Photo on Irish Times
Photo on Green Belt

Russell Brand

Thinker / Comedian


Thinker / Comedian


United Kingdom


48 years







What makes Russell Brand a Global Shaker?

Comedian, TV Presenter, Hollywood Actor, Revolutionary, Public Intellectual. There are so many facets to Russell Brand’s public persona that many remain stuck on one and fail to appreciate the evolution from boisterous, loquacious TV personality to humble, softly spoken thinker — whose chart-topping discussion podcast, Under the Skin, has attracted enormous names ranging from Al Gore and Lena Dunham to Brené Brown and Ice Shaman Wim Hof. Russell Brand posts weekly philosophical videos online to an immense audience, comprising over 17m followers across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Brand began his career on TV in 2000 through culture-focused TV channel MTV. His eccentric energy, striking attire and awe-inspiring vocabulary earned him an early following. He went on to present numerous national TV and radio shows, host awards ceremonies, marry high-profile pop star Katy Perry and star in larger-than-life Hollywood comedies, including Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek.

This period also saw him grapple with various addictions, from sex, to fame, to alcohol, to, famously, heroin — which ultimately cost him his job at MTV. His gradual recovery into public life was coupled with an abrupt end to his marriage and high-status celebrity, and a candid discussion of how society fails to offer necessary support to addicts. This has formed a central part of his writing and comedy in recent years: his 2017 book Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions, outlines an adapted 12-step programme to help anyone recover from addiction. Brand is now completely tee-total, remarried and a father to two children.

Brand’s conversion into a public intellectual began in 2013, when he guest edited The Revolution Edition’ of political magazine New Statesman, featuring articles by high-profile thinkers Noam Chomsky, Deepak Chopra and Naomi Klein. He then launched a spiky vlog-style news platform, The Trews, which homed in on the equity gap between the rich and poor; the global prioritisation of economic growth over social and environmental concerns; and billionaire ownership of major media. The Trews formed the cornerstone of a YouTube channel that has built up 192m views, and reached a crescendo when former UK Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband appeared for an interview on the Trews on the eve of national elections in 2015. Brand’s activism spilled into everyday life, helping a housing estate in London fight off plans to impose stinging rent rises, and later releasing a book calling for revolution — titled, appropriately, Revolution. Shortly after the release, Prospect magazine voted Brand the world’s fourth most influential thinker.

In 2017, he moved into podcasting with the discussion podcast Under the Skin. Over a two-year period Brand has interviewed high-profile academics, commentators, activists, authors and pop-culture figures about public policy, mental health, political change and individual happiness. Under the Skin has topped Spotify and iTunes charts and received widespread critical acclaim.

The podcast has been coupled with regular videos on YouTube, covering topics such as spirituality, depression, relationship advice and responding to trauma. Each video racks up hundreds of thousands of views.

Tags: Activism, Comedian, Philosophy, Thinker

Last updated: November 21, 2019