I haven’t written anything in a really long time but there was a time when I had three active blogs. This weekend I was inspired to write again and I couldn’t quite figure out which of my three dormant blogs to post it on. My most recently active blog is basically a series of open fan letters and post about things and people that I love. This story could fit there, it’s very much about me being a huge fan. My least recently active blog was all about shows I’d been too and places I’d traveled, it was about saying yes to life (I titled it, “For the Thrill of It”). This story could fit there too, it’s very much about me saying yes to life (and travelling, and seeing a show). I ultimately decided to post it here because I feel like my philosophy, my world view, my faith lead me down this path and informed the entire experience.
If you were a reader of the former incarnation of this blog you probably know that I do not really practice any religion, but none the less I am a believer. I believe in the divine. I have an enormous amount of faith. In fact, I would say, I have too much faith to believe in just one version of God. I have to believe in them all. I’ve tried to explain the way I feel to people but most of the time I feel like I’m speaking a different language than everyone else.
I have been a huge fan of Kevin Smith for more than half my life (which is covered twice on one of my other blogs). Faith is actually one of the things that I’ve always liked about Kevin Smith. He was vocal about his Catholic faith. His wasn’t exactly a blind faith, he had questions, but he never seemed to think that the questions he had were detrimental to his faith. In fact, my interpretation of Dogma is that, he seemed to believe questioning was vital to his continued faith. He appears to have started moving away from Catholicism in recent years, but he seems to still be a person of faith. He’s just transferred his faith onto other things which is something I can really relate to.
It’s not just Kevin Smith’s movies that I’m a fan of; I listen (religiously?) to several of his podcasts. I got a new job last winter though and I fell behind in my podcast listening. About three months ago, on road trip from Seattle to Portland, I was starting to catch up and I heard Russell Brand on Kevin Smith’s SModcast. In that podcast Russell Brand said that all religions are just sign posts pointing to the same thing.
It’s not like I thought that no one believes the same things I believe. Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake is an entire online community of people many of whom are at least open to the idea that there are things we can learn from all religions, and Josh Radnor talks a lot about the things we can learn from various religions (he wrote this great prayer, and his episode of Girl on Guy gets into religious and philosophical issues as well). I even know some people personally who believe some of the same things I do, but I’d never heard almost exactly the words I use to describe my religious belief coming from someone else before.
It’s not like I’d never heard of Russell Brand before and I was certainly not indifferent to him. I liked him, as an actor. I liked Get Him to the Greek, and I loved Arthur and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, but I’d never seen any of his stand up or read his books. Of course, as soon as I heard him on SModcast talking about how he believes in god and is “well into Jesus” and that all religions are the same, within a week I read both of his books, and watched every episode of Brand X, and his comedy specials, and watched and read every interview, and listened to every podcast…if he spoke publicly and it was available on the internet I read/watched/listened to it. The more I read/watched/listened the more I felt like finally there was someone not only speaking the same language I do, but doing it from center stage of an incredibly large platform (over 7 million Twitter followers) in a way that people seemed not only to understand but to agree with.
I went to see his show, Messiah Complex, when he came to Seattle and I loved it so when I saw that there was a charity auction for tickets and a meet and greet with him in Austin, of course, I bid. It was a good cause, an opportunity to see the show again, an opportunity to meet Russell Brand, and an opportunity to spend a couple days in Austin; in other words: win/win/win/win.
I gave one of the tickets to my mom and we were both really excited to go. The show was awesome (again). I felt like it was even better the second time for a bunch of reasons but mostly because of the crowd. The crowd in Seattle seemed like they were just there for the comedy, which is fine, but the crowd in Austin seemed way more into the political and spiritual aspects of the show. I felt like I was among like minded people in Austin. It’s an amazing feeling when your in an audience at a show and the energy of the crowd is totally in line with your own.
After the show was over a bunch of people rushed down to the the stage and he stayed there for like 20-30 minutes talking to his fans, signing autographs, taking pictures, hugging everyone. He looked genuinely engaged. I mean, of course, he’s a talented actor so he could have been faking it, but he really looked genuinely engaged with each and every person. He looked moved. I was moved watching it.
We were told to wait off to the side for the meet and greet and there were a few others waiting there with us. For a while my mom and I just talked to each other about how awesome the show was and how happy we were to be in Austin. Eventually, Russell waved goodbye to the crowd, went back stage, and the crowd (but for those of us waiting off to the side) left the theater. At that point a couple of women near by struck up a conversation with me and my mom. One of them starts out by saying how this meet and greet is being run very unprofessionally. She says she’s been to a bunch of meet and greets like this and she’s never seen one so unprofessional.
My initial reaction is to wonder if she and I were watching the same show. Russell Brand’s show is all about how we are all one, we are all the same. It’s about coming together and eliminating the artificial boundaries that separate us. How can this girl possibly begrudge the crowd their opportunity to meet the man and have a genuine connection with him.
I mean she’s complaining about the fact that she has to wait while he’s talking to fans. She’s saying stuff like why did she pay all this money for the meet and greet when she could have just rushed the stage at the end of the show and met him that way. She even complained that the seats weren’t close enough.
I say to her that maybe they want us to wait so we get a more one on one meeting unlike all the fans crowded around the stage. I point out, assuming rightly that she got her meet and greet the same way I got mine, that the money went to a good cause. She acknowledges the charitable aspect but she keeps complaining. I say that it was a great show, that if all I’d wanted was to meet him I would have waited by the stage when I saw him in Seattle (like the people she’s complaining about) instead of flying 2000 miles. I tell her that I’d see this show every night if I could. My mom, who’s just super happy to be there at all, says that she and I don’t really have much to compare it to and manages (briefly) to get her on a different subject but not for long. The complaining continues and it’s harshing my metaphorical buzz. It’s the antithesis of the energy I felt from the crowd during the show.
None of what I’m saying seems to be getting through to this girl so I make as graceful an exit from the conversation as I can and when my mom and I are alone again I say to her that I think it’s nice that he took the time to talk to his fans. She agrees and adds that he must be tired after putting on a nearly 2 hour show during which he barely stops moving for a second so he probably needs some time backstage to decompress before meeting with us. We both think it’s sweet that he was hugging, and kissing, and taking pictures with everyone. In that SModcast conversation Russell Brand told Kevin Smith that the reason his seduction works, when it does work, is because there isn’t an ounce of duplicity in it. Watching him talking to fans I felt like that statement is probably true of everything he does. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of duplicity in him on any level.
For me, even if I hadn’t gotten to meet Russell Brand, the story could have ended there and I would have been happy. Seeing his show, the things he talks about make me feel genuinely connected to the universe and my own humanity. Seeing him genuinely connecting with people also makes me feel more connected in general. So, giving to a great cause, seeing the show, and watching him interact with the fans would have been enough. Getting to meet him was the icing.
The first word that came to mind when meeting Russell Brand was “gentle”. If you’ve seen any of his shows you’ll know that they are energetic, almost manic energy. Also, he’s always asking people to “give him a cuddle” and when I see it on television it appears so aggressive but in reality the Russell Brand cuddle was…gentle. My mother gushed like Huell Howser; she couldn’t stop telling him how amazing he was and he asked her to give him a cuddle. I gushed and told him that I would see his show every night if I could and he asked me to give him a cuddle. He hugged me for kind of a long time. Then while he was hugging me he leaned on me for a moment and told me he was tired.
It’s not surprising that he was tired, like I said he didn’t stop moving for almost two hours (it’s a very kinetic show). I’m kind of used to people telling me how they’re feeling even in situations where it seems out of context or non-sequitur and in this case it was completely within context so it wasn’t surprising to hear him say it either. What was surprising was how nice it was to hear him say it.
In the past I’ve said that it seems like I have “tell me how you feel” stamped on my forehead or something because it happens so often. Maybe he was so tired that he had to say it to someone and I happened to be there. Maybe whatever it is about me that makes people want to unburden themselves was at play there. Whatever the case, it felt so normal, it made me happy. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am a fan so I did tell him how much I loved his show and I did get a picture with him, but one of the reasons I’m a fan is that he makes me feel more connected to the universe and my humanity so it was nice to meet him and just be human beings for a moment.