Home Features Columnists The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Russell Brand and Comic Relief

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Russell Brand and Comic Relief


With Russell Brand consistently in the news, Zak Mahinfar, Online Features Columnist, considers Russell Brand’s take on politics and Comic Relief

Russell Brand has been making headlines daily for the past 12 months and plenty of people are duly sick to death of hearing about him. I don’t blame people for disregarding this muppet for making a lot of fuss in his abash-cockney manner but I applaud his attempts to actively try and increase political engagement, however terribly it might be going.

It’s easy to dismiss Brand as an ‘unqualified’ man who can’t see the forest for the trees, but in truth he doesn’t need to. Besides, the fact that we all know politics to essentially be the industry of professional bullshit, it actually doesn’t matter who he is, nor whether he lacks ‘political credibility’ because he’s not running for parliament. And although he’s by no means starting the ‘revolution’ he set out to, I’m indifferent to him achieving his personal aims, I only care that he’s got people talking; and that he certainly has. If the only way we can get people to have an opinion on politics is by getting people to have an opinion on Russell Brand, and he’s happy to volunteer as tribute, well then that’s a win-win for everybody.

Whatever you think about his hook, line and sinker Marxist epiphany, he serves a purpose, re-establishing the political equilibrium that Nigel Farage momentarily unbalanced. Two caricatures of the respective extreme left and extreme right, who absolutely everyone has something to say about. And haven’t they made things a bit more exciting? The prospect of being deported by a cigar-puffing boozer, or a communist uprising headed by an ex-drug addict and serial shagger, is what this country needs to get them down to the polling stations come May 5th.

People were up in arms at his suggestion to not vote at all, but all I’d say to that is, why on earth would you be taking his advice? This is the man who turned up to host a television show, the day after 9/11 dressed as Bin Laden, and left an answer phone message for Faulty Towers’ Manuel telling him he fucked his daughter. Poor Manuel.

Ultimately, does it matter that Russell hasn’t come up with a viable solution to the problems he highlights? Who has? Frankly, I don’t see anybody providing tangible solutions, and I’m equally disinclined to trust those who say they do. The conservatives will save the economy, Labour will save the NHS, UKIP will save the aging middle-class white men who have a phobia of foreigners, and the Greens are going to give you a free education! And the Lib Dems, well… does anybody care?

This politics business isn’t easy, I wouldn’t want to be the one making decisions, but I’m still going to sit here and criticise because that feeds the debate, which feeds democracy. Regardless of what they’ve splashed on the agendas, Britain is in such a state of political turmoil that most people have completely given up.  So I’m just glad that someone has people actively thinking again. He’s bringing his message to the masses, whatever that message may be, to an audience who are disengaged. Though it was a faux pas to tell people not to vote, it was that proclamation that blasted open the debate on voter apathy, and the backlash Brand received was an important one in communicating a message to the public. The interview with Jeremy Paxman behind the controversy got 10,000,000 hits on YouTube and that’s not bad considering that only 34.19 per cent of people turned up to vote at the European Parliament elections last year.

Ultimately, in this day and age people care more about what celebrities are doing than politicians, and so why not get them in on the act? Paloma Faith is currently touring with Owen Jones, and as bizarre an artistic pairing as that may seem, why shouldn’t celebrities be encouraging political involvement? I know you didn’t buy a ticket for a lecture, but there’s nothing wrong with an ethically vested prelude to get you yearning for those emotional power ballads.

Russell Brand has questioned whether charities such as Comic Relief are part of the problem – Image: Elliott Brown via Flickr cc

So this week Russell went and made the news again for asking, ‘Is it right to do comic relief?’ He pointed out that charity ‘ultimately takes responsibility away from the centralised powers of created government, corporations and alleviating that stress and tensions by placing the burden once more on ordinary people. Is charity part of the problem?’ He parrots the sentiments of many other prominent Marxists, including Slavoj Žižek.

Personally, when I heard that Comic Relief had raised £75 million during this year’s annual event, bringing their all-time total to over £1 billion, I was astounded. Year on year this marathon ups the ante, but this only exposes the extent of global economic disparity. Charity is a product of capitalism, which multi-national corporate companies are using as a marketing tool. Barclays sponsored Comic Relief but also dealt out £2.4 billion in bonuses last year alone; more than double what Comic Relief has made in 30 years. Companies like Starbucks saturate their advertising campaigns with their promotion of their support for Fairtrade and imply that buying their coffee is supporting struggling third world countries. But the irony is that we all know their track record when it comes to taxes, and I won’t even mention the PR disaster that is ‘Race Together’. The concept of charity is like giving a shivering animal a coat made from real fur. The act is paradoxical. I’m not for a second saying we shouldn’t give to charity. We need charity because we live in a globalised capitalist society. But we should realise that charity means tolerating the neglect and exploitation of huge sections of society through a token gesture to avoid confronting the real problem. We need to be vigilant and actively challenge the system, and hold those with power accountable.

Zak Mahinfar, Online Features Columnist

If you missed Zak Mahinfar’s last column on Kanye West, you can find it here. You can also find all our other Features columns here.

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