What superb timing. Russell Brand’s 27-year-old fiancée Laura Gallacher has just given birth to a baby girl, and off the comedian goes on a quick UK tour – fulfilling his duties as a bread-winner, perhaps, but thereby shirking the frazzling horror of a late-night screaming infant.
I jest. One of the most impressive sights of the comedy year has been seeing Brand, 41, still reeling from the giddy delight and fatigue of becoming a dad at the weekend, cavorting around the stage at a municipal arts centre in Crawley, doing his contractual bit to be a bundle of joy. The stamina once put at the service of his promiscuity is now being put to basic comic use.
“If someone let me into their bed, I’d probably just sleep in it 'cos I’m knackered,” The Sun’s former “Shagger of the Year” declares in that child-like cockney (slightly Frank Spencer from Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em) way of his, recalling how he used to scan the auditorium for women to proposition.
“I’m a bit delirious, I’m a bit mental,” he asserts. Not much of a change there, then, he’d be the first to admit, once again pondering the line between spiritual enlightenment and a breakdown; is he a visionary or just having an episode?
As with his last stand-up show, Messiah Complex, there’s a lot of chin-strokey, late-night student talk about the nature of existence. He quotes Foucault – “There is no such thing as reality” – elevating the tone, before, in a typically self-puncturing (almost schizoid) follow-through, mock-tirading: “That is why we Brexited – 'cos you wouldn’t let nuffink be real!”
Despite wearing his familiar boy-about-town clobber (skinny jeans, sleeveless T-shirt, his arms a sketch-pad of tattoos), Brand has mellowed, a touch, and his comedy has matured, a bit.
He has refined his distinctive art of blending abstract ruminations with down-to-earth barbs. His stalls-roving improvisation is as winning as his script, which rattles through some of the more bizarre episodes of the 2015 general election campaign, where he found himself in the unexpected role of (clueless) political commentator.
That culminated in his sitting down, in his own home, with Ed Miliband; he sees the funny side of his carrying on like a king-maker – “Oh no, I’ve broken England!” he remembers wailing when Miliband got the thumbs-down from the electorate, an indirect vote, too, on Brand’s idiotic interference.
One part of the show feeds off audience revelations bravely volunteered on filled-in forms. They lift the lid on “Creepy Crawley” as he puts it. Such reliance on others for humour might look like laziness, but he thinks on his feet and musters deft verbal pirouettes.
The piece-de-resistance of the night – at least one of the most printable confessions – concerned a woman in the front-row, who admitted to sending smart-phone recordings of her latest wind-emissions to a friend. It provides a faintly gobsmacked Brand with the golden opportunity to affirm his thesis that we humans are too complicated and oddball for the usual social and political norms to make any sense.
I suspect that every tour date will amply prove his point.
Until Dec 12. Details: russellbrand.com