Known for his unbridled standup routines, he hosted shows on radio and television, wrote memoirs charting his sex addiction, and battles with drugs and alcohol, and appeared in several Hollywood movies. He was briefly married to pop star Katy Perry between 2010 and 2012.
Brand was suspended by the BBC in 2008 for making lewd prank calls to Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs in which he boasted about having sex with Sachs’ granddaughter. The incident drew thousands of complaints to the publicly funded broadcaster.
The BBC, Channel 4 and the production company behind the Big Brother reality series – spinoffs of which were hosted by Brand – all say they have launched investigations into Brand’s behaviour and the way in which any subsequent complaints were handled.
Brand also has been dropped by talent agency Tavistock Wood, which said it had been “horribly misled” by him.
Victims and the media also have to take account of Britain’s claimant-friendly libel laws, which put the burden of proof on those making allegations.
In recent years, Brand has largely disappeared from mainstream media but has built up a large following online with videos mixing wellness and conspiracy theories. His YouTube channel, which has more than 6 million subscribers, includes COVID-19 conspiracies, vaccine misinformation and interviews with right-wing broadcasters, including Tucker Carlson and Joe Rogan.
He also continues to tour as a comedian, performing to hundreds of people in a London venue on Saturday evening as the Channel 4 documentary was broadcast.
Multiple comedians working in the UK took to social media after the Channel 4 broadcast saying that Brand’s behaviour was an “open secret”.
One comedian, Daniel Sloss, told Dispatches and the Times that women working the British comedy circuit had a WhatsApp group to share warnings about Brand.
Ellie Tomsett, a senior lecturer in media and communications at Birmingham City University who studies Britain’s standup circuit, said Brand was a product of a live comedy scene that was riddled with misogyny – and still is, despite progress made by women and others to diversify the comic landscape.
“When we’ve had a rise of popular feminism … we’ve also had a rise in popular misogyny epitomised by the likes of [social media influencer] Andrew Tate, but evident in all aspects of society, and definitely reflected on the UK comedy circuit,” Tomsett said
“More and more things are springing up to try and counter this, but the idea that it’s something that happened in the past and doesn’t happen anymore is, quite frankly, nonsense.”
Support is available from the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service at 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
Start the day with a summary of the day’s most important and interesting stories, analysis and insights. Sign up for our Morning Edition newsletter.