You might recognize British comic Russell Brand as the voice of Dr. Nefario, Gru’s supervillain sidekick in the “Despicable Me” movies.
You might remember his freewheeling performances as rocker Aldous Snow in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Get Him to the Greek,” or his cheeky turn as a devil-may-care millionaire in the remake of “Arthur.”
You may have even spotted him sauntering down the red carpet with his former wife, pop star Katy Perry.
But it’s a different Russell Brand — not Brand the flamboyant rock star, but Brand the highly intelligent, highly articulate stand-up comedian — who brings his Messiah Complex World Tour to the Fremont Theatre on Friday. (The show contains adult content.)
“People equate solemnity with seriousness, but you can be serious while being very, very funny,” Brand said, who sees stand-up comedy as the best way to spread his message.
Below, Brand talks about comedy, cultural icons and the media.
Q: This is your first tour on a worldwide scale. Were you eager to expand your reach?
A: Well, I love performing and I love doing stand-up comedy, so I want to do as much of it as possible.
There’s no agenda, no objective, other than to perform the show for people to enjoy it.
Q: When you decided to do a world tour, was this the subject that came to mind?
A: Yes. I immediately thought of Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Jesus Christ and Gandhi. Because I had the realization that it’s the one area of my life where I can talk about whatever I want to, whatever I find inspiring and exciting. And immediately these four figures came to my mind.
Q: What is it about those four that you find fascinating?
A: Martyrdom, ideology, bravery, contradiction, possible hypocrisy, but ultimately an alignment to the principle of sacrifice in order to elevate the many.
Q: These are figures for whom many people have a certain amount of respect or even reverence. Are you concerned about insulting anyone?
A: No, because these men for me are all heroes, and they’re also human beings and therefore flawed. My approach to them is “How can we learn from them? What is their relevance? What do they mean to us now?”
You don’t have to be afraid if you’re not doing anything wrong. That’s what I believe.
Q: Adolf Hitler also makes an appearance. I don’t imagine you consider him a hero, so what is he doing in your show?
A: To demonstrate that in spite of the horrors of genocide and the destruction of the Second World War, that Hitler is just an ordinary person, just a person with a family and fears and concerns. It is our tendency to vilify or deify individuals when, in fact, we have more in common with them than we realize.
Q: Can you give me an example of that tendency to fear and vilify what we find difficult to understand?
A: Anything around drug addiction. Anything around sexual offenses. Anything around (government whistleblowers) Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning. The frequency that has been set is one of sensationalism and fear to engage us priorly to circumnavigate our rational minds and appeal to us on an animal and emotional level, so that we can’t form a cohesive civic society.
Q: Do you feel that that tendency has anything to do with the 24-hour news cycle?
A: Possibly, this is directly responsible. But it’s also in the service of the agenda of the elite. If you have a situation where 427 interconnected companies control 50 percent of the world’s wealth, you will require that degree of corruption to maintain this power dynamic. If you have a situation in the United States where American millionaires hold $500 trillion in offshore bank accounts, you will require duplicity and propaganda to maintain this, because otherwise the oppressed majority will rise up.
Q: Is comedy the way to encourage people to rise up?
A: It’s my way to, but I don’t know if it’s the way to.
Q: Who do you see as your target audience? Are you trying to change minds or find kindred spirits?
A: I just want to make people laugh. … We’re all the same, aren’t we? One of the problems we have is defining ourselves by how we’re different from other people when really how we should define ourselves is how we’re the same as other people. A culture of distinction, difference and conflict is not helpful to anyone.
And given that we are, in terms of DNA, almost identical to every single person on the planet, searching for ways that we can argue about our haircuts seems like a futile way to spend the time we have on this beautiful planet.
Q: Is there an audience that has surprised you?
A: Always people surprise me. I think if you connect with people on the level of love, then people will connect with you on the level of love. I notice that when I am arrogant, then people are arrogant with me. When I’m gracious, people are gracious with me. I wish I could be perfect all of the time and always be gracious, but I am a human being and sometimes I wake up in a strange mood.
Q: You’ve said in past interviews that you prefer stand-up to acting. Why?
A: I trained as an actor and it seems so really sexy, acting. You think it’s going to be a great deal of fun. My experience with it is, sometimes it’s fun but it’s not as much fun as stand-up comedy. … (Stand-up is) more direct. It’s more essential. It’s eating some cherries instead of cherry-flavored Coca-Cola.
Q: What are you hoping will happen with this tour?
A: I just want to be in the moment and make people laugh and spend my time doing comedy for people about things I care about. For me, the world is perfect now.
IF YOU GO
8 p.m. Friday, doors open at 7 p.m.
Fremont Theatre, 1025 Monterey St., San Luis Obispo
$35 to $45
888-825-5484 or www.vallitix.com; 924-1142 or www.otterproductionsinc.com
Reach Sarah Linn at 781-7907. Stay updated by following @shelikestowatch on Twitter.