Russell Brand Went On The BBC Last Night To Start A Revolution

The actor and comedian was passionate, articulate and occasionally cheeky in an interview with Jeremy Paxman. Here are the seven best bits.

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Comedian Russell Brand has been doing the rounds over the past few months, attracting acclaim and disparagement from all corners of the internet in pretty much equal measure.

First, there was the ball-busting of some condescending panel hosts on an MSNBC morning show in June; the next month, he was ejected from the GQ awards, after linking the event’s sponsor, Hugo Boss, to the Nazis in World War II — which was followed up with a brilliant think-piece for The Guardian.

And now he’s back, being interviewed by Newsnight‘s Jeremy Paxman about the issue of New Statesman he guest edited, which is themed around the idea of “Revolution” and features writing from Alec Baldwin, David Lynch, Noel Gallagher, Amanda Palmer, Naomi Klein and more. In the interview, Brand explains why he has never voted. And then he calls for a revolution.

Paxman starts off wry and combative, assuming Brand won’t be able to speak beyond cheeky polemic and get to the nuts and bolts. But instead, the comedian rattles off numbers, quotes and ideas, and eloquently and passionately articulates the system he’s proposing, and why it needs to happen.

“I’m calling for genuine change. A genuine alternative,” he says. “The time is now.”

The Part Where He Calls For An Alternative System:

Russell Brand: I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. Alternate means; alternate political systems.

Jeremey Paxman: They being…?

Brand: Well I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy! I had to do a magazine last week, I’ve had a lot on my plate!

The Part Where He Explains Why He Doesn’t Vote:

Brand: It’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that’s been going on for generations now, and which has now reached fever pitch where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system — and that’s not something I’m offering up.

Paxman: Well why don’t you change it then?

Brand: I’m trying to!

The Part Where He Enjoys A Moment Of Whimsy About Paxman’s Mythical Beard:

Brand: The planet is being destroyed. We are creating an underclass. We are exploiting poor people all over the world. And the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.

Paxman: All of those things may be true — I wouldn’t argue with you about many of them.

Brand: Well how come I feel so cross with you? It can’t be because of that beard, it’s gorgeous! And if the Daily Mail don’t want it, I do. I’m against them! Grow it longer! Tangle it into your armpit hair!

The Part Where He Knows Things:

Paxman: I’m not having a go at you because you want a revolution; many people want a revolution. But I’m asking you what it will be like.

Brand: Well I think what it won’t be like is a huge disparity between rich and poor, where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as the 85 million poorest Americans; where there’s an exploited and underserved underclass that are being continually ignored; where welfare is slashed while Cameron and Osborne go to court to defend the right of bankers to continue receiving their bonuses.

The Part Where He Isn’t Talking Vaguelly At All:

Paxman: You talk vaguelly about revolution. But what is it?

Brand: A socialist egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations, and massive  responsibility for energy companies and any companies who are exploiting the environment. I think the very concept of profit should be reduced. David Cameron says “profit isn’t a dirty word”; I say it’s a filthy word, because wherever there is profit there is also deficit. And this system currently doesn’t address these ideas. So why would anyone vote for it?

The Part Where He Explains Why It Has To Happen Now: 

Brand: The time is now. These movements are already occurring. It’s happening everywhere. We’re at a time where communication is instantaneous, and there are communities all over the world — the Occupy movement made a difference, even if only in that it introduced to the popular public lexicon the idea of the 1% verses the 99%. People for the first time in a generation are aware of massive corporate and economic exploitation. These things are not nonsense, and these subjects are not being addressed.

No one’s doing anything about tax havens. No one’s doing anything about the political affiliations and financial affiliations of the conservative party. So until people start addressing things that are actually real, why wouldn’t I be facetious? Why would I take it seriously? Why would I encourage a constituency of young people that are absolutely indifferent to vote? Why would we?

The Part Where He Gets Personal:

Brand: I’ve seen you in that program, where you look at your ancestors, and you saw the way your grandmother had to brass herself or got fucked over by the aristocrats… You cried, because you knew it was unfair and unjust. And what was that, a century ago. That’s happening to people now. I’ve just come from a woman who’s being treated like that; I’ve just been talking to a woman today who’s being treated like that.

So if we can engage that feeling, instead of some moment of lachrymose sentimentality trotted out on the TV for people to pore over — emotional porn — if we can engage that feeling and change things, why wouldn’t we? Why is that naive? Why is that not my right, because I’m an “actor”? I’ve taken the right. I don’t need the right from you. I don’t need the right from anybody. I’m taking it.