My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs and Standup
By Russell Brand (2007 Hodder and Stoughton)
I have a particular interest in the background influences that radicalize people. In my view, this is the main value of Russell Brand’s 2007 autobiography. I had never heard of Brand, a 38 year- old British stand-up comedian and TV personality, until his interview with talk show host Jeremy Packman went viral on YouTube. Brand had just been selected to guest edit an issue of The New Statesman, an edition that featured his essay advocating revolution to overthrow the current political system.
The inspiration for the autobiography grew out of Brand’s treatment for drug, alcohol and sexual addiction. Making an uncompromising moral inventory of family and friends we have wronged in the course of our addiction is a major feature of all 12 step programs. Despite the tendency of most Step 4 confessions to be maudlin and self absorbed, Brand’s timing and zany self-deprecating humor carries over into his writing. My Booky Wook is well constructed and fast paced and any dull bits have been edited out.
Predictably Brand’s early history shares many common features with behavior disordered kids who go on to become revolutionaries. Like many gifted children whose intelligence is stifled, rather than encouraged, Brand used his cleverness to seek act attention and approval from his classmates. The more his teachers punished him for his disruptive behavior, the more he sought out the company of neighborhood drop outs, eventually getting caught up in their drug and alcohol use and petty criminal behavior.
Like many generation Xers, Brand had no working class allegiance as a child. Neither of his parents identified as working class. As a single mom, his mother was limited to low paid short term jobs with flexible hours, in order to accommodate her parenting obligations. Though most single mothers find themselves limited to similar dead end jobs, neither society nor their society nor the women themselves are inclined to view them as blue collar work. A perennial salesman (e.g. double glazing, water filters, market stalls), Brand’s father swallowed the myth that he was capable, if he worked hard enough, of creating his own future. Ironically his income was never sufficient to stretch to child support.
Brand himself only began to identify with his working class origins through his drug use. Establishing himself as a stand-up comedian required him to tour, and his heroin addiction required him to seek out the disadvantaged section of any new cities he visited. Impressed by the marked divide between the intense squalor he encountered and the lifestyles of the corporate elite, he began to educated himself politically by visiting Cuba and reading dissident writers like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein.
Link to Brand’s New Statesman essay: Is Utopian Revolution Possible?
Below Brand calls for revolution in Parliament Square: