First the cookie monster, then a dog with a degree, now Paxman versus Brand on beards, revolution and a hatred of the Tory Party. When did Newsnight, that ageing, late night, sleep-inducer suddenly become the most watchable programme on British TV?
Wednesday’s offering continued the show’s good form, with producer Ian Katz pitting Paxo against the garrulous, unpredictable yet always-brilliant Russell Brand. And the pair played their roles to perfection.
On the back of Brand’s forthcoming guest editorship of the New Statesman, Paxo charged in: “Who are you to edit a political magazine?”
“A man who was asked by an attractive woman,” replied the comedian and actor. Following a rant that spanned “current paradigms”, “voting practises” and “political apathy,” Brand barked across the hotel room “grow your beard”. “You are a very trivial man,” countered Paxo, both comfortable in their cross-cultural badinage.
Brand has found a more serious edge of late, interspersing tales of shagging and not taking drugs with pleas for a fairer world, a greener world and one in which Associated Newspapers is mashed to a pulp.
“What will your revolution look like?” growled Paxo from behind said beard.
“I’ll tell you what it won’t be like,” said Brand in a moment of clarity, “a huge disparity between rich and poor, where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as the 85 million poorest Americans, where there is an exploited and underserved underclass that are being continually ignored and where welfare is slashed while Cameron and Osborne go to court to defend the rights of bankers to continue to receive their bonuses. This has to be addressed.”
During the exchange, Brand told Paxo that he has never voted, and he never will. Why? Because the political system has created a “disenfranchised, disillusioned underclass”.
“I am not that I am not voting out of apathy,” said the 38-year-old. “I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations.”
Earlier, Paxman had attempted to find common ground by telling his opponent he didn’t “necessarily disagree” with him. “Then why do I feel so cross with you?” replied Brand.
What wonderful nonsense and yet wonderful honesty.