Russell Brand is back in the headlines after sharing a video that appeared to prempt some “very serious criminal allegations” he says are about to be made against him.
The comedian, actor and presenter is believed to be the subject of a forthcoming newspaper investigation and Channel 4 Dispatches documentary, which is set to air on Saturday 16 September at 9pm.
Brand, 48, says he “absolutely refutes” the accusations against him, which he did not disclose but referred to as “very, very serious criminal allegations”.
He said the allegations “pertain to the time when I was working in the mainstream, when… I was very, very promiscuous.”
“I’ve received two extremely disturbing letters or a letter and an email. One from a mainstream media TV company, one from a newspaper listing a litany of extremely egregious and aggressive attacks, as well as some pretty stupid stuff like my community festival should be stopped, that I shouldn’t be able to attack mainstream media narratives on this channel,” he claimed in the video.
Brand went on to suggest that the investigations were part of a “coordinated media attack”, “like with Joe Rogan, when he dared to take a medicine that the mainstream media didn’t approve of”.
Ahead of the documentary, here’s a timeline of Brand’s career and controversies, from his early days as a comedian through to today.
2000: Comedy beginnings and addiction
Brand launches his standup comedy career with the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year competition. While he finishes in fourth place, Brand catches the attention of agents. He makes his debut at the Edinburgh Fringe that same summer on a shared bill show alongside Shaparak Khorsandi and Mark Felgate, having competed against both comics in the Hackney Empire competition final.
The same year, Brand makes his TV presenting debut as a video journalist for MTV. He goes on to host a number of music shows on the channel. During this time, he is taking drugs heavily, and once introduces his drug dealer to Kylie Minogue while working at the channel.
2001: Ejection from Fringe venue
During a late night show at the Edinburgh Fringe, Brand is kicked out of Gilded Balloon for abusive behaviour after provoking an audience member who threw a glass at him. Brand later called it a turning point for his career, saying: “It probably expedited my journey to not taking drugs any more, to write material, to start taking comedy more seriously.”
September 2001: Brand is sacked by MTV
Brand is fired from MTV in September 2001 after coming to work dressed as Osama bin Laden the day after 9/11. In a future interview with Chelsea Handler on her show Chelsea Lately, Brand said that he was high on crack cocaine and heroin at the time. “I challenge any of you to take crack and heroin and see how it affects your personal, private and professional life,” he said.
The comedian stars in his own show on the former channel UK Play. Titled RE:Brand, it sees Brand investigating subjects seen as “taboo” by society. In one episode, he performs a sexual act with a gay man in a pub toilet. Discussing the incident during an interview with HuffPost Live in 2013, he said: “I must say, it wasn’t for me. I didn’t really enjoy it. My tendencies and inclinations towards women are very, very powerful. I like them very much. It’s just a biological urge.” In his 2007 memoir My Booky Wook, Brand said that he was often drunk or high on heroin during filming.
In December, Brand’s agent John Noel forces him to get sober after he was found using heroin in the bathroom at a Christmas party. He visits the Focus 12 residential rehab in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, and gets clean.
2004: Career rise
Brand gets his big break and lands a job as the host of Big Brother’s new sister show on E4, Big Brother’s Big Mouth. He would host on the regular and celebrity series until 2007, but announced that he would not return to present for Big Brother 7 that same year, thanking producers for “taking the risk of employing an ex-junkie twerp”.
This summer, Brand makes his solo debut at the Edinburgh Fringe with his stand-up show Better Now. The show, in which he detailed his years of heroin addiction, receives positive reviews. He returns in 2005 with his sophomore show Eroticised Humour, and in 2006 tours his show Shame, which dealt with the way he had been covered by the British tabloids.
2006: NME Awards feud with Bob Geldof
While hosting the NME Awards in 2006, Brand is branded a “c***” by Bob Geldof. In response, Brand says: “Really, it’s no surprise [Geldof]’s such an expert on famine. He has, after all, been dining out on ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ for 30 years.” He also begins hosting his own BBC 6 Music show.
2007: Continued success
Brand’s stand-up career continues to grow. He tours his new show Only Joking, releases special Doin’ Life on DVD and performs in front of the Queen and Prince Philip at the Royal Variety Performance. As a presenter, he hosts the Brit Awards, the Live Earth concert and Comic Relief. Brand also makes documentaries about Jack Kerouac (for BBC Four), and hosts Russell Brand’s Ponderland on Channel 4.
In November, Brand releases his memoir, My Booky Wook. The book is well received, and he signs a £1.8m deal with HarperCollins the following year, under which he releases a collection of his Guardian columns titled Articles of Faith and his second memoir Booky Wook 2: This Time It’s Personal.
After dabbling in acting with a number of small TV roles of the years, Brand lands his first major big-screen part in the 2007 remake of St Trinians. Previously, he had auditioned for the role of Super Hans in Peep Show, but lost out to Matt King.
2008: Film success and VMAs controversy
Brand’s biggest on-screen role transpires when he is cast as rock star Aldous Snow in the Judd Apatow-produced romantic comedy, Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The film stars Jason Segel as a man trying to get over his ex-girlfriend (Kristen Bell) only to run into her and her new boyfriend, Aldous, while on holiday in Hawaii. Brand would reprise the role in the 2010 spin-off Get Him to the Greek, opposite Jonah Hill. In 2008, he also appears opposite Adam Sandler in the Disney film Bedtime Stories.
Still relatively unknown to US audiences, Brand is announced as the surprise host of the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). He sparks controversy with a number of comments during the September awards show, including referring to George W Bush as a “r*****ed cowboy”. Brand also mocks the Jonas Brothers over their decision to wear purity rings, prompting backlash from singer Jordin Sparks on stage.
18 October 2008: Sachsgate
The year also sees Brand embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of his career to date, related to an episode of The Russell Brand Show on BBC Radio 2. The controversial segment featured Jonathan Ross as a guest, and involved the pair making a series of phone calls to Fawlty Towers star Andrew Sachs, in which Brand alleged he had sex with Sachs’s granddaughter, the actor and musician Georgina Baillie.
Dubbed “Sachsgate” by the press, the scandal prompted widespread criticism from listeners and many public figures, including then-prime minister Gordon Brown. Both presenters are suspended from the BBC as a result of the incident, and Brand resigns from his show. Broadcasting regulator Ofcom later fines the BBC £150,000 over the incident.
2009: Relationship with Katy Perry
Brand meets Katy Perry while she was filming a (later cut) cameo in Get Him to the Greek. They meet again at the MTV VMAs in September and, on holiday in India in December, get engaged on New Year’s Eve.
September 2010: Arrest in Los Angeles
On 16 September 2010, Brand is arrested and charged with suspected battery following an encounter with a paparazzo at Los Angeles International Airport, California. He is held in custody overnight before posting bail; the charge was later dropped. Offering an apparent explanation for the scuffle, Perry tweeted: “If you cross the line and try an put a lens up my dress, my fiance will do his job and protect me.”
The year 2010 also sees Brand appear in Julie Taymor’s film of The Tempest with Ben Whishaw and Helen Mirren, and marry Perry at a tiger sanctuary in Rajasthan.
May 2011: Deportation from Japan
While accompanying Perry on a tour of Japan, Brand is deported by immigration officials. Perry claimed on Twitter that the reason concerned historic legal offences: “It was for priors from over 10 years ago.”
Brand reacts to the incident in a series of tweets, joking: “Planning escape from Japanese custody. It’s bloody hard to dig a tunnel with a chopstick.”
December 2011: Divorce
Brand files for divorce from Perry, 14 months after their marriage citing irreconcilable differences as the reason for their split. “Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage,” he said in a statement at the time. “I’ll always adore her and I know we’ll remain friends.” A more damning account of the divorce would be made public by Perry two years later.
March 2012: Arrest in New Orleans
On 15 March 2012, Brand has another encounter with a paparazzo, while the comedian is in a New Orleans casino working on the Diablo Cody film Paradise. It is alleged that Brand threw the photographer’s mobile phone through the window of a law firm, prompting an arrest warrant to be issued. He made light of the incident on Twitter shortly after, writing: “Since Steve Jobs died I cannot bear to see anyone use an iphone irreverently, what I did was a tribute to his memory.”
April 2012: Parliamentary committee testimony
Brand speaks before a hearing of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee on the issue of drug addiction. Pleading for addicts to be treated with “love and compassion”, Brand called on the government to reform its drug policy and shift towards decriminalisation. Asked if he had been arrested “roughly 12 times”, Brand replied: “It was rough, yes.”
July 2012: Katy Perry hits back
A year after Brand filed for divorce, Perry releases concert film Part of Me, filmed in the throes of the breakdown of her and Brand’s marriage. The pair are seen struggling with distance while Perry is on tour, with Perry saying that she is “fighting to keep my marriage alive” when Brand won’t visit her on tour. Brand and Perry also are shown arguing over text about having kids, with Perry – 10 years Brand’s junior – saying she didn’t feel ready when he spoke about their future children.
The musician also gives her first cover interview to Vogue magazine, in which she opened up about her marriage, and reveals that she learned of the divorce over text, moments before she was about to go onstage and perform. “He’s a very smart man, and I was in love with him when I married him,” Perry said. “Let’s just say I haven’t heard from him since he texted me saying he was divorcing me 31 December, 2011.”
September 2013: GQ Awards
Brand attends the Hugo Boss-sponsored GQ Awards on 3 September, where he receives the Oracle prize. In his acceptance speech, he brings up Hugo Boss’s former business creating uniforms for the Gestapo. “They did look f***ing fantastic, let’s face it,” Brand said of the Nazis, before performing an exaggerated march around the stage. Brand was ejected from the event following a confrontation with GQ editor Dylan Jones. He later writes a piece for the Guardian in which he defends his remarks.
October 2013: Newsnight
During an interview with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC topical series Newsnight, Brand urges people not to vote in the general election, and calls for a “revolution”. His comments are criticised by people and politicians from across the political aisle. Later that month, Brand guest-edits an issue of The New Statesman, which specifically focussed on the theme of revolution.
2014: YouTube beginnings and conspiracy remarks
In February, Brand launches his own YouTube series, titled The Trews: True News with Russell Brand. He creates videos prolifically, with more than 200 episodes being shared within the first year. Over the next nine years, his YouTube channel would go on to be criticised increasingly for platforming conspiracy theories.
Another appearance on Newsnight in October saw Brand sit down with interviewer Evan Davis, and field questions about 9/11 conspiracy theories. Asked whether he believed the terrorist attacks had been orchestrated by the US government, Brand responded: “We have to remain open-minded to that kind of possibility.”
A November 2014 poll by YouGov named brand as the celebrity with the most negative influence on political debate, with 46 per cent of respondents stating this.
2015: Further political involvement
Ahead of the 2015 general election, Brand had an interview with Labour leader Ed Milliband on an episode of The Trews. Three days before the election, he recanted his previous statements on voting in a video titled: “Emergency: VOTE To Start Revolution.” In an effort to “end the danger of the Conservative party”, Brand implored viewers to vote for Labour. He himself does not vote in the election, as he was not registered.
Over the next several years, he would continue to produce content for YouTube, without the Trews banner. He also releases a documentary, Brand: A Second Coming, in which he condemns his life of “vapid, vacuous celebrity” over clips of him and Perry walking through an airport. In the documentary, he also blames Perry’s apparent disinterest in his quest to “save the world” on their divorce.
2017: Second marriage
In 2017, Brand marries Laura Gallacher, a blogger and former restauranteur from Scotland, in Henley-on-Thames. The pair are said to have dated on and off since 2007, and have been in a relationship since 2015. They share two children together.
2021: Covid views
Over the course of the pandemic, Brand is criticised for anti-vax messaging on his YouTube series. Videos that were accused of Covid denialism and conspiracy theory mongering prompt a drastic spike in viewership for his channel.
In September 2021, he shares information guiding fans on how to circumvent Covid-19 safety measures. Controversial billionaire Elon Musk defended the comedian on Twitter, writing: “With so many mainstream media companies saying @rustyrockets is crazy/dangerous, I watched some of his videos. Ironically, he seemed more balanced & insightful than those condemning him! The groupthink among major media companies is more troubling. There should be more dissent.”
2022: Migration away from YouTube
One of Brand’s videos is removed from YouTube over the site’s policy on medical misinformation. He subsequently moved his channel to the platform Rumble, and launched a new series titled Stay Free with Russell Brand.
2023: Denies ‘serious criminal allegations’
Amid speculation surrounding a mysterious Channel 4 Dispatches investigation about an unnamed figure, set to air at 9pm on Saturday 16 September, Brand shares a video from his YouTube channel denying “serious criminal allegations” that he claims are linked to his “promiscuous past”.