You say facetious, I say pompous. Facetious; pompous. I’ll call the politicians ‘toffs’. And that’ll be enough to get us off.
Senior interviewer Jeremy Paxman and comic actor Russell Brand were hooked into each other on Newsnight last month, when Brand became guest editor of Labour-leaning political weekly New Statesman, even though he hasn’t ever voted and doesn’t intend to.
Paxman: besuited, bearded, BBC. (Insiders’ intonation is two short syllables and one long: Be, Be, Cee.) While Brand is sex on a stick: perched on top of stick insect legs predisposed to pelvic thrusts. Hippy hair, better bones and brilliant teeth; mouth that’s been everywhere – sexaholic, alcoholic, drug addict. and come back smiling.
Paxman berates Brand for not-bovvering; Brand maintains it’s his choice not to be part of a political ‘paradigm’ which serves only the elite. By refusing to act on social problems and environmental issues, Brand insists, they are the ones who are apathetic.
Eyes flashing, legs akimbo, lips dancing – from sneer to leer to seemingly genuinely warm smile – he succeeds in making Paxman look ponderous. Set against satirical sorties and soaring self-mockery – equal parts arrogant and resonant, calls for constantia – serious, deliberate, consistent – seem unrealistically slow.
But both of them are playing a generation game as old as Paxman himself. In play since the 1960s when Bob Dylan refused to perform ‘press conference’, and John Lennon declared the Beatles more famous than Jesus Christ; hence the title of Russell Brand’s latest stage show, The Messiah Complex. His new revue has been going on for half a century.
Yes, there is something worthy about Paxman; a Sunday School quality which makes even his best work all but worthless. On the other hand, it’s all too predictable for Brand to play at being playful while making it clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that playful is all he’s being.
Much the same script comes shuffling back to the top of the pile, only partly revised for the re-make.