Russell Brand is, just as he likes it, all over the headlines.
This week's comedy news
Last week, he announced a new tour – oh so ironically called Messiah Complex – in which he will dissect "various … religious figures and the reality of their lives". Brand plans to perform this "controversial" show, reports the Independent, in mosques and synagogues in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Express reports that Brand, whose US show Brand X was recently cancelled, is now developing a Curb Your Enthusiasm-style "live action show … loosely based on his own life". Back on home turf, he's also been scheduled to appear on BBC1's Question Time on 20 June, alongside Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.
A pretty extraordinary interview this week on BBC Radio 5 Live with the erstwhile most popular man on British TV, Michael Barrymore. He was talking to the broadcaster Stephen Nolan about his career and about the death of Stuart Lubbock at a party at Barrymore's house in 2001. Barrymore's career has never recovered from the media furore surrounding Lubbock's death, and persistent unsubstantiated rumours of his own involvement. In the interview, the entertainer admits that he was wrong to leave the scene of the incident on the night in question. "It's one of the worst things I could have done. The way it's been reported over the years, it can't look right, can it? But that doesn't make me guilty of something that never happened in the first place." He also speaks candidly about dealing with the aftermath, which he claims drove him to consider suicide, and about the battles he is currently fighting with the press to clear his name. Of which he says, "I've got nothing to lose, because it's all gone anyway." The interview ends of a note of bittersweet optimism, with Barrymore vowing one day to bag a best supporting actor Oscar – or to die trying.
Ricky Gervais is in the news, telling the website Gold Derby that he'd be "incredibly flattered" to be invited to host the Oscars, and that it would be "a thrill and an honour" to do so. At another awards ceremony, "king of comedy" Mel Brooks accepted a lifetime achievement gong from the American Film Institute – and Sarah Silverman cracked jokes at the "roast". Tim Minchin is to write the songs for a new DreamWorks animated movie, Larrikins, set in the Australian outback, and US comic Margaret Cho is launching her own show, In Transition, on YouTube, billed as a dark comedy about a trio of women newly released from prison.
We've also seen comedy veteran Barry Cryer claiming this week that there's a "witchhunt" against celebrities in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations. Tenacious D have confirmed details of the musical comedy event Festival Supreme, to be staged this October. The Mighty Boosh, Eric Idle and Sarah Silverman all feature. Finally, here's a bang-on article by Helen Lewis at the New Statesman responding to last week's US TV encounter between comic Jim Norton and feminist blogger Lindy West on the unstoppable subject of rape jokes in comedy ...
Best of the Guardian's comedy coverage
• For all of you who never knew that the Grumbleweeds followed the Beatles onstage in Hamburg, an obituary of their main man, Graham Walker.
• "It is stupidly easy to become a stand-up comedian. You just do it" – Viv Groskop tries her hand at standup.
• A "massive event … bang in the middle of a creative, freewheeling city" – Paul Macinnes visits the Montreal comedy festival.
• Mark Thomas leads a flashmob in protest at London's flagship Apple store. Well done, that man!
• Guardian readers were invited to submit videos of their own standup. We selected the best, and here they are.
Controversy of the week
The Australian YouTube comedy group The Janoskians have won few friends this week with an online video that sees them "simulating sex acts in front of a child". The video, according to a suitably shocked Daily Mail, "features members of the group masturbating in public and shows one member telling a six-week-old child's mother that her 'baby is sexy'". It attracted the fury of none other than Little Britain star Matt Lucas, who tweeted to the effect that the comedy boyband's prank was "repulsive [and] witless". Lucas wrote in an online statement: "'The social purpose of comedy, as well as being entertainment, is to push the envelope and test boundaries. When an established act like me publicly criticises a new act, it can look like sour grapes. But I don't care. I think someone needs to say something … Am I too old to 'get it'? Maybe I am. If so, I'm glad … The @janoskians may think they're brave and edgy. They're not. They're just school bullies."
The band were initially unrepentant: "Don't give a fuck if you hate it or like it," ran their charming Twitter riposte. But when their label Sony Music expressed its displeasure, this devil-may-care attitude softened somewhat. "We did not intend to offend anyone with the public wanking video," ran their statement. "We apologise to those we offended." A rap on the knuckles from headmaster seems to have brought them back into line.
Those who enjoyed his 2011 standup show Hello Ladies will recognise the shtick in this trailer for Stephen Merchant's new HBO sitcom of the same name. The trailer was screened for the first time during the season three finale of Game of Thrones at the weekend; check it out here. The series premieres in September.
Best of our readers' comments
In last week's Laughing stock, we reported on comedian Al Murray claiming the moral high ground on the basis that he never pushes political opinions in his comedy. Pagey quoted him back at himself, in a "check your privilege" fashion:
"'I have never run my colours up any particular mast and I wouldn't'" – says the privately educated, Oxford graduate x3 great grandson of William Makepiece Thackeray …"
Plenty of chat after Oliver Burkeman's interview with the new Daily Show host, John Oliver, which encouraged Daily Show lovers and haters to lock horns. Mark Thomason told us that he:
"… [enjoys] the Daily Show. Yes, there are better comics [than Jon Stewart]. Yes, there are some things he does not question as he should. However, to understand the value of the show, one must understand the awful alternatives. Stewart says things first that others dare not say on television. He says them with ridicule, which is a very powerful political weapon – politicians and other people trying to be serious people cannot survive being laughed at. He does it with enormous impact …
"The weaknesses in his delivery and in the topics not explored are just a measure of how truly awful are the alternatives. Political comedy has a long history in America, and has had great power. This show is not the first, and probably not the best ever. But it is the best we have had in quite some time, and it was the first we had in quite some time."
"The Daily Show is a terrible excuse for a topical news programme. Utterly devoid of wit, replacing that required virtue with banal repetitions and entirely predictable humour. It's so painful to watch Stewart smug his way through his monologues with huge pauses for no reason. It's like political satire for 12-year-olds. Maybe Oliver will make a better fist of it, but assuming the writing is staying the same, I'm not holding out much hope."
"As of now, there are more Brummie accents on American television than in the whole of British broadcasting."
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