Russell Brand’s behaviour a product of a UK comedy scene that’s ‘riddled with misogyny’

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Senior British politicians on Monday urged police to investigate sexual assault allegations against Russell Brand, as the UK entertainment industry faced questions about whether the comedian’s bad behaviour went unchallenged because of his fame.
Brand denies allegations of sexual assault made by four women in a Channel 4 television documentary and The Times and Sunday Times newspapers.

The accusers, who have not been named, include one who said she was sexually assaulted during a relationship with him when she was 16. Another woman says Brand raped her in Los Angeles in 2012. Brand, 48, has rejected all the claims, saying in a video statement that his relationships were “always consensual”.

The Times on Monday said that more women had contacted the newspaper with allegations against Brand and they would be “rigorously checked”.

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Max Blain, spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, said the claims were “very serious and concerning”, and those making the allegations should be “treated seriously and treated with sensitivity”.
Conservative legislator Caroline Nokes, who chairs the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, urged police in both Britain and the United States to investigate the “incredibly shocking” allegations.

“This merits and needs a criminal investigation, because for too long we have seen men – and the perpetrators of these sorts of crimes are almost invariably men – not being held to account for their behaviours and their actions,” she told BBC radio.

London’s Metropolitan Police force said it would speak to The Sunday Times and Channel 4 to ensure “any victims of crime who they have spoken with are aware of how they may report any criminal allegations to police”.

Russell Brand’s behaviour a product of a UK comedy scene that’s ‘riddled with misogyny’ - Informative Updates™
A security officer stands outside the Crown Inn pub owned by British comedian and actor Russell Brand’s company near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Photo: Reuters

The claims have renewed debate about the “lad culture” that flourished in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s, and the misogyny that still percolates on the internet.

The allegations reported by the newspapers and Channel 4 cover the period between 2006 and 2013, when Brand was a major star in Britain with a growing US profile.

Known for his unbridled and risqué stand-up routines, he hosted shows on radio and television, wrote memoirs charting his battles with drugs and alcohol, appeared in several Hollywood films and was briefly married to US pop star Katy Perry between 2010 and 2012.

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Brand was suspended by the BBC in 2008 for making lewd prank calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs in which he boasted about having sex with Sachs’ granddaughter. He quit his radio show in the wake of the incident, which drew thousands of complaints to the publicly funded broadcaster.

The BBC, Channel 4 and the production company behind the Big Brother reality series – spin-offs of which were hosted by Brand – all say they have launched investigations into Brand’s behaviour and how complaints were handled.

Brand also has been dropped by talent agency Tavistock Wood, which said it had been “horribly misled” by him.

Supporters of Brand asked why the allegations were being made years after the alleged incidents. The women said that they only felt ready to tell their stories after being approached by reporters, with some citing Brand’s newfound prominence as an online wellness influencer as a factor in their decision to speak.

Victims and the media also have to take account of Britain’s claimant-friendly libel laws, which put the burden of proof on those making allegations.

Russell Brand’s behaviour a product of a UK comedy scene that’s ‘riddled with misogyny’ - Informative Updates™
Russell Brand has stayed out of mainstream media in recent years but has built up a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories. Photo: Invision/AP

In recent years, Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media but has built up a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories. His YouTube channel, which has more than 6 million subscribers, includes Covid-19 conspiracies, vaccine misinformation and interviews with right-wing broadcasters including Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.

He also continues to tour as a comedian, performing to hundreds of people in a London venue on Saturday evening as the Channel 4 documentary was broadcast.

Ellie Tomsett, a senior lecturer in media and communications at Birmingham City University who studies Britain’s stand-up circuit, said Brand was a product of a live comedy scene that was riddled with misogyny – and still is, despite progress made by women and others to diversify the comic landscape.

“When we’ve had a rise of popular feminism … we’ve also had a rise in popular misogyny epitomised by the likes of [social media influencer] Andrew Tate, but evident in all aspects of society, and definitely reflected on the UK comedy circuit,” Tomsett said.

“More and more things are springing up to try and counter this, but the idea that it’s something that happened in the past and doesn’t happen any more is, quite frankly, nonsense,” he added.

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