Russell brings a brand new dimension to comedy controversy

Tabloid Tanith cashes in on Hampstead s hottest comedian, writes Bridget Galton AS career meltdowns go, it s hard to choose between being sacked from MTV for turning up to work the week after 9/11 dressed as Osama Bin Laden – or the debacle that befell

Tabloid Tanith cashes in on Hampstead's hottest comedian, writes Bridget Galton

AS career meltdowns go, it's hard to choose between being sacked from MTV for turning up to work the week after 9/11 dressed as Osama Bin Laden - or the debacle that befell Russell Brand on the Edinburgh comedy circuit a year later.

After making a joke about the Soham murders, he was booed off stage, hauled away by bouncers and eventually arrested for criminal damage to the venue door while hurling insults at his erstwhile employers and fans.

At the time, Brand's comedy relied on shock rather than material. He once came on stage at the Gilded Balloon barefoot, clutching a stiff vodka, with blood bags under his T-shirt.

When his silence drew shouts from the crowd, he smashed his glass and used it to stab at the bags while screeching for the audience to pelt him with missiles.

Four years on, Brand has been through rehab for drugs and alcohol and experienced career resurrection via new stand-up shows, a presenting job on Channel 4's Big Brother's Big Mouth and a fling with supermodel Kate Moss.

Most Read

With countless offers in the pipeline, a new £2million home off Flask Walk and presenting last week's Brit awards under his belt, he has officially arrived and is being hailed as the next Jonathan Ross.

Brand is also being paid a reported £500,000 to write his own autobiography.

All of which explains the timely nature of Kentish Town resident Tanith Carey's unauthorised biography of Brand - who failed to respond to the publisher's invitation to take part in the book.

The veteran Daily Mirror hack, who oddly has never met her subject despite living around the corner to his previous flat in Courthope Road, Gospel Oak, pounded the streets of Brand's home town of Grays, Essex, door-knocking old school chums, plundering the records library and interviewing past tutors at Italia Conti and the Drama Centre in Chalk Farm to piece together the 31-year-old's early life.

Carey's dispassionate, workmanlike job has no need to sensationalise - Brand's numerous confessional media interviews have stolen that thunder.

And she doesn't make the mistake of taking too seriously the brief career of a man just registering on the wider public consciousness.

But she weaves a readable narrative out of her surprisingly interesting subject. From the early trauma of his parents' divorce, his beloved mother's battle with cancer and a hated step-dad, he emerges a gobby, witty, vulnerable, rebellious show-off with a burning ambition to be famous.

His demons and addictions led him to be thrown out of drama school, then to set fire to promising careers in comedy, acting and TV presenting before breaking down.

Through a combination of therapy, discovering Hare Krishna and practicing yoga, he is now clean - although he admits to a sex addiction.

Carey is forthright that the book is a commercial deal designed to capitalise on Brand's rising popularity and is too seasoned a tabloid reporter to be impressed by her subject.

"He was the man of the moment so you have to do it (the book) quickly. It's a hot market-place. As a biographer you have to be objective and try to be non-judgemental," says Carey, who is mum to Lily, five, and Cleo, one, and has been a journalist for 19 years as Mirror features editor, women's editor and consumer editor.

But she adds: "He is a very ambitious intelligent guy, self-educated and entertaining, who has got there through his own efforts and talent. There are lots of bland TV presenter wannabes out there - but how many true originals like him with that spontaneity and ability to improvise on live TV? That looks good for his future. He could be the next Jonathan Ross. I hope he does do well and he should do. Britain would be a poorer place if he wasn't around."

Carey, who has made a career of digging up interesting information in the backgrounds of celebrities, says she has grown good at tracking people down.

"I had nine weeks to write it and I talked to about 100 people. I am interested in people's motivation, what makes them tick and getting to the truth behind a celebrity veneer. My job is to get the bigger picture and the evolution of this guy. It's like putting together pieces of a puzzle. Russell is quite open. But, like anybody, you tend to talk about your favourite subjects and not the things you don't want to talk about."

During Carey's research she was surprised to discover that Brand "really can act".

"He is a very original, quirky actor. It surprised me that (Drama Centre principal) Christopher Fettes who discovered Colin Firth and Pierce Brosnan and is not an easy guy to please was expecting Russell to be a big star."

Brand's already strained relationship with his father Ron has now broken down after he gave Carey a "very sweet and anodyne interview about how much he loved his son".

Carey says it makes her cynical when celebrities complain about invasion of privacy.

"He is now giving interviews saying he has been unfairly portrayed as a sex addict - but he has completely fostered that image and used it in his stand-up. When it got out of control - as when a Sunday Mirror journalist was taken back to his flat and wrote about it - he felt he wanted to pull back from it. But that's the trouble with celebrity, once you let it out, you can't get it back - you can't control the press."


Tanith Carey

Michael O'Mara Books, £16.99