Let’s just say Russell Brand, on the surface at least, has completed the mourning of his marriage to Katy Perry. On stage Sunday night at Radio City Music Hall he performed stand up comedy brilliantly–twice–for “The Secret Policemen’s Ball.” Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Amnesty International, the two and a half hour show was heavy with British comics and the rock groups Mumford & Son and Coldplay. American comics from “Saturday Night Live” and some miscellaneous local actors seemed a little lost, and maybe not quite up to speed on Amnesty International. But the Brits–punctuated by taped segments from members of Monty Python–were very good. Brand and his comedy partner Noel Fielding reminded me of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook; Fielding–with Goth looks and black hair, big silver cross–is going to hit it big here now that he’s managed by Danny Bennett. I also really like Jimmy Carr.
But there’s something about “The Secret Policemen’s Ball” that is just very British. Americans have no sense of what it would be like to lose their freedoms or have to fight for them. It didn’t translate well. A comedian, of all things, from Burma, came out–he’d been in jail there for 11 years. Liam Neeson (who had a big bodyguard with him) introduced Zarganar, the audience didn’t really relate to his plight. But maybe it’s too hard to think of comedy clubs in Burma. He got out of jail, but it was a close shave. (Drum roll–Burma shave…)
Anyway, in the audience were Bob and Harvey Weinstein, Stanley Tucci, Matthew Rhys, and Jason Sudeikis’s girlfriend actress Olivia Wilde. (Jason is doing something right, that’s all I can say.)Someone said they saw Hugh Grant. Richard Branson, a long time Amnesty supporter, had a cameo. Jon Stewart opened the show and had a funny bit with Rex Lee from “Entourage.” You can watch the whole thing on EpixHD.com; it’s being edited down to a manageable 90 minutes. Eddie Izzard was the nominal emcee, and he was as good as he was at the McCartney MusiCares tribute–he did a whole routine riffing in fake and real Latin. This guy is really talented and should be bigger here. Someone do something.
There was said to be an after party, but people with jobs had to go home. I’m guessing Russell Brand had a great time. He deserved it.