I had a fantastic evening in Bristol’s Colston Hall two nights ago, when I was in the audience at Ruseell Brand’s ‘Re-Birth’ show. I have loved Russell for many years, have read and loved his books, watched his stand up shows live and on DVD and have watched his forays into political activism with awe, admiration and sometimes great amusement. It would definitely be true to say that I have something of a crush on Russell, but while he certainly ticks many of my ‘dream man’ boxes, it is an intellectual crush as much as a physical one – I have spent more time fantasising about talking, putting the world to rights and sharing yoga with him than anything more passionate!
Russell was on my mind when I wrote my book, Bent Back into Shape, Beating Addiction Through Yoga, as I know that the subject of the book would be of interest to him, and I wanted to give him a copy. I tried to contact him on social media, emailed his management, and turned up at his management office to leave a copy of it there for him, all to no avail. I was delighted then, when he announced his tour, and I bought 4 tickets to see him, knowing that somehow I would get to meet him in Bristol. If I can meet American rock gods, I can meet Russell Brand. I might even manage to do it without making a fool of myself!
It was with great excitement, therefore, that I arrived at Colston Hall with 3 friends on 31 May.
The show was incredible. Russell is not to everyone’s taste I know; I am pretty sure I would have been very uncomfortable with his language and subject matter had my mother been sitting next to me, but I laughed and laughed, sometimes with that ‘oh god, that is totally wrong’ feeling, but the laughter was pretty constant.
Russell is well known for his interest in Yoga and personal growth. I highlighted the similarities between addiction recovery and the spiritual path in my book, and Russell’s discourse certainly backs this idea up. While his famous addictions formed a lot of the content, the show was primarily focused on how he, and his life, have changed since the arrival in his life of his daughter and a monogamous relationship – two huge life changes that have had massive impact on the mindset of the well known womaniser.
There were several themes throughout the show around change, making your mark in the world and standing up for what is right, respect and awe at the miracle of life, and the fragility of our moment in time. It was a powerful show that made me think as well as making me laugh.
I came away with 5 lessons about life and being a human from the show, and for that, I am very grateful to Mr Brand.
Now, humility might not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about Russell Brand. He comes across as egotistical, arrogant and very full of himself. Yet in that arrogance and bolshy ‘look at me’ persona, and Russell did talk about the fact that he presents a certain persona when he is being Russell Brand, there is a tender, sensitive human who is possibly more painfully aware of his failings than most (it would be hard not to be when he has had them pointed out to him so much by the media!)
During the interval, Russell sat on the stage and talked to fans, posing for photos, listening to people, and giving out hugs that felt like you were being hugged by someone who adores you (yes, I was the lucky recipient of such a hug, and yes, I did give him a copy of my book, hooray!). He didn’t have to do this at all, I have never seen anything like it in any show I have been to before. To be this approachable and genuinely interested in the people who have paid money and time to come to listen to him showed not arrogance and ego, but humility and respect for his fans that more ‘celebrities’, and in fact, all of us, could learn from.
Admit when you are wrong
Russell is hilariously self deprecating. So much of his humour comes from taking the mickey out of his own ridiculousness. He is very aware that he sometimes lets his ego run away with him and puts him into situations that he maybe isn’t at his best in. He used footage from interviews when he was in political situations to make fun of himself and highlight what happens when we allow our ego or our desire to please others make decision for us. He shows us that being able to laugh at yourself is very good for the soul, for keeping the ego in check, and for facilitating personal growth. His self depractation didn’t feel like self victimisation, just a very clear acceptance of his fallability.
Embrace opportunities for growth and be open to learn
Russell owns his screw ups completely. He knows that he is likely to get pillioried in the press for anything he does, and any mistakes he makes, and he takes full responsibility and ownership of them, turning them into material for people to laugh at (him). He acknowledged that he made some grave errors of judgement in 2015 when he attempted to get involved in politics at a higher level, and seems to have learned valuable lessons from the experience.
He has taken powerful lessons from his new role as faithful partner and father. This seems to have forced him to question his whole identity and his relationship with, and attitudes to, women. For someone whose whole life previously seemed to be the endless pursuit of sexual encounters, the idea that his baby girl might one day date someone like him seems quite terrifying (and let’s face it, she probably will, and I am sure he will hate it!)
Life tends to teach us the lessons we most need to learn, so the fact that Russell is father to a little girl seems like a gift from the universe to prompt massive growth in his spirit.
Don’t let other people’s opinions stop you
Russell began his show talking about his need to please, and to be liked, and how much he wanted us all to love him. This need to please and be loved is, I am sure, a very real factor in much of his motivations, but he refuses to be beaten down when he gets the opposite response. He has been criticised heavily in the media, to such an extent that a different person might retreat. But Russell knows his purpose and his work, and he does it with two fingers held high to his critics. I find this quite inspirational, to be able to accept that there will be many who criticise savagely and carry on with your life regardless. He is able to inspire such love and respect in so many others, and it is partly due to this attitude – I know it is for me.
Follow your moral compass
Russell Brand is a comedian. He was never a satirist. At the start of his career his jokes seemed to revolve primarily around sex and how good he apparently is at it, so to many critics, he doesn’t belong in the political arena. But Russell was not always a womanising stand up comedian, and he is so much more than his ‘job’. As a drug addict many years ago, he has experienced life at the bottom of the pile of society, and this gives him great empathy with vulnerable people. He may live the life of a rich man now, but he is still a “working class boy” from Essex, and he has remained in touch with his roots. His experiences give him a unique perspective on life, he has a real desire to help people, and he has a platform to make a noise when he sees injustice. He has been able to help people who have benefited from his celebrity to back their causes, and he has used his visibility to highlight causes he cares passionately about.
He may make mistakes and bluster his way into situations that are totally out of his area of expertise, but he shows us very clearly the gains that are made when we step out of our comfort zones – you might screw up, you might get laughed at, but if you are true to your core values, you will achieve good things, and you will grow.
I for one think Russell Brand is a very admirable man, and while he might earn a living playing the clown, there is far more to him than this.
I rather spontaneously bought tickets to see him again in October. I am already excited, and hope that by the time I meet him next, he will have read my book and we can talk about that (I hope he likes it!) If you get a chance to go and see him, I highly recommend it (unless you’re my Mum, in which case, I don’t think you should!)
Russell’s latest podcast, Under the Skin, is a fascinating series of interviews with experts on philosophical, political and other matters relating to our life, our moment in time. I have just started listening to it, and it is certainly interesting and informative listening, go and check it out and expand your mind!