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Literature

Addicted to Brand

The British comedian dazzles with hilarious memoir riffs

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Rick Lax

Russell Brand is huge in Europe, but you probably just know him as the hypersexual rock star Aldous Snow in Forgetting Sarah Marshall or the skinny British guy who hosted the 2008 MTV Movie Awards. Well, there’s something else you should know about Russell Brand: The man can write.

His new memoir, My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up, leaves no doubt about why he was cast as Aldous Snow; Brand has a serious sex addiction. If that sounds silly to you—the idea that someone can be addicted to sex—listen to the way the author describes a family vacation to Thailand: “I fucked loads more prostitutes; always got a hard-on, never wore a condom, and never fell in love.”

The first half of Brand’s booky wook details how he developed this addiction. As you can imagine, it began early on: “Another dubious attention-seeking device that I invented at school was the game ‘genital-grabbing,’ which is very simple and easy to play but fraught with dreadful connotations for its participants and severe vilification for its unwitting inventor.”

The Details

My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up
Five stars
Russell Brand
Collins, $30.
Amazon: My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up

Brand describes so many sexual trysts that when he mentions getting a dog with whom he shared his bed, he feels the need to make clear that the two never had sex: “I hope it is not necessary for me to stress the platonic nature of that relationship—not platonic in the purist sense, there was no philosophical discourse, but we certainly didn’t fuck, which is usually what people mean by platonic; which I bet would really piss Plato off, that for all his thinking and chatting his name has become an adjective for describing sexless trysts.”

The booky wook is filled with beautifully extended comedic riffs like that one. I often wished Brand’s sentences wouldn’t stop—that the author would keep on tagging more and more jokes onto their ends. By the end of the booky wook Brand even had me laughing at jokes that were British beyond comprehension (e.g., he says that his cat Morrissey “makes the Duchess of Kent look like Saint Francis of Assisi”).

Brand isn’t just a hilarious storyteller; he’s also got inherently hilarious stories, like the one about breaking into the Royal Free hospital to steal fetuses (“It was much harder to find those fetuses than we had envisaged, because the Royal Free is quite big, fetuses are small, and it’s hard to concentrate when you’re on acid”), or the one about pretending to be a Native American to seduce this girl who wanted to shag one (“I kept that charade going for weeks, putting my ear to the ground when I was nervous, crying when I saw litter, smoking um peace pipe”).

The second half of the booky wook takes place at various rehabilitation centers. Brand wasn’t just addicted to sex; he was addicted to, well, nearly everything. Brand includes many of his treatment-center diary entries, most of which read like stand-up bits.

This is no accident: “I’m such an inveterate show-off,” explains Brand, “that I wrote [my rehabilitation diary] in the sort of style which suggests I knew that a couple of years later I’d be reading it out in front of a live audience (which I did when I did a stand-up show called ‘Better Now’) and a couple of years after that transcribing it into my autobiography.”

Brand’s ulterior motives might have impaired his psychological health, but the utilitarian in me recognizes that this slowdown in recovery was more than offset by the pleasure derived by his fans. I’m sure Brand has done the utilitarian calculation himself; for him, comedy comes first: “[T]hat’s all life is to me—raw material for comedy. People tell you ‘Life’s not a rehearsal.’ Well, mine is—it’s a rehearsal for when I get onstage and do the real performance.”

If I were Brand’s social worker and I heard him say that, I’d give him a lecture on the importance of living life for its own sake, but because I’m just a fan, I’ll keep my mouth shut and give him this five-star review.

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