The red-pilling of Russell Brand?
Once a socialist firebrand, the overcaffeinated British comic is these days more apt to question the COVID-19 narratives of the lockdown left and defy woke groupthink on his booming YouTube channel.
Russell Brand sounds like Joe Rogan these days, or even Tucker Carlson.
The British comic came to fame stateside as the scene-stealing rocker in 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Brand embraced a quasi-pundit status in the process, extolling socialism and smiting the West in books, documentaries and podcasts.
These days, his booming YouTube channel finds him questioning COVID-19 narratives, eviscerating the mainstream media and warning his 5 million-plus flock to question what they're told. Always.
A new Brand video often attracts hundreds of thousands of views in just a few hours. His withering takedown of CNN media guru Brian Stelter amassed more than three million views alone.
He's yet to be canceled or even attacked a la Rogan, but it seems inevitable the 46-year-old will run afoul of the cultural gatekeepers.
He's not the only figure to veer to the right in recent years. Adam Carolla's apolitical shtick now comes with a conservative-approved pedigree. He recently starred in the "Truth Yeller" stand-up series for the right-leaning outlet The Daily Wire and teamed with conservative talker Dennis Prager for 2019's "No Safe Spaces" documentary.
Bill Maher, HBO's progressive comic, now spends much of his "Real Time with Bill Maher" shows excoriating the left.
Brand's new posture is a far cry from his earlier persona as a hard-charging socialist and rabble rouser. Brand parlayed his "Sarah Marshall" fame into two leading roles — the "Marshall" spin-off "Get Him to the Greek" in 2010 and, later, the 2011 "Arthur" remake. Neither proved a blockbuster, and his Hollywood career cooled, to a degree. He kept landing gigs but carved out enough time for more personal projects.
His 2014 book "Revolution" name-dropped Che Guevara and Noam Chomsky while arguing against capitalism.
His former video channel, "The Trews," found him praising socialism for being "cool again" and giddily glossing over Joseph Stalin's shocking death count in the process.
He blamed the West and capitalism for the rise of ISIS and lost his cool when a journalist compared his wealthy lifestyle to his socialist rhetoric.
Brand raged repeatedly against Fox News during this era, at one point comparing the show's talent to the Islamic terrorists who slaughtered journalists at Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, leaving 17 people dead.
A different, more moderate Brand emerged at the end of the Trump era, though. He joined Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey in blasting those who summarily dismiss the former president's supporters.
"[There is] a kind of offhandedness, like, 'Oh, they're dumb, they're voting for Brexit, they're voting for Trump.' I don't like it, and I don't like to hear it," Brand said on his "Under the Skin" podcast, heard on the Luminary audio network.
More recently, he's used his YouTube pulpit to savage Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's "emergency powers" decree in the wake of trucker protests, the Gates Foundation and an unreliable media landscape.
He also stood almost alone in comedy circles by mocking Australia's extreme pandemic lockdowns.
Brand may not have officially cut ties with his older views regarding socialism, but they clearly aren't front of mind of late.
Brand still works in traditional media realms. He recently costarred in "Death on the Nile," although that project endured sizable delays due to the pandemic and wrapped before his recent conversion. He'll also appear in the animated film "Minions 2: The Rise of Gru" later this year.
Those projects lack the passion and personal connection his YouTube channel inspires. And his popularity on the digital front appears to be spiking. In just over two weeks, his YouTube channel gained more than 140,000 new subscribers.
Brand cheekily welcomes his growing flock at the beginning of each video podcast, reminding them he's a comedian first and foremost, and that fighting the culture wars doesn't have to be a gloomy affair.
In a way, his populist streak hasn't radically changed since he still speaks directly to the masses, not the elites. It's the two-party systems that may have shifted. Liberal figures like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau slam uprisings like the Freedom Convoy, crushing peaceful protests in the process, while the Biden administration pressures Big Tech to increase their censorial ways.
Rebel comics like Brand, Carolla and Maher can point a few fingers at Cancel Culture for their ideological evolutions. None of the three fits a ready-made label. Each slams the woke ascendancy and spreading conformity and censorship.
For Brand, his new persona may hinder him from a traditional Hollywood comeback, but with the rise of alternate media sources he may not care.
Comedians like Rogan, Carolla, Ryan Long, Tim Dillon, Andrew Schulz and JP Sears have carved out successful careers unrestrained by woke orthodoxy or Hollywood bylaws.
Schulz sells out arenas in Canada. Long's viral videos, like "When Wokes and Racists Actually Agree on Everything," create their own self-sufficient buzz. Dillon's presence on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram means he doesn't need mainstream media support to thrive.
Brand may be the next to carve himself a cancel-proof niche beyond the reach of the thought police.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter's Notebook
- takedown of CNN media guru Brian Stelter
- giddily glossing over Joseph Stalin's shocking death count
- He blamed the West and capitalism for the rise of ISIS
- lost his cool
- at one point comparing the show's talent to the Islamic terrorists who slaughtered journalists at Charlie Hebdo
- A different, more moderate Brand emerged at the end of the Trump era
- mocking Australia's extreme pandemic lockdowns
- his YouTube channel
- Biden administration pressures Big Tech to increase their censorial ways