Six-Pack or Shotgun: Russell Brand and, More Specifically, the Notion of the “Rock ‘n Roll Comedian”
A picture of Russell Brand, with his self-conscious gaze, sculpted eyebrows, and 5 o’clock shadow jumped out from the pages of Entertainment Weekly yesterday, and I quickly checked to make sure my shotgun was in reach. Although after seeing him a few times on talk shows I’ve come to realize that Brand can be a slightly amusing storyteller, in a poor man’s Peter O’Toole way, that guy really annoys me. Believe me, I know nothing about him (he may be a fantastic human being and all that), but every time I look at him he strikes me as a world-class wannabe! Specifically, he’s a wannabe of a sort that immediately turns me off: the Rock ‘n Roll Comedian.
I can’t put my finger on when, exactly, the notion of the Rock ‘n Roll Comedian was hatched. In the ’70s there were plenty of comedians who were tuned into rock ‘n roll culture: the hippified George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Cheech and Chong… Although they often appeared on the same stage with rock ‘n rollers, partied just as hard, and pushed the envelope of “rock ‘n roll values,” they never seemed to think of themselves as rock ‘n rollers. They ran paralell the Beat/hippie strain of rock ‘n roll, but they didn’t strike me as trying to ride on the coattails of a rudimentary understanding of rock ‘n roll.
Someone probably beat this guy to the punch, but Sam Kinison is the first Rock ‘n Roll Comedian who comes to mind for me, the first comedian who directly promoted himself as a rock ‘n roller. He was occasionally funny, but if rock ‘n roll was about nothing more than outrageous behavior, wild partying, and elaborate headwraps to keep a few dozen strands of long hair in place, then count me out! Along with Kinison the ’80s gave us another hair-farmer comic of moderate talent and poor taste in music, Howard Stern. Whatever…
Maybe more troubling yet was Denis Leary, another comedian of some talent who tried too hard to come off as a rock ‘n roller. What was really so rock ‘n roll about that guy? Did he even inhale his prop cigarette? I don’t think so.
Once that run of ’80s Rock ‘n Roll Comedians got rolling any mildly funnyman was free to make his rock ‘n roll dreams come true: Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, my man Conan… These three axe-wielding comedians, however, bug me much less than Russell Brand, because they’re not equating their work as a comedian with that of a rock ‘n roller. They’re not reducing rock ‘n roll to the human bong resin that is Tommy Lee. Brand does self-consciously play with the notion of being a Rock Star; is he also vying to be an-honest-to-goodness Rock ‘n Roll Comedian? I’m not sure, because I’m turned off by him as soon as I see his preening face.
Beyond Brand, specifically, I don’t know if a comedian can equate him- or herself with rock ‘n roll without making me feel ashamed for loving rock ‘n roll. Comedians can’t really really be cool, can they, and rock ‘n roll depends heavily on being cool.
Anyhow, now you know where I fall on the six-pack or shotgun spectrum of the notion of the Rock ‘n Roll Comedian. Am I missing a Rock ‘n Roll Comedian who deserves the six-pack? For those of you who are unfamiliar with the six-pack or shotgun question, read on.
Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely‘s Six-Pack or Shotgun theory centers on how we actually assess acting talent. To summarize, if you don’t have the time to go back and read the original thread, Gergely’s legendary late-night pronouncement on the topic should do:
“There’s no such thing as Acting Ability!” he said in typically definitive fashion, slamming his fist for emphasis. “When we watch any any actor in any movie it comes down to one thing: If that actor showed up unannounced at your back door, would you greet him or her with a six-pack or a shotgun?“
When determining matters of the six-pack and the shotgun there’s no in-between, no ties, and especially none of this! The only risk you face in participating is the risk of revealing something deep about yourself.
God, I hate Sam Kinison. Dennis Leary was funny at one time. And I mean that literally: he was funny one time. For about 3 minutes. 20 years ago. Lock and load.
SHOTGUN! That Brand character is even more vile in celeb-obsessed Great Britain — he’s everywhere, and knows it. I can’t think of any R&R comedian I’ve ever liked. Except David Lee Roth.
Jack Black. He does have Tenacious D to rest his rock and roll laurels on, and I do like his appearances in some movies. But he can get overly swarmy, too. If he came to our door, and I could ascertain that he was not some dressed up boy scout, Lucha Libre, or some such nonsense, I would probably offer up the six-pack, hope that he is actually able to discuss some music a la “High Fidelity” but keep that shotgun cocked.
That sounds like a wise strategy, ladymiss.
No, you can be pretty sure when a comedian puts a guitar on, the “funny” part of the act is over. If there was one.
And then, lord almighty, what if he runs for political office or starts a winery?
My least favorite stand-up genre? The stand-up who has an acoustic guitar on stage. That’s an instant change-the-channel-cue for me.
I’ve never seen Russell Brand and don’t really know what he’s about. Looking him up tells me he’s married to Katy Perry. I hate him already based on that association alone.
I have little tolerance for Howard Stern, I didn’t care much Sam Kinison and I used to like Leary until I learned he stole jokes from possibly the greatest “Rock ‘n Roll” comedian.
I’m talking about Bill Hicks.
Hicks was well ahead of all the rest. I have his material on CDs that Ryko put out about 10 years ago and it is amazing how much of his political and cultural observations are still biting and spot on.after almost more than 20 years. Too bad he was cut down by cancer…
Hicks was great. I haven’t heard his stuff in years. I forget, did he promote himself as “rock ‘n roll,” or was he simply rock ‘n roll, more like the ’70s guys I mentioned.
I tended bar at a comedy club here in Houston in the late 80’s and early 90’s and knew Bill Hicks pretty well. Although Bill did not do drugs, he was very much what I would consider what a Rock Comic should be. He was always welcomed with a six pack at the door and yes, on occasian, willing to discuss his alien abduction. Bill was well liked by his comic peers and is greatly missed.
Adrew Dice Clay, whom I would consider a Rock N’ Roll comedian, would be greeted with the double barrel.
Oh man, I forgot about Dice Clay. DEFINITELY the shotgun…aimed square at his Elvis weave!
Brand is vile. Are Patton Oswalt, David Cross, and Fred Armisen a new brand of ‘indie rock’ comedians?
Could be, BigSteve. Since – unless you’re playing a harp and singing like a sad elf – it’s hard to be truly offensive as an indie rocker, I’d spare them the shotgun.
Steve Martin is a bluegrass comedian at times.
I love him. I think he is wonderful.
Russel Brand is not actually as annoying as his media saturation is. He’s just an actor. Give Forgetting Sarah Marshal a shot. It’s an amusing flick, and in it Brand plays a Rock Star in a 12 step program. It’s fun in a self conscious, but not over the top kinda way.
I think Howard Stern is brilliant-you try being 1/10th that funny EVERY DAY FOR 4 HOURS. That being said, I don’t think he stepped into his full comic potential untill he dropped that “rock and roller” schtick.
& Jack Black are all profoundly un-funny, with or without Rock And Roll credentials.
My sincere hope is that if I spent 4 hours a day being 1/10 as funny as Howard Stern that someone would hold a pillow over my face until I stopped.
And his Hot Licks! Didn’t T. Dolby borrow one of his songs, “I Scare Myself”?
Yeah I don’t think they deserve the shotgun. I enjoy their work. I think maybe they trade in the same irony that indie rockers themselves do.
Howard Stern is trying to be funny?
I agree with the “trying” part.
Hicks was a classic. More in line with Carlin and Pryor.
I have it on good info that Jack Black can not only discuss music a la “High Fidelity,” he is rumored to have an insane concert t-shirt collection. Sixer, and probably the best musical comedian since Gary Mule Deer.
Is Jack Black ever going to do something funny? He seems to be the Dane Cook of Rock Comedians, or something like that. Then again, I may be the only one that doesn’t get Tenacious D. The music sucks, and the funny isn’t there. Jack seems like a likable enough guy, but that’s no reason for me to give him money. Something tells me all he’d really want to talk about is Jimmy Page vs. Ritchie Blackmore anyway.
I just started listening to a podcast by Marc Maron called WTF, in which Maron interviews other well known comedians. It’s really engaging because the interviews are free form sort of rambling affairs (in a good way), and as can be expected, the comedians are alternately funny and disturbingly maladjusted.
Anyway, I yesterday I was listening to the Dana Gould episode and he described himself as the Andy Partridge of comedy.
That’s cool. Dana Gould is an under-the-radar tv comedy actor I’ve liked dating back to his work on the short-lived Working (with a grown-up version of the kid from Wonder Years). He was also a side character on Seinfeld for an episode or three, right?
2000 man, you’re not alone. I totally don’t get the Jack Black thing, including Tenacious D. I am well aware of how much I am supposed to think it is hilarious and brilliant. But it isn’t, and I don’t. I tried really hard to like School of Rock, too, and though there are some fun bits, it was way too much JB for me. He wasn’t bad in that Noah Baumbach movie Margot at the Wedding, but then he wasn’t trying to be funny and he wasn’t the center of attention.
yes, and a writer for the Simpsons. I like him. A lot more than Andy Partridge in fact.
I’m pretty much in agreement with misterioso’s thoughts on Jack Black. He can be funny, but his batting average is poor. He was surprisingly decent in Margot at the Wedding. I’ve been expecting him to try his hand at more Sad Clown roles, but instead he did that 800th iteration of Jonathan Swift’s big story (I’m blanking on the name). Man, that looked bad. His late-night talk show tour for that turd was hard to watch.
Gulliver’s Travels. I had to avert my eyes every time the ad for that came on.