Russell Brand returned for a second straight year to host the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, Sept. 13.
Described by the Telegraph as “the most talented stand-up comedian to emerge in Britain so far this decade,” Russell Brand made his theatrical debut, aged 15, in “Bugsy Malone” as Fat Sam. Essex Council decreed it criminally neglectful to allow his chameleon-like ability to put on hats to go un-nurtured and promptly funded an education at the fancy Italia Conti stage school, which led to a three-year scholarship at the acclaimed Camden Drama Centre.
In his spare time Russell began performing stand-up in pubs around London and reached the final ofHackney Empire’s prestigious “New Act of the Year” competition. He was denied the victory (allegations of jury rigging came to naught) but was a runner-up, and his angry political rantings caught the eye of Time Out’s Malcolm Hay, who dubbed him “Essex’s Bill Hicks.”
Further gigs at the Empire followed, as did a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival, which garnered glowing reviews and an appearance in the “So You Think You’re Funny?” final.
MTV caught Russell’s show at the festival and gave him his own series, “Dance Floor Chart,” where he bantered bizarrely with intoxicated youths in discos. Additionally he presented “Select,” their flagship peak-time phone-in show. When “Jackass” arrived in Blighty, Russell was afforded the dubious privilege of promoting it for MTV UK.
“Re:Brand” followed for UK Play, which was “a challenging look at cultural taboos.” Over ten episodes Russell had a boxing match with his father (long before Dennis v. Mortimer), had a bath with a homeless man who he had living in his bed, acted as pimp to a heroin addicted prostitute and tried to convert the leader of the young BNP to socialism.
He then presented his own Sunday afternoon show for Xfm, acted in Channel Four’s “White Teeth” and featured in the Steve Coogan vehicle “Cruise of the Gods.” He also hosted and wrote “The Russell Brand Show” for Channel Four’s Comedy Lab series.
Summer 2004 saw Russell host E4’s live Big Brother discussion series “Efourum,” and present “Kings of Comedy” for E4, in between which Russell took his one man show “Better Now” to the Edinburgh Festival. A hilariously honest chronicle of Russell’s odyssey through a twilight world of whores, heroin and hairdos, it demonstrated that the road of excess leads to the palace of unemployment. The show was a complete sell-out and received four and five star reviews in The Times, The Guardian, The Scotsman and The Metro amongst others.
Russell hosted the NME Awards in 2006 and, the same month, performed alongside Noel Gallagher to a sold-out KOKO in aid of addiction charity Focus 12. The release of his first ever live DVD followed two weeks later. During this time Russell also announced a major UK tour for 2007. After opening at Southampton’s Guild Hall on February 3, the extensive stand-up show travelled across the country, hitting over 30 venues.
Recently, Russell won an award for best UK performer in a non-acting role at the Broadcasting Press Guild’s “33rd Annual Television and Radio Awards.” Other accolades he has received include Time Out’s “Stand-Up Comedian of the Year” (2006), Loaded Lafta Awards’ “Funniest Man” and “Best Newcomer” at the 2006 British Comedy Awards. He was also named GQ’s “Most Stylish Man of the Year” for 2006.
2007 was Russell’s most successful year to date. He continued to tour the UK and, in March, performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. He also began 6Music’s Sunday morning slot in 2007, which increased audience ratings by 40 percent.
One of Radio 2’s primetime presenters, Russell also hosted the 2007 BRIT Awards and, on July 7, presented “Live Earth” to an audience of billions. Russell returned to Channel 4 later that year to host “Ponderland,” which aired on Monday, October 22 and screened every weeknight that week.
Towards the end of last year, Russell dominated the comedy circuit with his smash-hit, sold-out show “Only Joking.” He also made his feature film debut, starring in contemporary Ealing caper “St Trinian’s,” opposite Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry and Emily Watson.
In November 2007 Russell’s autobiography “My Booky Wook” was published by Hodder & Stoughton and rapidly topped the best-seller list, becoming the most successful book of the season, and going on to win a prestigious Nibby at the at the British Book Awards in the “Best Biography” category.
February 2008 saw Russell follow up his 2007 debut with a role in modern fairytale “Penelope” (starring Christina Ricci and James McAvoy), while the summer brought rave reviews for Russell’s scene-stealing performances in Judd Apatow’s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” He also appeared in Adam Sandler’s “Bedtime Stories” in December 2008.
Russell’s hour-long stand-up special, “Russell Brand in New York City,” premiered on Comedy Central in March 2009. It is now available for digital download on Xbox, Zune, iTunes and Amazon.
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