In 2022, comedian Katherine Ryan appeared in an interview with Louis Theroux in which she discussed her experience of calling out a male co-star on set over allegations of sexual abuse. She described this colleague as a “perpetrator of sexual abuse” yet did not go into details. According to Ryan, even broaching the topic was a “litigious minefield”. It is now believed that the co-star that Katherine Ryan was referring to was comedian Russell Brand.
According to reports from Deadline, Ryan called Russell Brand a “sexual predator” on multiple occasions when on the set of Comedy Central’s Roast Battle in 2018. Even though Katherine Ryan’s comments were not aired, Brand decided to quit the show after six episodes. For years, Russell Brand has skilfully kept these allegations at bay through a powerful legal team. It is only now that enough evidence has been gathered that these shocking allegations can be made public.
For over a year, Channel 4’s Dispatches, The Times and Sunday Times collectively investigated Russell Brand’s behaviour and allegations made against him by multiple women. More specifically, the comedian is accused of rape, sexual assault, and controlling and emotionally abusive behaviour. Last month, these allegations (that Brand vehemently denies) were meticulously investigated and presented to the public in the documentary Russell Brand: In Plain Sight.
The documentary included harrowing accounts told by his alleged victims and colleagues who were witnesses to his blatant abuse of power throughout his career. There is a focus on the period of Brand’s career when he was a host on popular British TV programmes, such as Big Brother’s EFourum. To illustrate the way in which the production company Endemol was complicit in Brand’s sexually exploitative behaviour, Channel 4’s documentary uses accounts from staff who worked on Big Brother at the time.
There are various reports of Brand asking runners to get the details of audience members that he found attractive; something that one member of the production team describes as taking “lambs into slaughter”. According to another member of the production team, there was an “atmosphere of women being dispensable” created on set. Shockingly, one junior runner on Big Brother’s EFourum felt that she was “groomed for sex” and that the production company played a role in enabling the comic’s misuse of power.
Yet, one of the most troubling aspects of the documentary is the way in which Brand was rewarded for his abhorrent behaviour on set. Despite claims that complaints over Russell Brand’s inappropriate behaviour while working on Big Brother reached senior management, in no way did these allegations have an impact on the trajectory of the comedian’s highly successful career. By 2012, Brand had made a name for himself in Hollywood.
It was in 2012 that one of the allegations of rape reportedly took place. The victim met Brand at an afterparty for his TV show Brand X and, after seeing each other for a short while, the incident unfolded in Brand’s LA home in July of 2012. Consequently, she was forced to visit a rape treatment centre and administered emergency contraception. The victim decided not to report the incident due to Brand’s intimidating celebrity status.
The fact that this incident took place at the height of Brand’s career demonstrates that his obscene behaviour was facilitated by the industry. At every stage of his career, complaints were made by his colleagues about his unacceptable behaviour. No serious action was ever taken. Allegedly, senior managers working on Big Brother took a stance of “boys will be boys”. Ultimately, Brand’s risqué humour as a self-proclaimed “sex addict” attracted large audiences and revenue and, therefore, his wildly inappropriate behaviour was consistently overlooked.
Brand is currently under investigation by the police unit set up following the Jimmy Savile scandal, which only highlights the depressing parallels between these two men. Like Savile, Brand built a successful career for himself all the while deceptively and flagrantly abusing his position of power. Much to the detriment of his colleagues and the women around him, Russell Brand was never held accountable for his actions. Instead, this malignant force of a man was rewarded with Hollywood success and appearances on prime-time British television.
Comedian Daniel Sloss reveals in the documentary that female comedians use group chats to warn each other about potentially dangerous figures within the industry (one of those figures being Russell Brand). This indicates that there could be more abusers similarly protected by wealth and influence. Fundamental change is required to disrupt these patterns of abuse. According to BBC Director-General Tim Davie, “deep imbalances of power” need to be addressed within the television industry. At the same time, the law is currently being weaponised to silence victims of abuse; these individuals need to be protected for real change to take place, not threatened with costly lawsuits.