One he's got a whiff of sulphur about him. He's dangerous. You don't know quite what he's going to say or do next. On HIGNFY he got up in the middle of the show to go to the toilet and- I mean- that's just not done. He's fiercely intelligent but also damaged- all those drugs, all that sex- and you fear for him. He could show himself up by saying something really tasteless or stupid. That nearly happened on HIGNFY when he started off on a ramble about coffins and waste bins which was neither clever nor funny- but he kept going and kept going until the weirdness trumped the unfunniness and he'd got a surrealist masterpiece on his hands. Most comics have a constituency- the politically right-on crowd, the jack-the-lads, the mums and dads- and their material is tailored to the prejudices of their chosen audience. Outsiders may find them offensive but they're always on safe ground with the home crowd- which means that they're never really as edgy as they'd like us to think. But Brand seems to be inventing his constituency as he goes along. He really is winging it. He's out there, on his own, without peers. When was the last time a high-profile comic took such risks? I don't know. Kenny Everett, perhaps? Peter Cook?
Two. He dominates. HIGNFY belongs to team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. Their guests are there to back them up- sometimes to act as patsys. Brand stole it from them. Effortlessly. You weren't interested in their practised ding-dong, you were fixated on this extraordinary man with the pasty face and the gob-stopper eyes and the Amy Winehouse hair-do. The other guests were Jack Dee in the chair and Charlie Brooker- our number one stand-up and our funniest TV critic. They got slaughtered too. The whole shooting match looked tired and dated and contrived compared to free-form Russell. He dominated proceedings even when he was off-set- having a wee- because we missed him and wanted him back. He reminds me a little of Kenneth Williams- not because of his style- Brand's camp is very different from Williams' camp- but because- whaetever company you put him in- he'll always be the star.
God knows where he's going. He could be a portent of things to come or simply this season's freak. Maybe we'll soon be sick of him. But right now, at the close of 2007, he's the best thing on telly .