Opinion: Russell Brand on Question Time

Russell Brand

Well he looked like a revolutionary, albeit a well-scrubbed up revolutionary. But he didn't sound much like one. I’ve been trying to work out what went wrong with Russell Brand’s appearance on Question Time last night.

It all looked so promising. The producers must have been rubbing their hands with glee getting him on the panel alongside Nigel Farage in Canterbury. And maybe it was a coincidence, but they were joined by three women and we all know how much Russell likes women. Things could not have been better set for a right old ding dong. 

Yet after a vociferous sparky start something seemed to flick a switch in him. Brand was chastised for speaking over the women and suddenly it went all quiet up Brand Towers. Maybe he was thinking of flowers. Or his chest hair. Maybe he was thinking up his best – only ? – gag of the night, calling Farage a “pound shop Enoch Powell” but suddenly he didn’t have very much to say for himself.

He was happy to answer questions when they were put to him, but he seemed to have lost the spirit to argue his corner when people were saying objectionable things. And sometimes even when he did answer back his answers were weak. When the big man with the stick asked why Brand didn’t stand as an MP he said it was because he didn’t want to end up like the MPs we have that he so dislikes. But that didn’t really get him anywhere.

He also seemed to be implying that he wasn’t a politician, he was a comedian. Yet he simply wasn’t very funny on Question Time. The programme has been castigated in the past for “stunt panellists” – but stand-ups such as Jo Brand and Omid Djalili have both fared better than Brand. We expect high drama and excitement from Brand. What we got was strangely flat. If he was playing politicians at their own game it didn't work.

And it wasn’t just previous guests that have fared better than him. I liked the women with the blue hair and stripey burglar top more than Brand last night. She was not afraid to shout a few choice words to bludgeon the ennui – the very thing that Brand once told me he wanted to do before he became politically active.

I still really like Brand, but he did himself no favours last night. I thought this would be a brilliant platform for him to get his views across. He has always been great at winning sceptics over, either via his writing or his stand-up. He is so good with words. And not just long ones. He can craft a complex, cohesive argument which is accessible to everyone. Yet he seemed to freeze like the proverbial rabbit in the headlights this time. Only Brand probably knows why. But for once the emperor seemed to have no clothes. I for one hope he finds them again.

Watch Question Time on iPlayer here.


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