In the inaugural episode of his new show “Brand X” Thursday night, comic and actor Russell Brand discussed the free market economy, the “global holy war,” Stephen Hawking, and his meeting with the Dalai Lama.
He quoted Nietzsche and Shaquille O’Neal and derided Mel Gibson as an anti-Semite but praised him as a filmmaker. (He loved “Apocalypto.”) Brand also polled his studio audience and bantered with a couple of its members and engaged in a little back and forth with his political analyst/sidekick Matt Stoller.
The 37-year-old Brit said and did all of this and much more in less than 22 minutes, firmly putting the “talk” in talk show.
Other than Stoller — a writer and former congressional staffer — there were no guests, just Brand musing on issues large and small and how they are all likely connected.
Whether you find this musing amusing will depend greatly on how big your appetite is for Brand’s free range pulpit stylings.
He was by turns earnest and high-minded and snarky and low-brow dispensing raunchy one liners often while discussing a single topic, e.g. circumcision.
He would pick an issue — capitalism, Charlie Sheen — and meander off into monologue, pivoting in reaction to something said by Stoller or an audience member.
Perhaps because Brand, who as an actor has appeared as rock ’n’ roll wastrels in films like “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”and “Rock of Ages,” focused quite a bit of attention on religion in his first outing, his ruminating often felt more like sermonizing.
As such, some of it was compelling and some of it tedious. And if this is to be the template for the show, it will likely continue to have that balance. Brand is a compelling performer, clever, quick, self-deprecating, and clearly a thinker and questioner.
At one point he joked “Hear me out, then throw me out.” Given that some folks will likely be intrigued by where his ramblings might take them and others will hear them as so much bluster, it would seem likely that viewers will feel strongly about doing one or the other.
Sarah Rodman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.