Brand said on stage after accepting an award Sept. 3.
GQ’s editor promptly booted Brand from the awards show afterparty.
Brand is now in the middle of the U.S. leg of his first-ever world tour — aptly titled “The Messiah Complex” — but don’t expect all sex jokes and profanity when he brings the one-man show to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.
The show, which Brand says explores “the importance of heroes in this age of atheistic disposability,” touches on everyone from Jesus Christ to Gandhi to Adolf Hitler.
Turns out, when it comes to topics like God and politics, Brand has a quite a bit to say.
“Christ is largely a radical spiritualist, who at the core believes that divinity is within and that it’s the duty of every human being to love their brother as they love themselves,” says Brand, speaking on a cell phone while traveling in Venice Beach, Ca. “Politically, the ideal Christ is actually closer to Communism than conservatism.”
Before he returns to Atlantic City, the one-time husband to singer Katy Perry takes a turn for the serious, talking about philosophy, faith and the real reason he enjoys offending people.
Q: Let’s talk “Messiah Complex.” How did you develop this show?
A: I’ve reached a point in my career where I felt I could write about whatever I wanted to, so I thought, “Why not write about what actually interested me?” I wanted to write about who inspired me, and why they inspired me, but also why they are relevant to society today … people like Gandhi, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, Jesus Christ — and how figures like that changed the world. It’s an essay on meaning.
Q: Why do icons such as Jesus and Gandhi inspire you? Why are their stories so important?
A: What is important about all the icons … are that they represent the possibility for change. They all represent opposing masses against an elite enemy — whether it’s Gandhi against the British Empire, or Malcolm X against the oppressive racists, or Christ against Roman Imperialism. They’re all about the emancipation of human beings, the freedom of human beings.
Q: So what does religion mean to you personally? Are you a spiritual guy?
A: I believe in God, yes. My religion is that we will all someday become fleeting, transient beings of the divine consciousness. There are universal forces that we will never understand.
Q: What do you say to atheists?
A: I begin my show with the (Friedrich) Nietzsche quote “God is dead,” implying that there is nothing to believe in beyond what we imperially can understand.
The fact that we have a belief system that is meaningless doesn’t mean that all belief systems are meaningless. What we need is a story that we once had ... where instead our Gods were of the Earth. If you have a God who comes from the rivers … this will prevent you from destroying the rivers, you know? People will say, “Hey, don’t (expletive) up the river! That’s our God!”
Q: There’s a big difference between doing live stand-up vs. television or film, and you’ve conquered them all. Are you happiest on stage in front of a room full of people?
A: Yeah, I don’t think I’m ever happier than when (the show is) going well. I can’t be misquoted (on stage). People know that if I’m saying something profane, if I make a joke about Princess Diana or something, I’m saying it to make a point. If I make joke about Michael Jackson’s death, I’m doing it to illustrate a point. My intention isn’t to hurt or disempower people.