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Monday 17th June 2013

I managed to finish Russell's Booky-Wook (not Booky-Wooky as I called it later - that's the autobiography of that bloke from Star Wars and is all just about him meeting Rumpel - obscure reference for superfans there) and get halfway through Booky-Wook 2 by the time that the author himself slithered into the dressing room at the Leicester Square Theatre. They are both really enjoyable reads, though book (y-wook) 2 made me laugh out loud very hard a couple of times. Once when I was in the bath where I reached that increasingly rare experience where you start to laugh so much that it hurts a bit and you're worried you might not stop (when he was talking about the Sun's outrage at Ian Huntley practising black magic) and then again when he wrote about the fact that he felt sorry for Saddam Hussein being found in his hole looking like a bewildered Father Christmas and the heart-wrenching detail that one of the items he had with him was a fun-sized Mars Bar. His poetic eye for comic detail is acute and impressive. I was telling him about one of my ideas for my new show (about the people who jumped from the World Trade Centre) and he effortlessly improvised a very funny bit which I fully intend to steal from him uncredited (apart from this credit here). Which is probably fair because knowingly or unknowingly he nicked my "I'm not saying I'm Jesus" bit (though I might have nicked that from Stew or perhaps Stew also nicked it from me, we can never quite remember and in any case we've all pretty much nicked it from Jesus, and unlike most dead comedians -c'mon he was clearly a satirist - there's always the chance that he will return and want to use his bits again).
I had met Russell once, very briefly back in about 2005 at an Edinburgh preview in Bristol. It was in a tiny pub and he was already attracting a lot of attention because of his work on the Big Brother stuff (I won't try and name the show, because I got it wrong at least twice during the podcast). We basically nodded a quick hello between our two sets. He was on the verge of rocketing super stardom then and I was on a slow plod up a slight incline to get to where I have got now. But for that night we were equals (almost - he was headlining).
It was good to see him again (though don't think he recalled the first meeting), and not just because I am always filled with terror on a sold out night like tonight that the guest might not show up. He was drinking an energy drink (which is the nearest to heroin that he's allowed these days) and cool and relaxed and we chatted freely and easily. After being immersed in his book, full of personal details that I wouldn't know about my closest friend, I felt perhaps felt more familiar with him than I actually was. But he quoted some Fist of Fun stuff at me and mentioned that his new show sounded a bit like Christ on a Bike, so it was cool to know he knew a bit about me too.
I was almost too well prepared for the podcast - in that I had lots of things to talk about having read about him so intensely, but I hadn't really ordered in my mind what I was going to go to first. The audience had been lovely though. I told them to look out for lazy, lying journalist scum and to break their pencils if they saw them trying to nick my scoops. I also pointed out that the Sun and Standard had printed the story about Stephen Fry not having read the Hobbit (which I mentioned in my own Telegraph piece) without crediting me or the podcast. It made me laugh that they were so lazy that they hadn't even bothered to listen to that podcast all the way through themselves. They even needed me to point out the story before they'd write about it. Not all journalist are so loathsome (I am technically one of them and I am lovely), but I think it's cheeky to be nicking and cherry picking and taking the credit. We were very generous to the media with clips and such over the last couple of weeks, be nice if that generosity was appreciated.
There was a part of Russell that would have liked to top Stephen Fry (that's a bad choice of words), but he has revealed so much that there is little else for him to admit to. Again if the journalists in the crowd just read his book(y-wook)s they would get most of the stuff we discussed tonight. His failed marriage was the obvious place to get some kind of scoop, but I am not that guy. I don't see why that's really any of our business. I contented myself with trying to discover if Katy Perry's wee smelled of asparagus when she's eaten asparagus (no spoilers) and I hope the tabloids report on that. I even resisted the urge to make a cherry chapstick joke. I am classy.
I wanted to quiz him hard about his comedy and some of his choices of movie role, but mainly because I really like his stuff and am fascinated by the times he pushed back the boundaries of comedy (and life) and whether it was worth the pain it caused to other people and himself at times. But I like the way that his stuff causes conflicts in the brain (better than actual conflicts) and think he could be on the verge of being one of the greatest stand ups we have. It is admirable that he is still doing stand-up and is not afraid to challenge, though he doesn't throw rat gizzards into the crowd any more.
I think we produced some pretty funny and interesting stuff over the ninety or so minutes we chatted. It will be up in the usual places - on video first (you'll need that to see the sex techniques that he recommended) - over the next couple of days.
Russell went off in search of ladies, which is the one addiction he seems unable to kick. I wished I talked to him a bit more about that really. Though I was not in his league, I did go through phases where I liked to "date" more than one woman, but I ultimately found it tiresome and too meaningless (and I was much more into talking to and befriending the women I met than Russell seems to be). Did I just not try hard enough to find the meaning or is Brand just made of different stuff? I would have liked to have found out, but then I didn't ask him about a lot of things and I think we got enough. Anyway he needed a wee.
Again don't think we'll get on the news, even though I had my suit on just in case. But I was intrigued to meet and chat to this fascinating, brilliant, ridiculous, fragile and beguiling man. He certainly does have a star quality that makes sense of why people stuck with him even when he was at his most self-destructive and mad. What fun it is to do this ridiculous show.

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