Skip to main content

What is it about Russell Brand?

By Stephanie Goldberg, Special to CNN
Russell Brand currently stars in "Get Him to the Greek."
Russell Brand currently stars in "Get Him to the Greek."
  • Brand's role in "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was written for him
  • "My Booky Wook," released in 2009, quickly became a best-seller
  • Brand will soon appear in "Arthur," "The Tempest," "I Hop" and "Bad Father"

(CNN) -- He wears more eyeliner than Adam Lambert, his voluminous locks put Snooki's poof to shame and one can only guess how long it takes him to get into his skinny jeans -- though there's a good chance he'd tell you if you asked.

So are the pants and the eyeliner to blame for the fact that it's been nearly impossible to avoid Russell Brand this summer?

Between interviews for his new film "Get Him to the Greek" and red-carpet appearances with his fiancée Katy Perry, Brand has certainly been making the rounds. And judging by "Greek's" respectable box-office run, Americans are not getting tired of this British comedian any time soon.

"He's completely electric and always on," says Sean Woods, a senior editor at Rolling Stone. "It's like non-stop with the jokes. It's one of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed. ... He takes chances and that's what makes a great comedian."

One of those chances was Aldous Snow -- the supporting but momentous character in 2008's "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." The role, which was originally written to be to be a writer who looked more like Hugh Grant than Keith Richards, was changed to a Russell Brand-like rock star following the comedian's authentic audition.

Video: Brand to 'marry' Katy Perry

Cut to two years later and Brand is carrying his first big Hollywood film, "Get Him to the Greek." The road-trip comedy has performed similarly to "Sarah Marshall," earning an estimated $17.4 million its opening weekend and a respectable $36.5 million to date.

"The truth is as funny as 'Sarah Marshall' and 'Greek' have been, it's the tip of the iceberg for him," says MTV news movies editor Josh Horowitz.

"No one has truly captured how funny Russell is in person. He can host MTV's [Video Music Awards] twice in suitably unpredictable fashion, he can riff on any subject, and yes he can act."

But there wasn't an immediate embrace of Brand, says Horowitz.

The British press were all over Brand in 2008 when he resigned from the BBC after making a lewd phone call to actor Andrew Sachs during his radio show.

"It's taken U.S. audiences a little while to catch up, but to those in the know, Russell is something special -- an erudite improv master who can go blue or highbrow depending on his unpredictable mood," Horowitz says.

Whether it's the remarks about former president George W. Bush or the fact that he repeatedly poked fun at the Jonas Brothers for wearing purity rings, it took Americans some time to get used to Brand's humor, says Jenny May Finn, who created The Russell Brand Fansite in 2005 after watching Brand on "Big Brother" in the U.K.

"All he wants to do is make people laugh," says Finn, who lives in Dublin, Ireland. Finn has met Brand several times since starting the site.

"To see a comedian who's quite stylish instead of the dorky or angry comedian that's so typical. ... He's a nice looker, which always adds to the liking of someone," she says laughing.

Brand's "Greek" cast-mate Elizabeth Moss told CNN Video that people might be surprised to know just how professional Brand truly is.

"He's a hard worker and it's important to him to be funny," she says.

We're finally beginning to appreciate Brand's honesty and accept him as the great comedian, actor and rock star he is, Woods says.

"There's a bit of pain in Russell," he says. "It allows him to make jokes about real-life situations. ... Most of us do turn some of the tragedies in our lives into humor."

Brand channeled his past when he reprised his role as Aldous Snow in "Greek" and when writing his book, "My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Stand-Up," released in the U.K. in 2007 and the U.S. in 2009.

His memoir, which details his rough childhood and past with drug and alcohol abuse, quickly became a best-seller in Britain.

"There's something kind of endearing about him. There's an honesty and an innocence that people respond to," Woods says.

Finn says she often receives e-mails from recovering drug addicts thanking Brand for being an inspiration to them.

"They just kind of resonate with him for being so frank and honest," she says.

But how is the honesty that originally turned people off suddenly the very thing that's making us fans?

"He has a quality about him that I think we can sort of praise and like in our rock stars, but in our comedians, we say, 'Hey, he's not Mick Jagger. What the hell?' He's pretty unique," Woods says.

So what's next for Brand? A lot, actually: He'll star with Helen Mirren in "Arthur" and "The Tempest," play the voice of the Easter Bunny in "I Hop," and play a con-man/priest in "Bad Father."

In addition, his second memoir called "My Booky Wook 2: This Time it's Personal," is due out in early 2011 in the U.S., and he continues to do stand-up comedy.

"I can't wait to see Russell stretch and prove he's got true range outside of the provocateur he clearly can play with his eyes closed," Horowitz says.

Woods says Brand has nowhere to go but up.

"He is the peacock of peacocks. There's no one strutting around like he is."