Comedian Russell Brand plans UMass takeover

By Kate Evans


Going to work at MTV dressed as Osama bin Laden the day after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks may seem a bit over the top. Then again, so may receiving The Sun’s Shagger of the Year Award for three consecutive years.

Instead of being ostracized from fame and fortune due to an overly risqué sense of humor and lifestyle choices, British comedian and international movie star Russell Brand has instead been rewarded with a slew of success. Among other accomplishments, Brand recently wed pop star Katy Perry, hosted two consecutive MTV Video Music Awards and has completed several nationwide and international stand-up comedy tours. More recently, Brand earned the role as the infamously lovable heroin addict Aldous Snow in the 2010 hit comedy “Get Him to the Greek,” starring alongside real-life musician Diddy and Jonah Hill.

Brand is leading his 2011 stand-up tour, “Keeping It Simple,” to the University of Massachusetts Mullins Center this Saturday, Nov. 19. The mostly-spontaneous tour has ceased the comedian from planning and rehearsing most of his material prior to the show, claiming that a brainstorm is simply another word for an aneurism.

“If I ever brainstorm I should check myself into the UMass medical unit, get my scalp sliced open with the side of a shovel and be operated on by a drunk sorority member,” Brand told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian in a phone interview two weeks ago.

After his brief stint as a video journalist with MTV in 2001, Brand became famous in the United Kingdom in 2004 by hosting the television show “Big Brother’s Big Mouth.” Brand’s first nationwide tour, “Shame,” launched in 2006 as an accurately titled portrayal of his past embarrassments. Brand’s second nationwide tour, “Russell Brand: Only Joking,” opened in 2007. Both tours were later released on DVD. Soon after, Brand began performing stand-up in the United States and recorded a Comedy Central special, “Russell Brand in New York,” which aired in 2009.

Meanwhile, Brand’s radar skyrocketed across the U.S. after starring in 2008’s hit film “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” which detailed character Snow’s prequel to “Get Him to the Greek.” The comedian is not yet typecast as a drug-addicted rock star, having also performed in children’s films such as “Bedtime Stories” alongside Adam Sandler, “Despicable Me” with Steve Carell and “Hop” also starring James Marsden.

Funny-man Brand can write, too, calling the English language one of his best assets to his success. Brand’s autobiography, “My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up,” was published in 2007 to multiple rave reviews. After signing a multimillion dollar deal with Harper Collins one year later, Brand wrote “Articles of Faith” and “Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal,” with the latter released in 2010.

Brand is looking forward to his first visit to UMass, never having even heard the abbreviated term before. Upon learning that students often refer to the school as “Zoomass” for its partying ways, Brand took the joke one step further and dubbed it “Womb-mass” in reference to the several students he may impregnate during his brief stay.

Although the star is only scheduled for a one-night performance in Amherst, he plans to stay until his college research is complete. Brand’s goal while on “Keeping It Simple” is to uncover the interworking of the American education system, one sorority and fraternity at a time. Calling students on stage during his show to engage in “a lot of physical interaction” will be the comedian’s method of choice.

Brand assessed that his research will be complete anywhere inside several months to three years, comparing his collegiate studies to the Stanford prison experiment. Similar to the previous experiment, UMass will serve as a prison camp, Brand as prison governor, female students as guards and male students as prisoners. Brand plans to oversee this mayhem until “eventually we learn that there is no such thing as captivity if we are free in our own minds.”

If the prison camp falls through and the show goes on as planned, Brand promises to meet and greet students during and after his performance. Brand said he may also be tempted to “swim through a sea of adolescent flesh” after the show. Reassuring fans that he’s not an animal, Brand said he will be wearing a bathing suit for that final act. But if he were an animal, Brand would likely be a flamingo because they are the most sexually appealing.

When broached with the idea of sex and animals, Brand continued on to say that if he were a flamingo, he would most like to have sex with a flamingo as well. “If you have sex with a flamingo and you’re a chimpanzee, you’re probably going to get chucked out of the zoo,” said Brand.

Although he acknowledged that Perry is unlikely to be in attendance on Saturday, Brand is sure to single-handedly hold student’s attention with his quick-witted and elegant vocabulary, humorous demeanor and voluminous hair. “By the end of my gig we are going to have a better understanding of UMass and me-mass,” said Brand.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the “Keeping It Simple Tour” begins at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available through the Mullins Center box office, ranging from $22 to $42. Tickets are also available online at or by calling 800.745.3000, but with additional fees.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected].