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Russell Brand: what I made of Morning Joe and Question Time.

More from acute awareness of Instant Karma's immediate sting than morality, I have learned to treat people apparently lacking power with cordiality. This means that when I arrived at the New York studios of Morning Joe, the gleaming, informal mid-morning MSNBC news analysis show, I was polite to everyone there.

I was surprised by the soundman's impatient intrusiveness and yet more surprised as I stood just off set, beside the faux-newsroom near the pseudo-researchers who appear on camera as pulsating set dressing, when the soundman yapped me to heel with the curt entitlement of Idi Amin's PA. In response I wandered calmly from the studio and into the corridor, where a passing group of holidaymakers were enjoying the NBC tour. Often when you encounter rudeness from the crew, it is an indication that the show is not running smoothly, perhaps that day, or maybe in general. When I landed in my chair, on camera, and was introduced to the show's hosts – a typical trident of blonde, brunette and affable chump – it became clear that, in spite of the show's stated left-leaning inclination, the frequency they were actually broadcasting was the shrill, white noise of dumb current affairs.

One of the things that's surprising when you go on telly a lot is that often the on-camera "talent" (yuck!) are perfectly amiable when you chat to them normally, but when the red light goes on they immediately transform into shark-eyed Stepford berks talking in a cadence you encounter nowhere else but TV-land – a meter that implies simultaneously carefree whimsy and stifled hysteria. There is usually a detachment from the content. "Coming up after the break, we'll be slicing my belly open and watching while smooth black eels loll out in a sinewy cascade of demented horror." This abstraction I think occurs through institutionalisation. If your function is to robotically report a pre-existing agenda, you needn't directly interface with the content. I was surprised when the Morning Joe clip "went viral" (I have parenthesised a sexist joke here: "Many of my casual transactions with daft blondes go viral – I put penicillin on me Frosties"; don't read this if you are offended by that sort of thing) because a lot of my promotional interviews or appearances on these kind of shows have the odd "cuckoo" ambience that defines this transient slice of pop cultural life. It's the unreal, sustained glitch in naturalism that makes this genre of TV disturbing to either watch or be on. The Lynchian subjugation of our humanity; warmth and humour, usurped by a sterile, pastel-coloured steel blade benignly thrust again and again into a grey brain.

Why is our culture behaving like this? How has this become normal? It is by no means an exclusively American phenomenon, though wherever you encounter it, there is something American about it. Even on Question Time, which is as British as eating a pork pie out of Boudicca's vagina, on a Wednesday, in the rain, there is an air of the unreal.

The episode of the much-loved political forum hosted by Sir David Dimbleby in which I participated was broadcast (not quite actually) live from the glistening Thamesside titty from which Boris Johnson presides over London life. Knowing that, in spite of its maternal architecture, I was in fact entering an orb of patriarchy, I went in mob-handed. Not with a tooled-up crew of present-day Krays, but with my mum and some of the people I work with. Normal,

by Anonymousreply 307/01/2013

Christ! I would find him easier to understand if he wrote in hieroglyphics.

by Anonymousreply 107/01/2013

Normal, working British people. We were excited – Question Time, like Match of the Day or Corrie, is a potent piece of living heritage; as soon as you see its name the theme tune gatecrashes your brain, all chuffed with itself, jigging through your synapses like Bez.

We met "the team" and watch Ed Davey (LibDem; why are we surprised by their fluctuations when they can't even decide on a name?) finish makeup. I suppose we shouldn't be irked that all politicians wear makeup to go on television; it's obvious, but as a symbol it's undeniably apposite – the gentle, accepted cover-up.

Ed Davey, though, is nice enough, tissues down his collar, smartphone in hand, selfie requested and delivered. Tessa Jowell was there an' all.

That's weird," I thought. While I was busy becoming a world-class junkie, the man from HIGNFY became mayor. People like Boris Johnson; I like the HIGNFY Boris. He is the most popular politician in the country. Well, not in the country, on the television. There is a difference. Most people, of course, haven't met him, they've seen him on the telly. When I met Boris in his office, the nucleus of his dominion, I glanced at his library. Among the Wodehouses and the Euripides there were, of course, fierce economic tomes, capitalist manuals, bibles of domination. Eye-to-eye, the bumbling bonhomie appeared to be a lacquer of likability over a living obelisk of corporate power.

It is on record that, in his capacity as mayor, Boris has held seven times as many meetings with bankers as with normal people (no, bankers aren't normal – when normal people steal money they are punished). For his first campaign, 77% of his funding came from the City; for his second, his funding was put through the Conservative party and therefore didn't have to be declared. We can assume this was not because the sourcing was more egalitarian.

Boris Johnson is the most dangerous politician in Britain, precisely because of his charm. The members of the Conservative party that are rallying to install him as leader are those to the right of David Cameron. If you thought the fringe on his head was lunatic, you should see the lunatic fringe that want him as leader. Those for whom Cameron is not Tory enough. "Offshore Dave", leader of a coalition for whom 14 of its 20 most prominent donors have links to companies with offshore holdings. The politicians who want to move the party and our country further to the right want Boris. And well they might: he is the consummate televisual politician. Funny and likable, even when he errs it's cute, like a shaved Winnie the Pooh accidentally eating all the honey.

In this age where politics is presented as entertainment, it's the most entertaining politicians who ascend.

As we all sit behind the desk and the theme tune begins to play, I regard the faces of my fellow panellists. Apprehensive, like me. In makeup, like me. Whenever we see David Cameron or Barack Obama on the box – knitted brows, index finger and thumb of dominant hand pinched in that contemporary rhetorical fist, powerful but not too powerful – they, in spite of what they're telling us, are always covering something up: their true faces.

by Anonymousreply 207/01/2013

All I see whenever I read his prose is his Lovecraftian visage. No amount of charm or wit can save a man from that ugly mug.

by Anonymousreply 307/01/2013
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