Studio: Paramount / Comedy Central
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 61Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: Dolby Digital English Stereo
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired
Review Date: May 9, 2009
The Film - out of
Let’s be honest – the outward persona of Russell Brand is a grease stain. His appearance is akin to the kind of image you see when a city park artist uses charcoal to draw people and then smudges the finished product violently. He’s like a washed up rock star who never had a music career but slid into emotional and physical disrepair anyway. But he has a saucy, distinct comedy voice and his terrific, scene stealing turn in 2008’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall means that he is undeniably interesting.
Perhaps for publicity, or simply as a result of whom his outward persona is, Brand stirred up some controversy with his 2008 VMA hosting gig. Ruffling feathers, causing more than a few folk to blush and kicking up a little dust in the so-called standards of TV hosting, he has certainly ‘arrived’.
In Russell Brand in New York City, the comedian makes his Comedy Central debut and the results are…interesting. There’s a good amount of self-referential humor, healthy self deprecation but in essence, Brand is the new centuries version of the naughty comedians that England had for so long been synonymous with. The naughtiness of the Carry On days are evoked from time to time, and persona echoes of Ken Dodd and Rik Mayall can be seen. Even more recent comedy styling, like the terrifically original and funny League of Gentlemen, seem to come through a little.
There’s flamboyance, a common ‘everyday’ blue-collar sense about him even as he mines being famous for jokes. He has a tendency to offer comedy that gives nudges and winks to who he really is beneath the ‘celebrity’ image. And he has a free-spirited, relaxed sense about him that is clearly an echo of far greater comedians from the British Isles.
But when you boil away the excess of his persona and the gruff, grimy, leaping, light-foot appearance, his actual humor is quite simple, a little worn and perhaps without the novelty of his accent (for American Audiences) not as likely to play as well as it does – even though he has found fame in my home land of the UK. But there are genuine flashes of genius.
It is quite funny to hear a somewhat defensive Russell Brand discuss his uncomfortable turn as VMA host.
He does seem genuinely fascinated with his place in the world, or rather his status in pop-culture and some of his best material is in judging reactions to him. His time discussing being among the most googled things in the world after his hosting gig and the absurdity of the deaths threats he received – are among the finest moments. He has a well-read intellect that punches through the more ‘everyday’ aspect of his act and those times provide the more complex, intelligent and respectable elements of what he has to offer.
Russell Brand in New York City is presented on DVD in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio and enhanced for widescreen televisions. This is about what you should expect from a live performance. The image is darker generally than most and medium shots dominate, aside from the not particularly well placed shots of the audience, which don’t tend to demonstrate what the image has to offer. But in a few close-ups you can see that the details are quite reasonable. The set colors are both warm and brooding and come across quite rich.
The Dolby Digital English Stereo is heavy in the center channel with only marginal use of the surrounds. Audience appreciation comes across solidly in the front left and right and that provides the only real sense of dimension to the audio. It does the trick, however.
The Notorious 2008 MTV VMA Monologue – In full, the opening monologue from the 2008 VMA’s which shows how the ‘fish out of water’ choice for him to host was a mixed success. The audience appears to ‘get’ his humor in bursts. More reserved American audiences unsurprisingly didn’t quite know what to make of his irreverence, but, besides the obvious nerves – he did well.
An Englishman in New York – (10:25) – When Russell Brand arrived in New York, he spent some time around Time Square, having fun and causing heads to turn. Interestingly, we see a little side by side of the taped rehearsal and final show.
Loose Cannon Drunk Girl – (4:45) – Interrupted by an audience member, Russell Brand handily handles the situation with quick wit and his unique style.
Russell Brand is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea – his disheveled appearance, unpolished routine and ‘dirty’ humor at times can be more crass than clever; but beneath the presentation, there are glimpses of what could very well be honed to produce an impressive voice in comedy. But his performance in New York City is imperfect and imprecise – a little imbalanced and imbued with an air of grungy flippancy which, can be seen thru to catch his vulnerable self beneath his outward veneer.
In summary - if you like Brand, you will enjoy this comedy show. Others should check out his ‘brand’ before jumping in. I did enjoy it, but look forward to his growth into something a little more studied.