This article originally appeared on AlterNet
Pretend idiot savant, genuine master of the english language and all-purpose funny man, Russell Brand went on Wednesday night’s edition of "BBC Newsnight," and immediately found himself on the defensive. To start off, host Jeremy Paxman questioned Brand’s qualifications to serve as guest editor for the New Stateman’s just-published revolution-themed issue.
"Who are you to edit a political magazine?" Paxman said, pointing out Brand's history of drug use, and the fact that he has never voted in his life.
“I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people,” responded Brand, “I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”
Paxman was not satisfied.
“It is not that I am not voting out of apathy,” Brand clarifies, “but that I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit, of the political class that has been going on for generations now.”
Brand more than held his own, railing against inequality, environmental degradation and the broken political system.
But Paxman was stuck on the voting thing, and asked him if he’d decided even before the age of 18 that he would not be complicit in a broken system by voting. When Brand reminded Paxman that at that age, Brand was severely drug-addicted and disenfranchised as a result, Paxman said with more than a hint of disdain:
“You’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug problem?”
“No, I’m saying that I was part of a social and economic class that was underserved by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates when you have huge, underserved, impoverished population…they don’t feel like they want to engage with the current political system, because they see that it doesn’t care for them.”
Brand slyly diffused the tension at times, relying on his trademark wit and speed to sandwich some of his retorts between passing remarks that Paxman would be left to unpack (a sly joke about Paxman’s beard and English soccer weren’t off the table), but as the conversation wore on, Brand gained the upper hand, and began to establish himself as a revolutionary as well as a comedian.
Stunned into silence, the combative Paxman finally gave the comedian a platform to speak from the heart and the mind, though as Brand would remind before the end of the interview, he doesn’t need that permission from anybody—he’s taking it.
Rod Bastanmehr is a freelance writer in New York City with a passion for music, film and culture. Follow him on Twitter @rodb.