Russell Brand, the vegan comedian and former heroin addict who describes his flamboyant fashion sense as looking like an "S&M Willy Wonka," feeds off being outrageous.
For example, his "Messiah Complex" tour that lands in Tampa on Friday touches on everyone from Jesus Christ to Gandhi to Adolf Hitler. He had to cancel some tour dates in the Middle East this summer because of safety concerns. He says the act looks at "the importance of heroes in this age of atheistic disposability" — but with Brand, you never really know what you're going to get.
The never-dull Brand is also an author, actor and erratic maker of mischief at award shows. He's had memorable turns on the big screen as a lovable lout in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, and his next movie will be Paradise in October, the directorial debut of Oscar winner Diablo Cody (the Juno scriptwriter) about a good girl set loose in Vegas.
Most of all, Brand can't seem to stay out of the gossip columns. Here are some of his greatest hits (or is that misses?).
A relationship with pop singer Katy Perry included a whirlwind romance and 2010 wedding in India in a traditional Hindu ceremony. After 14 months of marriage, he filed for divorce, possibly over the issue of having children, if you listen to Katy's songs about it. She told Vogue that Brand divorced her via a text message and never spoke to her again. Ouch.
Brand was recently thrown out of the Sept. 3 afterparty for the GQ Men of the Year Awards after making comments linking Hugo Boss, the event's sponsor, to the Nazis during World War II. "If anyone knows a bit about history and fashion, you know it was Hugo Boss who made uniforms for the Nazis. ... But they looked (expletive) fantastic, let's face it, while they were killing people on the basis of their religion and sexuality," the Mail Online quoted Brand as saying onstage. Brand was kicked out of the party and later tweeted this account: GQ editor: 'What you did was very offensive to Hugo Boss.' Me: 'What Hugo Boss did was very offensive to the Jews.' Later that week, the UK publication The Sun found a photo of the funnyman wearing a Hugo Boss jacket to an Oscar party just six months ago.
Brand was a VJ for MTV in London, where he hosted an afternoon request show called Select. It didn't end well. Brand has written about how he was fired after bringing his drug dealer with him to work the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Plus, Brand came to work dressed as Osama bin Laden that day.
He notoriously hosted the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, where he lauded "the resurrection of Britney Spears," later said, "If there was a female Christ, it's Britney," and mocked the purity rings worn by the Jonas Brothers. He apologized for the comments later in the show — but that didn't stop Jonas fans from sending him death threats.
Turn the tables
The hosts of the MSNBC news show Morning Joe didn't know what they were in for when they invited Brand to talk about his Messiah Complex comedy tour earlier this summer. It probably didn't help that the hosts weren't very warm. "Joining me now, he's a really big deal. I'm told this," said Mika Brzezinski in introducing Brand in the June interview. Brzezinski and the show's panelists then went on to make jokes at Brand's expense, said they couldn't understand what he was saying, and referred to him in the third person even though he was sitting right there. Ah, but then Brand took over, delivering the interview himself, telling the "people of America" that "We're going to be okay; everything is all right. These are your trusted anchors." Score.