Howard Stern, the bawdy radio personality who went mainstream as a judge for TV’s “America’s Got Talent,” suggested that actor Russell Brand return to stand-up comedy.
“The whole tour was Howard Stern’s idea,” Brand said from New York City last week prior to a show at Town Hall.
“Howard Stern was complaining about the quality of my movies, and I said, ‘What do you think I should I do?’ And he goes, ‘Concentrate on your stand-up.’ So, I thought, ‘He’s right, you know.’ I’ve been doing it ever since. In a way, Howard Stern is the instigator of this.”
Now Brand, the Brit who became famous in America by stealing scenes in the 2008 romantic comedy, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” is on his “Messiah Complex” world tour.
Apparently, Stern was on to something.
“I’m doing a show that I believe in,” Brand said. “I don’t feel like I’m having to compromise too much. I’m happy spiritually, I’m happy personally.”
The “Messiah Complex” tour’s official poster depicts a Christ-like image of the bearded, long-haired Brand, created by Shepard Fairey. The graphic artist and illustrator’s work includes the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster, which was seen widely during the 2008 presidential campaign.
In the “Messiah Complex” image, an upward-gazing Brand wears a necklace strung with symbols, including a Christian cross, Jewish star of David, Muslim crescent moon — and the McDonald’s fast-food chain’s arches.
“The concept is this fission in the Bible, and inferred in most religious texts, that the kingdom of heaven is within,” Brand said. “Which is kind of synonymous with saying there’s no need to look for God. God is in each of us. God is our divine nature, once we are able to overcome the temporal obsessions with fear and desire.”
Most of the necklace’s symbols are obviously religious and ancient. As for the comparatively modern McDonald’s arches, Brand said, “this is the icon of our contemporary religion.”
Brand’s tour poster says that featured in the show are Jesus Christ, Che Guevara, Gandhi and Malcolm X. They figure into his “Messiah Complex” theme of subversion and nonconformity.
Brand, a comedian and actor who looks like a rock star, also admires the subversive elements in rock music.
“When rock ’n’ roll bands like the Beatles, the Stones, many of the English bands, and some of the American bands, like the Doors, evolved, implicitly within them was social revolution. That was an aesthetic idea, as opposed to an ideologically driven manifesto. And this trickster spirit is still an important cultural idea. I think it’s applicable to comedy.”
Brand will soon be seen in the New Orleans-shot, Diablo Cody-written and -directed comedy-drama, “Paradise.” He plays a Las Vegas bartender. Previously, Brand was perfectly cast as rock star Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and its spinoff, “Get Him to the Greek.”
Off screen, Brand has had such British musician friends as Noel Gallagher (Oasis), Pete Doherty and Carl Barât (the Libertines) and the late Amy Winehouse.
He knows Morrissey, too, the longtime solo artist who was the voice for that especially revered British quartet of the 1980s, The Smiths. (Morrissey goes by one name.)
“I can never really bring myself to consider Morrissey a friend because it’s like saying you’re friends with Batman or something. He’s so funny and so brilliant. I love him very dearly. My cat is called Morrissey. But I don’t think of Morrissey as a normal chap. It’s more like he’s got a tablet under his arm and he’s just come down from Mount Sinai.”