Sunday, September 15, 2013

Russell Brand and the GQ awards: 'It's amazing how absurd it seems'

I really wasn't too fond of Russell Brand much at the start, mostly from his movie personas. But the more I see/read/hear him talk in videos, interviews and now articles the more he grows on me. Always a great sign. I regard him as a fascinating discordian energy in the otherwise ridiculously boring and bleak showbizz world. I saw him on Alan Carr's show recently and this article again, is awesome. Hail Eris!

A little excerpt for those who are thinking "wtf are you even posting man":
Noel's award is for being an "icon" and mine for being an "oracle". My knowledge of the classics is limited, but includes awareness that an oracle is a spiritual medium through whom prophecies from the gods were sought in ancient Greece. Thankfully, I have a sense of humour that prevents me from taking accolades of that nature on face value, or I'd've been in the tricky position of receiving the GQ award for being "best portal to a mystical dimension", which is a lot of pressure. Me, Matt and Noel conclude it's probably best to treat the whole event as a bit of a laugh and, as if to confirm this as the correct attitude, Boris Johnson – a man perpetually in pajamas regardless of what he's wearing – bounds to the stage to accept the award for "best politician". Yes, we agree: this is definitely a joke.
Boris, it seems, is taking it in this spirit, joshing beneath his ever-redeeming barnet that Labour's opposition to military action in Syria is a fey stance that he, as GQ politician of the year, would never be guilty of.
Matt is momentarily focused. "He's making light of gassed Syrian children," he says. We watch, slightly aghast, then return to goading Noel.
Before long, John Bishop is on stage giving me a lovely introduction, so I get up as Noel hurls down a few gauntlets, daring me to "do my worst".
I thanked John, said the "oracle award" sounds like a made-up prize you'd give a fat kid on sports day – I should know, I used to get them – then that it's barmy that Hugo Boss can trade under the same name they flogged uniforms to the Nazis under and the ludicrous necessity for an event such as this one to banish such a lurid piece of information from our collective consciousness.
I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect, it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ, and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control, and won't tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool: comedy.
Noel once expressed his disgust at seeing a politician at Glastonbury. "What are you doing here? This ain't for you," he'd said. He explained to me: "You used to know where you were with politicians in the 70s and 80s cos they all looked like nutters: Thatcher, Heseltine, Cyril Smith. Now they look normal, they're more dangerous." Then, with dreadful foreboding: "They move among us." I agree with Noel. What are politicians doing at Glastonbury and the GQ awards? I feel guilty going, and I'm a comedian. Why are public officials, paid by us, turning up at events for fashion magazines? Well, the reason I was there was because I have a tour on and I was advised it would be good publicity. What are the politicians selling? How are they managing our perception of them with their attendance of these sequin-encrusted corporate balls?
We witness that there is a relationship between government, media and industry that is evident even at this most spurious and superficial level. These three institutions support one another. We know that however cool a media outlet may purport to be, their primary loyalty is to their corporate backers. We know also that you cannot criticise the corporate backers openly without censorship and subsequent manipulation of this information.
Now I'm aware that this was really no big deal; I'm not saying I'm an estuary Che Guevara. It was a daft joke by a daft comic at a daft event. It makes me wonder, though, how the relationships and power dynamics I witnessed on this relatively inconsequential context are replicated on a more significant scale.
For example, if you can't criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that "politician of the year" Boris Johnson has with City bankers – he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor – influence the way he runs our capital?
Is it any wonder that Amazon, Vodafone and Starbucks avoid paying tax when they enjoy such cosy relationships with members of our government?
Ought we be concerned that our rights to protest are being continually eroded under the guise of enhancing our safety? Is there a relationship between proposed fracking in the UK, new laws that prohibit protest and the relationships between energy companies and our government?
I don't know. I do have some good principles picked up that night that are generally applicable: the glamour and the glitz isn't real, the party isn't real, you have a much better time mucking around trying to make your mates laugh. I suppose that's obvious. We all know it, we already know all the important stuff, like: don't trust politicians, don't trust big business and don't trust the media. Trust your own heart and each another. When you take a breath and look away from the spectacle it's amazing how absurd it seems when you look back.

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