Russell Brand brings his comic ministry to UMass

By Kate Evans

Arriving 40 minutes late with only a five-minute opening act to entertain restless fans may have ruffled some feathers Saturday night, but such a transgression could be easily forgiven when perpetrated by the likes of comedian Russell Brand. The suave Brit performed to a half-closed auditorium on a makeshift stage positioned on the floor of the Mullins Center. Brand quickly made up for lost time (and lost affection) with hugs and kisses to fans, as well as cheeky antics involving a gay Nepalese man and a shotgun wedding.

Brand flaunted his knowledge of University of Massachusetts trivia by rattling off some common and some not-so-common nicknames for the institution, such as UMass, Zoomass and “Womb-mass.” He also demonstrated his knowledge of the floor count in the W.E.B. Du Bois Library before reciting the lyrics to the popular profane UMass hockey chant.

Then, after a brief self-introduction, Brand walked off the stage and circled around the floor to personally greet, chase and embrace fans. The comedian quickly located sorority members, claiming they were exactly the cliché he had imagined and equated a sorority house to a “free brothel.” He also found a couple who had been together for three years and desired to get married. As an ordained minister in the Universal Life Church, Brand vowed to wed them by the end of his show.

Returning to the stage, he started into his main act by complaining about the many death threats he received. During his first year as host of MTV’s Video Music Awards, he became an object of ire for calling George W. Bush a “retarded cowboy fella.”

In his next year hosting the VMAs, Brand had prepared several bits that he was unable to perform due to Kanye West’s Hennessy-driven verbal assault on Taylor Swift. Brand’s imitation of West and comparison of Swift to a scarecrow both hit the mark. He then proceeded to take the audience through the bits he would have performed were it not for West’s interruption.

“I imagine there are pros and cons to dating a vampire,” began his “Twilight” rant. Cons included only being able to see the vampiric loved one at night and being unable to enjoy a church wedding. Pros included being caught in a jam without necessary sanitary products.

“Your caring and sensitive partner will be only too pleased to help let your worst period be his best time of the month,” he said. The ludicrous joke and taboo subject highlighted Brand’s unique sense of humor.

Moving on from menstruation, Brand detailed several of the compromising situations he got himself into when single. One situation included a failed attempt at bedding tennis star Serena Williams via email. Taking into consideration her religious faith, Brand added this line in closing his message:

“You must have some time to nourish your soul and flirt – that’s what Jesus would have wanted.” Although Brand’s enthusiasm for pursuing any female aged 18 through death provided a humorous undercurrent for the night, his email fell short of hilarity.

The most hilarious segment of the show by far began when Brand called a Nepalese man named Subhanu to the stage. Subhanu’s overly excited demeanor and confusing rants into the microphone led Brand to dub him has a lunatic, which was greeted with howling laughter and cheers. Despite Subhanu’s overt attempts to hit on Brand, the comedian politely declined his advances.

Calling up audience members as promised, Brand summoned to the stage Sean – referred by the comedian as a “big jock” – to use his cell phone for contacting Subhanu’s potential love interest, found through a classified ad. In a twist, Brand called both Sean’s mother and father and declared his recent switch to homosexuality, saying their son found love with Subhanu. Quick-witted and unfazed by the spotlight, Sean’s mother responded to claims of her son’s alleged homosexuality by saying she always knew it. After poking fun at Subhanu and Sean’s imaginary relationship for what seemed like the majority of the show, Brand dismissed the two from stage, but not before Subanu kissed Sean on the nose and wrapped his tie around his neck.

Good on his word, Brand also wed long-haired couple Vincent and Francesca on stage and demanded their first-born to be named Russell, “regardless of its gender.” He followed suit with a second wedding – marrying a couple who had been together for seven years.

Brand concluded his performance by reading the psychologically revealing tweets of obsessive fans of his wife, singer Katy Perry.

“Keeping It Simple” – the title of Brand’s tour – was packed with more side-splitting laughter than any of Brand’s previous stand-up DVDs, partly because the comedian is so skilled at personalized improvisational humor. In interacting with fans and often speaking the unspeakable, Brand made quite the splash at UMass.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected]