I didn’t want to like Russell Brand’s “Trew World Order” stand-up show. But I did.

Russell Brand 2015

Russell Brand 2015 (Photo: Dean Chalkley).

I was in two minds about going to see comedian and enfant terrible, Russell Brand. When I first discovered Brand a few years back, the “I’m-from-people-and-will-fight-for-the-people”, long-haired, hippie-bearded entertainer with the Essex accent put a fresh spin on the British tradition of dry, introspective comedy.

Over the past year or so, however, Brand’s managed to come across as a bit of a tosser really, making a right arse of himself in the media. The standout has to be an interview he did with Channel 4 news outside 10 Downing Street. Brand had joined a protest of residents from a housing estate that was due to be demolished. Against the background of massive rental inflation in London, Brand floundered when challenged that he, as a rich celebrity, is part of the problem, able to pay for unaffordable property. When he was accused of hypocrisy, and couldn’t defend himself, I concurred.

And yet last night, kind of against my better judgement, I was laughing. Brand is performing three shows in Johannesburg (at Monte Casino on 29 September, 1 October and 2 October) and one in Cape Town (3 October at Grand West Casino) as part of his Trew World Order tour. I was prepared to quizzically raise my brows, to roll my eyes, and write a piece about ego, weak humour, and how ignorant celebrities should just stay out of politics.

Brand walked on stage with his signature scruffy, Jesus-hair, skinny jeans, sneakers, and cut-off vest, arms displaying slightly faded tattoos. He began with the obligatory references to local events, quipping about the national crime stats that were released yesterday: “You’re not an audience. You’re survivors!”

The show is mostly about Brand’s failures over the past couple of years. He shows the audience a serious of video clips of cringeworthy interviews and inserts he’s done, mocking himself, using his past mistakes as fodder for jokes. It can’t be easy, because some of the incidents are really humiliating. Others are just ridiculous, like a video by a conspiracy theorist accusing Brand of being part of the Illuminati. In between the sketches, Brand throws in some slightly pretentious philosophical and political lines about individualism, freedom (according to him Nelson Mandela was “the world’s last secular saint”), capitalism, and the environment.

Brand is cocky, and in his own words, narcissistic (an inherent trait of the celebrity), but at the same time incredibly and fabulously self-deprecating, as only the English can be. He charmed the audience, especially those of the female persuasion. I hate to admit it but despite the obvious hip thrusts and cock jokes, there is something stupidly attractive about him.

By the way, do not miss the opening act by street poet, Mr Gee. His simple rhymes about current affairs are funny and beautiful.

Tour dates:

JOHANNESBURG – Teatro at Montecasino

Tuesday, 29 September 2015 at 8pm

Thursday, 01 October 2015 at 8pm

Friday, 02 October 2015 at 8pm

Ticket prices:

R 350, R450, R550, R650

CAPE TOWN – Grand Arena, GrandWest

Saturday, 03 October 2015 @ 8pm

Ticket prices:

Floor: R600

Rectractables: R475

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Come on, is cyber infidelity really cheating? In her new book, Dr Eve explains, yes.

book-cover-cyber-infidelityCyber Infidelity: The New Seduction could not have been published at a more apt time, just as hackers released details of millions of users of the AshleyMadison.com dating website, destroying relationships the world over. The book was written before the hack, but interestingly, is based on real data from the dating website itself. This book provides fascinating insight into the world of online dating, particularly for those who are already in committed relationships.

‘Cheating’ or infidelity is one of the biggest dangers to a relationship, and the Internet, along with social media, is providing a new and different platform to stray. But, because this world is so relatively ‘new’, there is a lot of vagueness about what constitutes cheating, and what is simply harmless online engagement. If you’re merely chatting to a stranger besides your partner, or flirting a just little, but not having cybersex or meeting in real life, have you betrayed your relationship? Does cybersex count as infidelity? If so, what’s the difference between cyber infidelity and ‘real’ or face-to-face cheating?

Dr Marlene Wasserman, better known to South Africans as Dr Eve, was outraged when AshleyMadison.com launched in South Africa a few years ago. The dating site enables affairs and infidelity, and Wasserman felt it would encourage the spread of STIs. But when many of her patients started confessing to using the site, she decided it’s an area worth studying. Ashley Madison founder, Noel Biderman, agreed to give Wasserman unlimited access to the site’s database in order to do research. Posing as both a man and woman on the site, Wasserman began gathering data about who was using it, their reasons, and what men and women considered cheating, as opposed to ‘innocent’ online engagement. The question she’s tried to answer: why would people risk “home and hearth, heart and genitals for the hookup, FWB [friends with benefits] and NSA [no strings attached]?”

Infidelity, Wasserman explains, is about secrecy. This applies to old-fashioned, face-to-face infidelity and online infidelity. Interestingly, Dr Eve found that men and women’s attitudes about what constitutes being unfaithful largely overlapped. Most of those surveyed agreed that cyber flirting and cybersex constituted cheating.

But why go online instead of meeting someone face-to-face and having an exchange of bodily fluids? That’s because online is the new seduction. There is real time interaction with a real person. And “from the moment you log in, you become a different person. Your imagination goes wild. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like and what your financial or marital status is. In return, as you become your own fantastical hero or heroine, so does your online partner… [Online relationships are] easy, immediate, interactive, and egalitarian, which means that your age, appearance, gender, race, and religion are scarcely relevant online.”

The purpose of the book is not only to provide interesting facts and figures about cyber infidelity, but to present interesting case studies from Dr Eve’s patients, as well as Ashley Madison users. It also acts as a kind of work book for readers to examine their own online behaviour and relationships. It provides guidelines on how to navigate online conduct when you have a partner but also encourages partners to draw up their own rules governing such behaviour; to decide what is acceptable and not acceptable for them.

Listen to the podcast of my interview with Dr Eve below.

Rating: 3½ out of 5

Cyber Infidelity: The New Seduction is published by Human & Rousseau.

“Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” barely flickers.

Admittedly, the second instalment in the Maze Runner-trilogy has made some serious money at the box office. But, it’s truth universally acknowledged that high ticket sales don’t equate a good film. And The Scorch Trials is bad. Really bad.

The first film told the story of a group of teens who’ve lost their memories, stuck in the middle of a maze while they try to devise ways to escape. When they do, at the end of that film, they discover they were involved in a big experiment by the aptly named WCKD (pronounced “wicked”), but they’re not really given a reason for this.

The Scorch Trials begins after the group, led by Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), have been rescued. But soon they discover their “saviours” are actually part of WCKD. They escape (again), this time into a world that is basically an empty, apocalyptic desert dotted by the skeletons of derelict buildings and bridges. Amid rumours of a kind of ‘oasis’ run by rebel leaders, the Right Hand, the kids set off for the mountains.

They’re not alone in the desert though. They have to dodge a number of virus-infected Cranks, i.e. zombies. It was here I wanted to hit my head against a wall at the mindless, stereotypical, obvious plot turn: bleeding, corpse-like, screeching zombies. Come. On. There’s also a gang of military-style villains who capture the kids and want to sell them back to WCKD, and a bit of romantic tension between Thomas and his female lead, Teresa (Kaya Scodelario).

The first Maze Runner film at least had a mildly original concept and an air of mystery. There’s not an awful lot to say about The Scorch Trials. Director Wes Ball has simply pumped up the action and tried to add a few lame, clichéd plots ‘twists’. Yawn. Yawn. Yawn. The thought of having to sit through a third film is as welcome as the zombie apocalypse itself. Actually, the latter sounds like fun compared to this movie.

Director: Wes Ball

Cast: Dylan O’Brien, Kaya Scodelario

Rating: 2 out of 5

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials releases in SA on 24 September 2015.