1-6pm, 19th May, LSB 01.21 University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7TJ
To mark the publication of Russell Brand: Comedy, Celebrity, Politics (Arthurs and Little, 2016), this half-day symposium will bring together a wide range of thinkers for an interdisciplinary exploration of the contemporary relationship between stand-up comedy, politics and protest movements. While there has always been a relationship between humour and politics, stand-up comedy as a cultural form has become increasingly central to political expression and protest. Stand-up has produced some high profile political activists such as Russell Brand and Beppe Grillo, but it has also shaped the logic of party politics, with the increasing importance of the joke in contemporary political discourse being seen in everything from PMQs to Donald Trump’s twitter feed. In the wider context of rising populisms of left and right, this half-day event will assess how productive relationships between stand-up comedians and activists can be forged to create new political possibilities and avoid the accusations of cynicism, trivialisation and simplification sometimes leveled at the interaction between comedy and politics.
Jane Arthurs (Middlesex), Beccy Collings (UEA), Paolo Gerbaudo (Kings), Sanna Inthorn (UEA), Ben Little (UEA), Sharon Lockyer (Brunel), Keir Milburn (Leicester), Sylvia Shaw (Westminster), Ellen Watts (RHUL)
Entrance is free and open to all (space considering), but please sign up here so we can keep you updated and send out abstracts in advance of the event.
Jane Arthurs and Ben Little’s Russell Brand: Comedy, Celebrity, Politics is available here in ebook and hardcover.
Russell Brand is one of the most high profile and controversial celebrities of our time. A divisive figure, his ability to bounce back from adversity is remarkable. This book traces his various career stages through which he has done this, moving from comedy, to TV presenting; from radio to Hollywood films. It identifies how this eclectic career in entertainment both helped and hindered his high-profile move into political activism. Underpinning the book are interviews with leading activists and politicians, and sophisticated readings of Brand’s performances, writing and on-screen work. There are sections on the Sachsgate scandal, his Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman, and his 2015 election intervention for aspiring Prime Minister Ed Miliband. It builds on scholarly work in the area of celebrity politics to develop an original analytic approach that blends the field theory of Pierre Bourdieu with the assemblage theory of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari.
‘This is a fantastically exciting book, one which both forensically interrogates the cultural significance of Brand as a comedian but which also places him at the heart of a much bigger intellectual narrative about comic celebrity and its increasing impact on contemporary British politics.’ Sam Friedman, London School of Economics and author of Comedy and Distinction: The cultural currency of a „good“ sense of humour
‚How can a celebrity of global stature „transform public debate, become an established symbol of activist politics, and then seem to vanish almost without trace“? Arthurs and Little’s remarkable new book tackles this question with transdisciplinary lucidity, unpacking the many meanings of Russell Brand, situating the maverick trickster in broader context, and in the process offering a vibrant and vital resource for all those who want to understand celebrity, contemporary politics and the connections between them.‘
Jo Littler, City University, London and author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility.
‚This captivating and enlightening book charts Russell Brand’s rise from comedian to radio host to author, activist and movement leader. It explains why he is a key figure to understand the political and cultural horizon that is unfolding in the wake of the Great Recession and the crossover between celebrity culture, populism and emerging forms of political leadership in an era marked by popular discontent and a crisis of political elites. ‚
Paolo Gerbaudo, Kings College, London and author of The Mask and the Flag: Populism, Citizenism and Global Protest.