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I'm not sure what I was expecting from Russell Brand's new late-night comedy show, Brand X, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's not exactly a talk show, unless you accept that you are tuning in to hear Brand talk non-stop for half an hour. It's not exactly a comedy. He throws out some quick jokes on topics of the moment, but he is more likely to wax philosophical than hysterical.
For his premier episode Brand spent the show talking to the studio audience, urged on by his sidekick Matt Stoller, about his recent experience of meeting the Dalai Lama, which led to the episode's main topic, who is the equivalent of the Dalai Lama in America?
Stoller, a former congressional advisor and blogger and contributing editor to Naked Capitalism, who Brand introduced as a man who spent many years at Harvard "without inventing a social network," suggested Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey were America's Dalai Lamas. Brand agreed that the President of the United States must be a sort of spiritual leader, but that our country also worships sports and consumerism. Stoller's brother Nick directed Brand in two of his most successful films, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek (which he also wrote).
Brand did go into the audience for a little give and take, but the focus, at least in this first episode, is more on the giving. Brand has a quick mind, and watching him reminded me of his blog, which I enjoy reading and where he frequently has some interesting and thoughtful things to say, on topics as diverse as the death of Amy Winehouse to Occupy Wall Street. Will Brand X and the FX network be the right place for some thoughtful, yet zany expounding on the topics of the day with a man whose persona is more rock 'n' roll than Wall Street Week? We'll see. But Brand is offering an alternative commentary to talk show monologues or The Daily Show's more witty approach to the news. It's worth coming back to check out what he will decide to talk about next.
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