Russell Brand, who will stage a comedy show in Melbourne at Rod Laver Arena in December, speaks to the media at the ARIA awards in Sydney. Photo: Getty Images
HOLDING court in his suite at the Savoy Hotel in London, Russell Brand is in his element. So much so, he reckons he belonged there all along. ''It was more of a nuisance when I didn't have all of the trappings and whatnot, because I had the same sort of personality,'' he says. ''It was ill-becoming as an unemployed drug addict. So now it makes more sense.''
Brand is now part of the British establishment, and one of its best-known entertainment exports. Google the word ''Russell'' and he sits at the top of the list, above Russell Crowe. When Brand appeared as part of the closing ceremony for the London Olympics, he was clearly being given an official nod.
''Yeah, it's interesting,'' the 37-year-old comedian and actor says. ''I can't tell you how close I came to saying, 'This bus is loaded with semtex.' Because my microphone was live, you know.
''That's one of the things I talk about in the new show, my experience with sort of … what it's like to be part of the establishment. But I think that stuff's inside your head really. Inside my head I don't feel like I'm part of that.''
The past two years have been busy for Brand. A string of Hollywood movies (musical Rock of Ages, a remake of Arthur, The Tempest and comedy Get Him to the Greek), his own television show (Brand X) and top billing at venues such as Rod Laver Arena mark him as an elite entertainer. It is clear that despite his much-publicised divorce from singer Katy Perry, the man's career is on fire.
So what can Australian fans expect from his show I Am a Walrus when he comes here next week?
Brand launches into a spontaneous and rather startling rapid-fire Russell rave, delivered in his own charming way, which doesn't appear to involve him drawing breath at any stage: ''It's going to be absolute madness and chaos, there's going to be lots of spontaneity, lots of mayhem, the whole thing is about in fact the destruction of boundaries and how nothing's what it seems and how everything's an illusion and the only things worth being in tune with are the primal forces that govern our lives, whether they come from sexuality or spirituality. Whether they're the Bacchanalian excesses of wine drinking or whether it's hedonistic sex … it's meditation or prayer. You've got to move into the margins, you've got to get into the extremes, we've got to find ourselves on the higher planes.
''If anyone leaves that arena without having a religious experience or an orgasm, they get their money back.''
That was seemingly delivered in less than 15 seconds. But of course, as is Brand's special gift, I am not so much taken aback as charmed. He has a hypnotic and amusing way of engaging people, with a surprising humility underneath.
Brand, who is articulate in his musings and enjoys pointing out absurdities with his observational humour, says he earnestly studies the work of other comedians he admires.
''I'm a keen student of stand-up comedy - I watch it all the time,'' he says. ''I love Bill Hicks, I love Richard Pryor, I love Peter Cook, I love Dudley Moore.
''Billy Connolly I just adore and I was lucky enough to work with him recently. It was f---ing amazing, it was an education, it was like being a wizard's apprentice.''
Russell Brand's I Am A Walrus is at Rod Laver Arena on Friday, December 7.