You couldn’t miss the two blondes who wobbled into the car park on six-inch heels. They were six feet tall, with legs up to their armpits and white hot pants no wider than a band-aid.
I had paid $25 to spend an hour in the dusty gravel-covered yard, trying to avoid the whiff of the portaloo as a hundred of us waited in the evening sun to be the audience for the recording of Brand X, a new Russell Brand chat show.
The show is airing on the US end of FX, a Fox cable channel which has a UK arm. So you may catch a glimpse of me on the telly in a few months.
No celeb guests, just lots of audience interaction and Brand riffing amusingly for an hour about a given subject – this week it was religion. It’s a style that has been developed in the US by Bill Maher and Jon Stewart, going beyond standup comedy to something more meaningful.
But the seats were unreserved, first come, first served, to get into a studio in a light-industrial corner of Glendale, an Armenian enclave which nestles north-east of Hollywood alongside Griffith Park.
Oh, and no loo breaks, so kindly use the Star Waggons portaloos before you go in because we’re not letting you out before the end of the show.
In front of me in line were two Valley girls, speaking in non-stop Italics and ending EVERY sentence on a loud UP-NOTE – just like in the Australian SOAPS! It became VERY TEDIOUS!!
The leggy blondes demurely took their places at the end of the queue, discreetly pulling their hot pants down. It made no difference.
As we filed in the “first come, first served” rule was modified by some reshuffling. An assistant asked me to come further forward but to one side (probably to get me off camera), and he was taken aback when I laughingly said no.
Meanwhile, the leggy blondes magically came to rest in seats in the middle of row two.
We all filled out questionnaires designed to give Brand material for his show, which this week was about spirituality – it was just a few days after he had appeared with the Dalai Llama before 11,000 people in Manchester.
The questions included What religion do you believe in, Do you believe in god, Has anything funny ever happened to you at a wedding, funeral or bar mitzvah, Are you or a member of your family a priest, rabbi or other religious official, Do you want to get married and if not, why not?
Brand was good value. He did his own warm-up, bless him, identifying the people whose questionnaire answers he wanted to use in the actual show. And then he just got started.
No re-takes, no harsh lights, no make-up. Very informal. He even kept notes in hand, to remind him which topic to do next.
For all his edgy cool, Brand was clearly very proud of having met the Dalai Llama, even though he accepted that the great man was using him to pull in a wider and younger audience.
Brand likes working a crowd, climbing from one row to another as he talks. The first of his questionnaire set-ups was an aging hippy – shorts, rimless specs, Godlike beard and bulging waistline – whose sister was a mohelot: she performs Jewish circumcision rituals.
That, of course, is the comedy equivalent of a TV dinner – just heat and eat. But sadly the lady wouldn’t play. She was in New York, so by this time it was around midnight, and she had never heard of Russell Brand.
Consequently Brand had to stand by while the aging hippy, by this time on stage, tried to explain to his sister what all this was about. Which rather killed the joke.
Brand had better luck with another punter, a giggling girl who admitted to peeing in her baptismal immersion water.
As this girl was just in front of me, he nearly fell in my lap in his efforts to reach her, apologising politely. He was very well brought up.
The giggler was with her sister, who was baptised in the same ceremony but claimed to have never known about the peeing incident. Until now. Under Brand’s goading, with the cameras homing in on her, she managed to laugh it off.
At the end Brand looked over at a clock and said: “59 minutes – that’ll about do, I reckon. Thank you all very much.”
While we were filing out he pointed to the two tall leggy blondes, then hooked his arm in the direction of a side door. They followed him out. UCLA divinity professors, maybe?