Russell Brand in New York City
Comedy Central // Unrated // $16.99 // May 19, 2009
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 9, 2009
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Graphical Version
In 10 Words or Less
The swishy pirate comic makes a splash in New York

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Stand-up
Likes: Russell Brand's stand-up
Dislikes: Russell Brand's public persona
Hates: Those who censored Brand in Britain

The Show
I have to admit, I've not been a fan of Russell Brand. In watching him in interviews and other appearances I've caught, the flamboyant personality, Jack Sparrow look and fast-talking manner of speech have turned me right off. I tend to dislike people who seem to be trying too hard, and everything about Russell Brand screamed "I'm unique and I need you to know that!" which made me view him quite negatively. Apparently, the problem was, I wasn't seeing him in his element, which apparently is on a stage with a microphone and not on MTV.

In his first stand-up special in America, he's a completely different animal, probably because this is his element: an audience of adoring fans hanging on his every word, and his name headlining. If he's trying to please, as he was in his first big American gig, hosting the MTV Awards, he's not doing his thing, but here, he's on stage to revered, not curiously observed. As the star of the show, he exudes confidence, and that's the key to his persona. With his skin-tight black jeans, loose blouse, excessive jewelry, eye make-up and out-there hair-styling, he's a rock star, pure and simple.

Now, though I called it a stand-up special, it's really more of a monologue, as he never tells a single joke the entire time he's on-stage. Instead, he takes on the ultimate outsider status, a massively famous celebrity in Britain who's a near-unknown in the U.S. From that vantage point, he tells about the difficulty of living with such duality, reflects on his experience at the MTV awards and generally talks about his life, just in a way that's hugely theatrical and immensely hilarious. The old cliche about reading a phone book applies well here. By the time Brands reached Adams, you'd be hurting from the laughter.

As he talks about using Google to define his self-worth, reads and dissects an article about him in The Daily Mail or shares some of the death threats he received following the MTV awards, one quickly comes to appreciate how theatrical Brand's delivery is, supplementing very intellectual and wordy material with an expressive face, excellent voices and a style that's just owns the stage and brings his stories to vivid life. Moving with fluidity, he looks to be having a blast, and the fun is infectious, whether he's meeting the Queen or miserable in paradise making a movie. I never thought I'd want more Russell Brand, but after this, I can't wait to see more of him, if it's like this.

The one-disc release is packaged in your average keepcase and features an anamorphic, animated menu offering options to watch the show or check out the extras. There are no audio options or subtitles, but closed captioning is available.

The Quality
The anamorphic widescreen transfer on the show is quite nice, with solid color, a clean image and a nice level of fine detail, as the video mixes a clean digital image and a grainy film-like camera (the purpose of which I do not know.) There are no issues with dirt or damage, and no notable issues with compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack offers clear, clean quality on all the audio, and maintains separation between Brand and his audience, but there's nothing especially dynamic about the mix, as it's straight down the middle.

The Extras
The first extra, "Loose Cannon Drunk Girl," is a set of three outtakes from the show, involving a particularly enthusiastic fan in the front row who keeps inserting herself into the performance. Brand handles her well, though he is far more direct than most comedians would be with anyone interrupting who isn't a heckler. I can't imagine it was a comfortable experience for this fan, but it's fun to see how he reacts.

Next up is a 10:25 featurette, "An Englishman in New York," which follows Brand as he explores New York in advance of his show, including him wandering the streets of Manhattan, preparing for the taping and making an appearance on Late Night with David Letterman. The footage of him interacting with his fans is classic, as he is incredibly personable, including playing with one fan's motorized wheelchair, while the behind-the-scenes stuff is cool (if a bit short), as they put a clip of rehearsal in a split-screen with the actual show.

A nice inclusion is the Jonas Brothers-mocking monologue from the 2008 MTV Music Video Awards, the reason most of America knows of Brand. Looking back at this clip, which is mostly political in tone, as he promotes Barack Obama and bashes the Republicans, it's hard to figure out just what MTV was thinking. Brand is far too intelligent, wordy and edgy for the MTV audience, and especially the American celebrity crowd in attendance, which has trouble laughing at anything possibly controversial, leaving him hanging. It's great to have this historical piece of video to watch.

The Bottom Line
Whether you liked him in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or found him lacking on MTV, Russell Brand deserves a second look as he's a true treat to behold, presenting a 60-minute set that just flies by and delivers real laughs, while offering an act that's truly unique. The DVD looks and sounds excellent, and has some decent extras to check out that aren't fluff at all. If you enjoy a good storyteller or just want some good, honest laughs.

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