People who should be creepy, but aren't

Reading true crime blogs gets depressing after a while, so let's have some good news about humans, shall we?

I would love to like Russell Brand. Really. I can't quite make myself an unabashed fan of his; how entertaining I find him depends a lot on who is babysitting him at the time, and sometimes even when he's performing with someone who's good at channeling his randomness, I wince. I don't mind all of the off-color material -- the first time I saw him perform was years ago when he was emcee for the MTV VMAs and I thought the crack about the Jonas Brothers and promise rings was funny, although I suspect it would have been funnier for a different audience, who understood that the proper way to respond to that would have been to take the mic and assure everyone the only way Brand would have ever gotten a ring from anyone was by mugging -- but he has real trouble accurately judging how outrageous he can be before people get angry with him. He just doesn't notice the lines he's crossing until they're receding rapidly in his rearview mirror, and, not actually being an idiot, I suspect that he also cringes at some of them in retrospect.

I do give Brand full marks for being fucking brilliant. I haven't read his booky-wook, and I'm not a sports person so I haven't seen his columns either, but I have seen him speak in a forum where he was not intentionally trying to be insane. He gave some fairly extensive testimony to a Parliamentary Committee focused on drug issues, and it went over about like the time Dee Snyder had a word with Congress at the PMRC hearings on purported Satanic backmasking in rock music, except that despite being intelligent, educated (probably self-educated -- I can't imagine someone like that getting along very well with the idea of sitting down and staying quiet in school), and remarkably coherent, Brand is physically incapable of shutting the fuck up. He makes it about twenty minutes in before he can't keep it bottled up anymore; if you ignore the snarkery fighting to escape his mouth, he's actually worth listening to.

(I will also remark that I knew nothing of Brand before he hit in the States, but from what I gather he was an utter shipwreck of a human being about a decade ago, and was not given particularly good odds of making it to thirty. If not being able to find the off switch for his mouth is his biggest problem these days, he's doing pretty fucking well. I don't particularly hold past drug or alcohol problems against people who have fixed their lives and are keeping them fixed; I hope he's found whatever he was looking for with the heroin, no matter how weird it turns out to be.)

The thing I would actually like to comment on, though, is that Russell Brand is a strangely good illustration of the difference between obnoxious and actually creepy. Given the amount of time and energy he devotes to outlining how pervy he is in his stand-up routine, you would think that Brand would be scary as hell, but I think he is actually not. He is a bit touchy-feely, particularly with people who are also a bit touchy-feely, but he does not seem to glom onto people who really don't like it. I think he doesn't think the unfeigned ack, help! reaction is very funny. He does invade personal space for effect, but interestingly enough, he usually seems to be provoked into doing it -- I don't know what he's like off-camera for obvious reasons, but when he does it on chat or quiz shows, he does it to people who've already decided to engage him in some sort of verbal sparring match, not completely at random.

Particularly telling is this bit from his brief stint as a guest captain on NMTB. (You're going to be seeing this show a lot. Only the questions and interstitial jokes on the host's autocue are pre-written, I gather; they do cut a lot of prep things, like making sure everyone has at least heard the song they're trying to sing the intro to, but the episodes are pretty much the particularly good bits of everyone's off-the-cuff chatter.) The girl on his right is a pop tart from some reality show, and the large fellow to his left is another stand-up comedian. The ramble about Prince and the question is pretty standard for Brand, if a bit low on the ratio of profanity to polysyllabic words, and it's not unusual for him to recruit other performers to help him be mad, particularly when he's already acquainted with them. The girl, he does not know at all, I think, and while he definitely wants her attention, he wants everyone's attention -- he gets it by yammering, not by drooling down the front of her person.

He was not, however, intending his impromptu sketch to end that way. Watch Brand's face when the other comic decides to tackle the poor girl -- he is not expecting that, he is not happy about it, and the first thing he does is come right out of his chair trying to stop it. He does not smile until she starts trying to smooth things over by laughing it off, and even then the one he gives the camera is a sort of reflexive social smile, that doesn't make it to his eyes.

(Simon Amstell, of course, is freaking out, because that's what Simon Amstell does, although when he thinks someone needs help, the freaking out doesn't stop him from bolting over to give it. He tactfully helps her rearrange her dress while Brand is dealing with the big oaf, which is not a bad choice -- if you're a lady who's just been tackle-glomped unexpectedly and one of those three is trying to assist with wardrobe, you probably do rather want it to be the openly-gay kid.)

Brand immediately begins making a very big deal out of it. Brand is known for making a very big deal out of practically anything that happens within the same postcode, because MOUTH, but in this case he specifically makes a very big deal out of how Not Cool that was. He's being genuine when he asks if she's okay -- he does put a hand around her shoulders, but I think most people would consider this an acceptably neutral, non-threatening place to touch someone else who looks to be in distress, and he keeps the rest of himself well outside of her airspace.

I find I quite like him for the next thing he does, which is very pointedly remind everyone that he is team captain goddamnit, and that he will be continuing to exist physically between the lady and the other comedian for the rest of the night. He makes a couple of cracks about the dress, but if you'll notice, he doesn't say anything about how she looks or her behavior -- it's mock-pervery entirely meant to draw attention back to himself. All the banging on about it after that is intended to be funny, and on the surface it mostly is. Being that he is Russell Brand, Amstell plays along and accuses him of setting himself up to get into her pants later -- which he might have done, I've no idea and there's no way for me to know -- but if you pay attention to what Brand is saying rather than how he's saying it, the rest of the rambling is a clear and direct threat: Even if she elects not to kick up a fuss, he fully intends to make a huge production out of it if anyone bothers her again.

If there is one man on Earth you can trust to absolutely carry out his threat to make a scene over something, it is going to be Russell Brand. Particularly over this. One of his more recent (read: non-drug related) scrapes with the law came about when a photographer harassed his then-fiancée Katy Perry -- I don't recall if he decked the guy or destroyed his camera or both, and I don't particularly condone people losing their tempers like that, but no one disputes that the skirmish happened because the girl he was with said 'leave me alone'  and someone didn't listen. A lot of creepers get away with a lot of creeping because their target feels obligated to let it slide, so as not to ruin anyone else's evening. Drawing attention to what's going on and confirming that it is completely out of line is an excellent way to get whoever's doing it to knock it the fuck off in a hurry. Brand goes the extra mile here and embarrasses the hell out of him for the rest of the night; how wise that is depends on who you're asking, but he sounds to me like he's doing it because he genuinely thinks that was a shithead thing to do, and anyone who'd do it deserves to end up looking like an ass.

Getting stuck in, say, a broken elevator alone with Russell Brand is still not on my top ten list of fun ways to spend an afternoon, but I'm pretty sure the worst that would happen is I'd come out of it with a whacking great headache -- I wouldn't be afraid for my safety, just my sanity. The other guy on his team? Not so much. I dunno what kind of comedy he's known for, but that stunt showed poor judgement at best.

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