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6 Human Dynamics Secrets To Learn From Russell Brand’s Controversial Interview

There are many things I should be doing right now, but I feel compelled to write some integral learning points from an interview last week involving Russell Brand and news anchors on the MSNBC show ‘Morning Joe’.

As you may have noticed, I’m adrenalised by all things human-dynamics, and nowhere are they more at play than in live interviews where anything can happen.

In this interview where Russell is looking to promote his upcoming US tour, we see Mika Brzezinski and panelist Brian Schactman continuously (consciously or unconsciously) attempt to belittle, trivialize and distract Brand with inane comments about his accent, clothes and general demeanour.

As a fellow Brit who does a fair number of interviews on TV here in the US, this is a subject that’s close to home as I’m often having to navigate my way through the etiquette of these kinds of shows, while trying to maintain the standards I’ve come to expect in life.

In this interview, the dynamic certainly wasn’t inline with what Russell has come to expect, and what ensues is a series of social blunders on behalf of the MSNBC staff which result in themselves and Russell clashing heads throughout the interview.

I have a couple of quick things I want to point out to you about this interview, which are best read once you’ve watched the clip.

I’ve distilled my points into six general principles that you can take to the social interactions in your life.

This situation is simply a microcosm for what we go through in our social lives, and the lessons to be learnt here are just as appropriate for use in our love life encounters…

1. Always be prepared to take things in the direction YOU want them to go in

Although Russell is there ‘to be interviewed’, he’s very much in control of the direction of the conversation.

When he sees it’s not going in the direction he wants, he simply changes the subject to one that suits him. The British lady in the interview attempts to put him on the spot by saying, “Can’t we get thirty seconds (of your routine)…now?”.

This is the equivalent of someone finding out you can sing and saying, “Well sing then…”. He doesn’t bother to entertain the notion, as this would immediately put him into ‘dancing monkey mode’.

Another great moment comes when panelist Brian is beginning a new question, and Russell unapologetically turns around and diverts everyone’s attention to the staff in the background on their computers.

He derails Brian’s train of thought and immediately brings the three anchors (and the viewing audience) into his world. Even though he is one against three, he is controlling the frame.

2. Answer the question YOU wanted to be asked

Clearly the motive for Russell’s appearance on the morning show is to promote his tour.

The hosts don’t make it easy for him as they ask superficial questions and create a very confused and pointless interview.

Russell takes back power by saying what he came on to say regardless: “Let me help you. I’m here to promote a tour called Messiah Complex… I want the people of America to come and see me do stand up. Go to RussellBrand.tv to purchase tickets to see me.”

It’s refreshing to see someone take control in this way, and it’s something we can all take on board in our every day conversations.

Always remember that when you have great things to say, you don’t need permission from somebody to say them, and you certainly don’t have to wait to be asked the right question before you can get to the answer.

3. Give no energy to attempts to belittle or patronize you

Brian says to Russell, “I’m going to ask a serious question”, to which Mika says, “Try, it’s never going to work”.

This type of belittling is what people are compelled to do when feeling insecure about a situation.

People get into a kind of mob mentality where their purpose is to bring the other person down. It’s clear by this point that the hosts are threatened by the unexpected intelligence of Brand, and these types of jabs are the result.

Instead of responding to the bait, Russell instead answers the question thoughtfully and shows how misguided their stereotyping of him is.

4. Don’t be afraid to break rapport when people aren’t meeting your standards

The need to maintain rapport constantly to the detriment of our own self-respect is one of the greatest barriers to our social prowess.

In the interview the anchors keep referring to Russell in the third person as if he’s not there. Mika says, “I think it’s just experiencing HIM, it’s taking it all in.”

Between the two women on the show, they manage to do this several times to which his replies are:

“You are talking about me as if I’m not here, and I’m an extra terrestrial.”
“You shouldn’t say ‘he’ when a person is present, you should refer to the person by their name.”
“Stop saying ‘he’. I’m present… ‘Russell’. What’s wrong with your manners?”

I love seeing someone maintain the standard they have from others, especially in a public forum where the temptation is to stay in rapport and avoid confrontation.

It’s interesting to note that when people are called out like this, very often things don’t result in confrontation, but rather just discomfort on their behalf.

When Russell says these things, rather than see confrontation, what we see are shallow attempts to get back in his favour. In short, the anchors start working to win HIM over.

Had he allowed these sub-standards to continue, he would never have gotten their respect in the same way.

In doing so they realized he had teeth (albeit that he was able to show them in an elegant and classy manner).

5. When in doubt, put the attention back on the other person

One of the most evident moments where the power shifts is when Russell starts putting the attention on Mika personally:

“You’ve become nervous… Why are you nervous?” “What seems to be the trouble?”

This immediately puts her on the back foot and takes her attention away from him and back onto herself.

When looking to build attraction, this can be done by complimenting someone, making a playful analysis of something they are doing, or asking a question about an aspect of someone’s behaviour that intrigues you.

When Russell says “Don’t be nervous”, he’s actually elevating his status to that of the leader; the person who is nurturing the anchor out of her own state of insecurity.

By this point in the interview, the positions of power are palpable.

6. Don’t be offended by people’s initial interpretation of you

Clearly these people didn’t expect Russell to be as sharp as he is.

If they’d paid more attention to his personality instead of his exterior they might have come better prepared.

We are all used to being judged wrongly in some way, whether it’s by the way we look, the accent we have, the place we are from, or the gender we belong to.

I would argue that as frustrating as people’s ignorant perceptions can be, we should take a minute to celebrate this, as it’s the thing that will allow us to fly completely under people’s radar and surprise them.

When you’re a 7-foot tall grizzly bear, everyone sees you coming. But a cute little dart frog sneaks in unnoticed, and unless someone told you it has enough poison to kill between 10-20 people in one sitting, you’d still be more afraid of the bear.

If those around you want to underestimate you, let them.


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106 Replies to “6 Human Dynamics Secrets To Learn From Russell Brand’s Controversial Interview”

  • Wow Matt, thanks for this, such an interesting dissection of this very intense interview. I know this is meant as dating advice, but as a major donor fundraiser, I’m actually going to be cheeky and steal this for my work. Thanks so much, you are excellent.

    Amy x

    PS I still giggle at your ‘behind the scenes’ video :)

  • It was fantastic how Russell turned this interview into something entertaining, memorable and despite them put out his message that he is intelligent and his show is worth seeing.
    Matthew you took the interview and turned it into a amazing tool for building skills in public speaking and self confidence.

  • honestely i’ve never watched Russell Brand in any knid of show but really he is so smart and manipulated them all the time, ilike that. all respect to Russell Brand he’s smart :D

  • “Im just taking it all in” “The Brand experience”
    “Thank you for your casual objectification” haha.
    Could these anchors be more rude? Treating him like a circus act. A monkey in the room to be talked about and a foreigners whos accent you cant really understand and therefore everything he says becoms invalid just cause it’s sounds funny. What disgusting behaviour. Cudos to Russel Brand for handling it so well, totally pointing holes in their little superficial bubbles.

  • Confirmation for me that I’m doing well by avoiding tv news ;)

    The anchors were rude to Russell, for sure. Especially with the opening comment. Sometimes it almost seemed like they were trying to lighten up/be funny, but couldn’t quite pull it off without being demeaning.

    I don’t think Russell is totally in the clear either though. The last comment from him, about being a shaft grasper, etc. was uncalled for, in my opinion. (I also didn’t particularly like the “I have instincts” interaction). I realize they were commenting on his clothes, etc. at points, but I still don’t think he needed to go there.

  • well russell is definitely extremely intelligent, and much more so than those 3 anchors… but he can also be extremely manipulative in a negative way (ive seen his lives shows in LA) and given his history with women, drugs, alcohol, and sex addiction… there’s definitely a certain machiavellian evil streak running through him.
    he wouldn’t know what to do if all the attention wasn’t on him ;)

    that being said… TV anchors are almost always morons. almost schocking really. which is why i never watch shows like this in general.

    however, matthew’s extrapolation and analysis of the interview is the MOST brilliant thing about this whole thing :)

    cheers, matt! you are THE BEST

  • Mika Brzezinksi is well known as being unwatchable because of her snooty attitude and ill-informed (dare I say deceitful) rhetoric. That being said, I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Brand either, and there’s a reason he went to promote his comedy tour on a very “progressive” television network. I’m frankly surprised that anybody watched the show in the first place to be able to record this “interview”.

    Thanks for the insight on this. I found it very useful. Answer the question you want to ask. That’s just genius.

  • Find it bizarre that he forbids them to use a pronoun instead of his name. Seriously?? I’m British New Zealander and I’ve never heard of that as being bad manners. Why does he think that? IS it cultural? Do you hold the same standard Matthew? I never heard of it is all. And using the third person to talk about another participant in the conversation is quite a common occurrence when there are more than two of you. And using someone’s name every time rather than a pronoun is repetitive and weird. I wonder what my linguistics professor would say…

    I kind of think he was just a bit ticked off by that point and it was another thing for him to use to take control, even though he shouldn’t have taken something like that so seriously. In my opinion.

    Other than that I think it’s really great how he refused to let them misrepresent him to America.

    Great tips top. I especially like the one about putting the person’s attention back on their self by complimenting them etc. =)

    Keep it up! Love what you do!

    1. I think it is not just the use of ‘he’, but the fact that they WERE talking about him as if he was not there.

    2. I’m English and can assure you that it is considered very bad manners – rude and offensive. As soon as I heard it I thought so before Brand spoke up about it.

  • Ezra Miller is another celebrity that many are “surprised by” -to find to have such sharp intelligence and depth

  • Love the video, because he just put some that ancors on the right place….its not bad manners saying he…but ignoring and making fun of him…when he want to promote his work…its rude!so, i like the way he turns things around! :) great video!

  • You are brilliant Matthew Hussey.

    Wish I knew more English vocabulary (other than seem-too-commonly used Brilliant!)

    We all meant to live truly like we are the centre of the Universe – thank you for being so wonderful!

  • Im French Canadian and it also insults me when someone refers to me in the third person when im there. I have a name! Way to go Russell! And Matthew for your analysis!

  • As a journalist/TV show host and a Brit living in Canada, I am not sure which aspect offends me most in the interview. The anchor’s conduct, or their inability to not underestimate their guest. These are huge “no nos”.

    To me, the last line of your article is what counts and the video just supports that idea. In my experience, I have learned to never underestimate anyone I interview or have any expectations of what they are like. You can have the most powerful interviews with someone promoting an indie film, a self-published book or even when you chat with someone on the street. You can also interview notably prolific actors, thinkers, musicians and discover they can be quite uninteractive in interviews.

    I look quite young for my age and used to be offended when people would underestimate me but now I consider it a huge gift. When someone underestimates you, you automatically gain the power in that interaction. Generally speaking, it does surprise me that women underestimate me more then men and I wonder what the reasoning behind that might be.

    I loved knowing what was coming in this interview. As soon as the interview started and the one journalist was diminishing Russell, I thought “this is gonna be good. Never underestimate a Brit!” ;)

  • What an amasing interview,
    I love how Russell gained control of the situation, the interviewers used calling Russell he as a weapon to show that im making it obvious your an outsider your not part of the group dinamic, stay in your place we are in control as you are he over there!. Russel picked up on that by saying its like you consider me an alien!
    Very clever stuff, just amased at how russell turned the tables on the women in blue.
    Your opening up a whole new world to me Mr Hussey, Thankyou for helping me and many people like me break out of our self made prisons! Finally someone who gives you the key and not someone who dangles it in front of you!
    Becoming a big fan thankyou x

  • Oh my!!! How utterly rude were the anchor guys when talking to Russell Brand. I can’t say lv ever been a fan of his but l had to admire him for standing his ground when faced with such obvious bating – I loved it when he said ‘is this your job, is this what you do’. Their arrogance is shameful.

  • Matt! Not sure what the chances of you actually replying to this are but I’ll take a shot! I have a phone interview on Sunday for a position I’m really really dying to get! It’s a phones interview because it’s in another city which makes it a little more challenging because they’ll solely go on what I say and how I sound! Any good pointers? I loved this by the way but how could I apply it to my job interview? I obviously don’t want to sound desperate! I know it’s not dating advice I’m asking for but this is equally important to me! I would really appreciate your advice!!! Love,

  • Thanks for this excellent distillation on the genius of Russell Brand – it really is time everyone stops being surprised by how intelligent, aware and articulate he is. Shocked that those news anchors had absolutely no idea how to respond to his comments on Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning… or even a glimmer of knowledge on these topics – and went back to blatantly objectifying him with comments on his appearance. Their lack of courtesy and total ignorance of even basic information about current affairs was a glaring juxtaposition with his informed gentlemanly approach, and I LOVE how he called them on being superficial and unable to engage with what he was actually saying. Excellent articulation of how to deal with people trying to cut you down. Brilliant.

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