Russell Brand: From top comedian, Katy Perry’s husband to conspiracy guru
LONDON - Bursting onto the scene as a provocative comedian before transforming into a Hollywood star then anti-establishment guru, Russell Brand still boasts millions of online fans despite being accused of rape.
Brand, who denies accusations levelled by at least five women, has over six million subscribers on YouTube, 11.2 million on X, formerly Twitter, 3.8 million on Instagram and 1.4 million on the Rumble platform popular with conspiracy theorists.
For a long time, the 48-year old was best known for his hyper-sexualised comedy shows and anything-goes appearances on British TV and radio that made him a household name in the early 2000s.
He boasted of his promiscuity during his rise to fame, saying he had sexual relationships with over 1,000 women, earning him a tabloid newspaper award of “shagger of the year” for several years running.
Brand, born to working class parents in Essex, east of London in 1975, began his stand-up career as a teenager.
He was hired by MTV at the age of 25, but was fired for turning up to work dressed as Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 terror attacks and inviting his drug dealer into the studios.
After giving up drugs and alcohol, he was handed his first radio show in 2002 before hosting the “Russell Brand Show” on BBC Radio 6 and then moving to Radio 2.
Brand resigned in 2008 after he and fellow presenter Jonathan Ross made a phone call to a veteran British comedy actor, detailing how he had slept with his granddaughter.
He also presented a “Big Brother” spin-off show for several years, wrote columns for the left-wing Guardian newspaper and penned two autobiographies in which he detailed his stints in rehab for sex and drug addictions.
While his fashion sense, provocative persona and close-to-the-bone humour horrified many, he has never been short of fans, developing a cultish following from his early days.
His charismatic energy also attracted the attention of Hollywood, and he made a number of films, the most famous being 2008‘s “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”.
His fame rose further when he married US superstar singer Katy Perry in 2009, a relationship he ended by text message 14 months later.
In an interview with Vogue in 2013, Perry spoke of falling in love with a “magical man”, who became “very controlling” when she proved herself his equal.
“I found out the real truth, which I can’t necessarily disclose because I keep it locked in my safe for a rainy day,” she added.
He then had a relationship with Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of billionaire James Goldsmith, but they separated after a year.
Hinting at his later reinvention as a political influencer, Brand hit the headlines in 2015 when he interviewed Labour leader Ed Milliband for his podcast at the height of the election campaign.
Brand married blogger Laura Gallacher six years ago, and the couple are expecting a third child.
Since marrying, Brand has become a less conspicuous presence on British television and radio, instead leading a genteel life in the English countryside.
However, he has amassed millions of fans following his transformation into an online wellness guru, dishing out advice on marriage, veganism and meditation.
Most of his followers have been drawn to his anti-establishment diatribes, in which he frequently attacks mainstream media and the global elite.
He rose in prominence during the pandemic when he claimed that pharmaceutical companies were lying about vaccines in order to make money and that governments and global institutions were exaggerating the threat of Covid in order to enact radical social change.
YouTube took down one of his videos for featuring Covid-19 disinformation in September, and has now suspended monetisation of his channel following the accusations.
The BBC also announced it was removing some of his content from its platform.
In a year-long investigation by Channel 4, The Sunday Times and The Times, four women accused him of rape and sexual assault between 2006 and 2013.
London police said Monday another alleged assault in 2003 had been referred to them. The youngest of his alleged victims was 16 at the time. - AFP