By Sharon Eberson / Wednesday, Oct. 29
What's up with this Russell Brand character? Does his crazy hair affect his brain, or what?
The established Brit comedian (seen in Associated Press photo) made a splash in this summer's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and since has set about blowing it just as his has career seemed to be on the rise on two continents.
First, he offended most people within airshot as host of the MTV VMAs by poking fun at the Jonas Brothers because of the abstinence rings they wear. Jordin Sparks and others denounced the comments about the sibs' promise rings, but Joe Jonas was forgiving, saying just, "I think he needs a hug." Brand also referred to President George W. Bush as "that retarded cowboy fellow."
Perhaps, I thought, something was lost in the translation of humor from across the pond. Not so, it now appears, because he's gotten himself into another vast vat of hot water over there.
Brand and his BBC radio partner Jonathan Ross were indefinitely suspended by the BBC and denounced by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown -- plus some 18,000 listeners who called to complain -- after the pair pulled what they said was a prank on 78-year-old actor Andrew Sachs, known for playing Spanish waiter Manuel on "Fawlty Towers."
On their Oct. 18 show, on state-funded BBC Radio, Brand and Ross aired calls to Sachs in which they claimed, in crude terms, that Brand had slept with Sachs' granddaughter.
Funny stuff, right? Wrong.
The pairs' apologies were not accepted, and now Brand and Ross are suspended and facing an investigation by Britain's media regulator.
PG staff writer Tim McNulty did a story a while back about the final frontier of comedy, about the un-PC places comedians are daring to go. Humiliating unsuspecting individuals for the comedians' own amusement wasn't one of the things on the list -- folks from Don Rickles to Sacha Baron Cohen have been getting laughs (and backlash) for doing it for a long, long time.
Perhaps the problem is the setting, as radio shock-jock Don Imus learned when he was fired for racist remarks made "in the name of comedy."
When is "in the name of comedy" not a credible defense?
That's a question Russell Brand may want to ask of Andrew Sachs.