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Russell Brand: Heard the one about the comedian from Essex?

Heard the one about the comedian from Essex who became a film star and political activist?

Quite a journey… give us the highlights, ta.
Okay, rapid-fire synopsis. He was brought up just north of London by single mum Barbara (he once said she was so proud of him she’d cry), was booted out of drama school (twice) for bad behaviour, found fame in 2004 hosting TV show Big Brother’s Big Mouth, went on to do several films – including Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Arthur – wrote My Booky Wook, offended some people, delighted many more people, married and divorced singer Katy Perry, wrote another book (Revolution) and is now often found, megaphone in hand, being Activist Brand. Phew. If this was à la Brand, our delivery would be very fast, wild-eyed, unpunctuated, breathless and a lot funnier.

So who did he offend?
Well, he was fired from MTV for turning up to work dressed as Bin Laden just after 9/11. And he resigned from BBC radio after Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers’ Manuel) complained about being ‘prank called’ by Brand on air. He did apologise publicly.

Erm, good points?
His childlike zeal, passion and articulate intelligence are irresistible. And you can’t fault his appeals for a more caring society. “People think compassion is ‘wet liberalism’; it’s not, it’s pragmatic,” he said. The 40-year-old has been frequently snapped on the red carpet with his adored mum – big tick; his flowery, old-fashioned lingo is quirky and delightful; he’s hilarious in a surreal way; and he’s got a disarming way of defusing tension. In the now famous exchange with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman (10 million views on YouTube), when ‘Paxo’ haughtily asks how Brand became guest-editor of a political magazine when he doesn’t even vote (he’s changed his mind on that), Brand said because he was “politely asked by an attractive woman”. We also love his dishevelled, Heathcliff-meets-Willy Wonka aesthetic. ‘Lord Byron slumming it’ is how one newspaper put it.

Love life?
He and Perry met in mid-2009 on the set of movie Get Him to the Greek, married in 2010 in India and divorced in 2012. Brand, who admitted checking into rehab to treat his “carnal overindulgences”, has since dated talent agent Isabella Brewster, former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, socialite Jemima Khan and someone called ‘mystery brunette’.

His finest moments?
A personal favourite is his tribute to friend Amy Winehouse after her death, which shows his compassion and wordsmithery. Describing hearing her sing for the first time, he wrote, “That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound”.

What’s he up to now?
He’s quit his YouTube current affairs slot The Trews to do some ‘learning’ which might put the wind up his political enemies. The Guardian, no less, commented: “He is listened to by hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Britons… Russell Brand matters.” Maybe he’ll liven up Parliament one day.

From the editors at NEXT