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Russell Brand looks at America through eyes of an alien in new show

Russell Brand appears onstage at the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday, June 3, 2012, in Los Angeles. Originally, Brand's first foray into American television was going to be called, "Strangely Uplifting." When the show premieres next Thursday night on FX and FX Canada it will be called "Brand X with Russell Brand." THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Sayles
June 21, 2012 - 2:05 PM

Originally, Russell Brand's first foray into American television was going to be called, "Strangely Uplifting." When the show premieres next Thursday night on FX and FX Canada it will be called "Brand X with Russell Brand."

Too bad. Strangely uplifting was exactly how the tall, mop-haired Brit struck the media earlier this year at the most recent press tour in Los Angeles.

This is not to say his late night series won't be uplifting or that it will or won't be peppered with salty, X-rated content (Brand made no effort to censor himself at his lively press session). Brand and executive producer Troy Miller ("Flight of the Conchords") weren't exactly sure what the series would look like once it hit the air.

"I think there will be the inevitable biographical elements because you can't speak from anyone's perspective but your own," said Brand. "Unless I was to bizarrely adapt some sort of avatar. It's like if I was to speak from the perspective of, I don't know, Anjelica Huston, people would think I lacked the proper authority."

Sensing critics were still puzzled about what his show would be like, Brand offered this helpful tip: "I'm not from here, am I?" he said. So think of him as an alien trying to understand America.

"Remember Mork?" added Brand, invoking Robin Williams' space character from the late '70s sitcom "Mork & Mindy." "He had to understand he was an extraterrestrial. He was trying to, I think, get a green card, and essentially that's what I'm doing."

To many North American viewers, Brand is still, if not an alien, then somewhat of an enigma. After a well-earned reputation as a ladies man in England, the actor's brief marriage to pop star Katy Perry made him even more of a tabloid sensation. His playful side was on view as Rosie O'Donnell's first guest on her short-lived talk show. Then there were his outrageous MTV Movie Awards appearances as well as his rock star film roles in both "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek."

The 37-year-old started out doing stand up comedy in the U.K. in 2000 and became known for one man shows where he was hilariously candid about his former drug addictions. And while he seemed, at least, over-caffeinated during his FX press conference, he claims to keep his addictive personality firmly in check these days with Transcendental meditation.

During his wild and crazy drug days he made headlines through several arrests. Now he wants to make news items a starting point for some of the comedy on "Brand X." But what if he's the name in the news that week? Will he comment on himself?

Brand answered with a typical blast of edge and whimsy.

"We live in a time where we're stupefied by plasticity, where we have this toxic sequined wave of vapid culture polluting our minds, denigrating our consciousness, detracting and removing us from our spirituality. So gossip-based stories would have less value other than in an analytical context," he said.

"But if it was just more lacquered nonsense designed to distract us from the truth, then I would wisely ignore it."

Brand was asked if he would wade into American politics, particularly during this election year. He once infamously dismissed former U.S. president George W. Bush as a "cowboy fella" who, in England, "wouldn't be trusted with scissors."

Brand said all he knew about U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was that he is so rich "other billionaires to him would seem like Dickensian street urchins eating gruel with fingerless gloves."

He went on to dismiss the U.S. elections as "part of a meaningless spectacle," wondering aloud whether Romney or President Barack Obama would make any difference at all. What's needed first in America, he feels, is "a fundamental spiritual revolution."

Not that he's in America to pass judgement, Brand insists.

"This country has been incredibly generous and kind to me," he said. "So it's not like a finger-pointing exercise. Many of the aspects of American culture that come under the greatest criticism from abroad are certainly not a peninsula that a British person could arrogantly judge from, given that we did our fair share of colonialism, didn't we?"

Will he pick on people in his studio audience, Brand was asked. Acknowledging Don Rickles as "a great master of the craft of stand-up comedy," Brand says he's no long-haired Rickles.

"I don't see myself or my role as a malevolent jester attacking people who are already being attacked," he said. "All I want is for people to feel better than they do now ... and as long as I stay in alignment with that, then I'm served by great forces."

"Brand X with Russell Brand" premieres Thursday, June 28 at 11 p.m. on FX and FX Canada.

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Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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