Could an American politician last in the ring with British comedian Russell Brand?

Posted at 1:38 PM, May 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-01 13:38:29-04

It is very good political theater.

Even if you are totally grossed out by politics (especially if), take 15 minutes and watch the British comedian/celebrity/agitator Russell Brand interview Ed Miliband, the Labour candidate for Prime Minister.  The performances are at once creepy, impressive, phony and revealing.

This is big news in the U.K. 

The May 7 election is extremely close and there is an excellent chance neither major party, Labour and Conservative, will capture an outright majority in the House of Commons. The book on Miliband is that he is a stiff egghead.  The book on Brand is perhaps more mixed – obnoxious, insufferable, funny – but he certainly has a following.  He has been on a rampage urging Brits not to vote because it doesn’t matter.

So on Wednesday, Miliband comes to Brand’s house in East London and the interview takes place in Brand’s kitchen and soon after it’s up on Brand’s YouTube channel, The Trews (as in true news).

Judge for yourself how it turned out. 

My impressions: Brand is mega-rich and famous and his constant insistence that he’s just a normal bloke is almost unwatchable.  But he wasn’t a clown, he was polite but not deferential and he was blunt. He admitted that one of his questions was “adolescent,” which it was. But there’s a place for adolescence among adults. After the interview, Brand, speaking to camera, said the interview “wasn’t perfect” but that he "learned a lot about Labour, a lot about Ed Miliband" and it was "interesting experience." I agree.

I thought Miliband was quite good. He has been mocked for saying “ain’t” a couple times, but he engaged Brand honestly, didn’t filibuster, pander or spin. More than once he told Brand, “That’s just wrong.”

Maybe Bill Clinton could have done a better job but I can’t think of what other American pol could have lasted in that ring.

The Conservative candidate, David Cameron, said “Russell Brand's a joke” and Miliband is a “joke” to “hang out” with him.  The Tory press and the tabloids agreed.

The Guardian, the top liberal paper, did some polling that shows Miliband might have helped himself with the U.K.’s disenchanted young voters. We’ll know in a week.

[Also by Dick Meyer: Podcast – Has progress made us happier?]

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