British comedian Russell Brand took the stage at the end of the FX press tour to give TV critics a taste of his late-night talk show Strangely Uplifting (premiering in April), and wound up also giving them a trippy tour of his brain that had them chortling and shaking their heads. Here are the highlights:
• The show – which will shoot episodes two to three days in advance – will rely generously on interaction with a studio audience. “Basically it’s about the audience and Russell,” said exec producer-director Troy Miller. “We’re going to talk about things that are happening in the news and we’re going to talk about things that interest Russ…. It’s going to be soft news, hard news.” Brand later added: “You know how Louie is to the convention of sitcom, I would like this to be sort of news and topical comedy, very deconstructive, brilliantly put together by Troy… stripped of all nonsense, stripped of all subterfuge, no ‘Hello, coming up after the break,’ none of that rhubarb, just truth and beauty and humor.’”
• Of his outsized persona, he noted: “All I know is that my stand-up comedy is ‑‑ what my goal is, is to acknowledge that within each of us is a divine and beautiful light through truth and authenticity. And being funny, we can connect this light and change, I believe, the tenure and frequency of our consciousness. That may seem like a noble objective on FX, but we’ll give it a whirl.” Brand explained that he’s approaching this gig from the “perspective an alien trying to understand this peculiar time, this peculiar country” and likened himself to Mork, Robin Williams’ extraterrestrial character from Mork & Mindy.
• When a reporter slyly asked how Brand was doing – a thinly veiled nod to his filing for divorce from Katy Perry last month – he answered, “I’m quite well,” before elaborating (somewhat): “Because of ‘events’… I suppose what you’re doing is you’re making the mistake as seeing time as linear. The brilliant American author Kurt Vonnegut, he’ll tell you that if you imagine reality as experienced simultaneously, events become redundant.” Later in the session, when asked if he’d address events from his life on the show, he noted: “If I had done something actually newsworthy, in some bizarre world, then I would cover it. But if it was just more lacquered nonsense designed to distract us from truth, then I would wisely ignore it.”
• Brand poked fun at the Republican presidential candidates, noting of Mitt Romney: “I know that he is so rich that even the 1 percent to him would seem like peasants…. Like, other billionaires must sicken him with their depravity. Other billionaires to him would seem like Dickensian street urchins eating gruel with fingerless gloves.” He dinged Newt Gingrich for attacking Romney for speaking in French, and said the former speaker of the House had a “ludicrously amphibious bizarre name.” Dismissing American politics as “meaningless spectacle,” he ranted: “We don’t any more believe that Mitt Romney, Barack Obama would make any difference at all, whoever is in charge of us, until there is a fundamental spiritual revolution…. The whole thing is an illusion. So I’m not going to fill my head with like data about Mitt Romney or the one whose surname sounds like ‘sanitarium.’” He even weighed in on the controversy over Marines urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan, observing: “It’s bad to wee on a dead body, right? But like, it’s worse to kill someone. So it’s like, why are we more shocked by people pissing on a dead body than killing a live body?”
• Assuring the room that he doesn’t plan to “shine a light on America from a position of judgment,” Brand pointed out that ”this country has been incredibly generous and kind to me. And in many senses I think culturally it’s still the greatest country in the world.” That said, this gem rolled out of his mouth: “I consider contemporary culture to be like a pink pony trotting through the world s—ing glitter into our minds. Glitter affects the synaptic firing of our brains because there’s glitter s— all in the middle of our neurons. We can’t think. They’re filling our minds with s— glitter.”
• Earlier in the day, at a TCA panel for Wilfred, which returns for a second season in June, exec producer David Zuckerman said that “95 percent of the [season 1] cliff-hanger is resolved in the premiere. That’s not to say there aren’t new questions asked but we’ll definitely address the cliff-hanger in the premiere.” He also noted that the show hopes to bring back guest stars Mary Steenburgen and Dwight Yokum, and cast a “very big” guest for the season premiere. In addition, Wilfred may launch a podcast to accompany each episode.