Americans lap up Russell Brand in LA
Dishevelled as ever, Russell Brand emerged blinking into the limelight of the Largo theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, and attempted to introduce himself to a nation where the word "Sachs" still makes people conjure up images of a department store.
He then delivered a jaunty performance that rambled, in no particular order, through the subjects of masturbation, bestiality, paedophilia, and his self-professed desire to enjoy sexual relations with almost every healthy woman in the 280-seat auditorium.
The mostly-American crowd seemed blissfully unaware of the all-consuming scandal that saw the hairy comedian dominate Britain's current affairs agenda last week, when he resigned from his £200,000-a-year job at BBC Radio 2 after prank-calling a 78-year-old actor to inform him he had slept with his granddaughter.
And, give or take a few quiet moments, they lapped it up.
Brand's 75-minute routine only twice touched on the extraordinary events that last week saw him resign from the BBC. As he strode on stage in his trademark skintight trousers, he responded to a handful of wolf-whistles by announcing: "This ain't erotica! This ain't burlesque... [which is] an activity that I have come to question of late?"
It was a veiled reference to the occupation of his former lover Georgina Baillie, the exotic dancing granddaughter of the Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs.
Later, when a member of the audience asked for his thoughts on the affair, Brand refused to be drawn: "I won't be talking about that for quite a while, thank you!"
It felt like a strange omission from an uproarious routine that dwelled on Brand's volatile relationship with his own fame, which he now hopes to pursue in the USA following his Hollywood debut in the summer in the film Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
The show was billed as a "warm-up" to help refine material for a one-hour special to be broadcast on America's Comedy Central channel later this year, effectively launching Brand as a bona-fide mainstream US star.
Brand's ego certainly didn't seem to have taken a knock in recent days. He discussed his self absorbtion ("of course I'm self obsessed? I have to live in me") and his habit of Googling his own name. When he broke his stool early in the performance, and bent down to fix it, he compared himself to another carpenter: Jesus.
The night's centrepiece was a segment discussing Brand's "last national scandal but one" – his appearance hosting MTV's Video Music Awards in Los Angeles in September, when he described George Bush as a "retard" and criticised the Jonas Brothers pop group for wearing chastity rings.
Being introduced to Britney Spears at the event had been tricky, he recalled. "It's very hard to meet someone when you have already seen their vagina," he said of the infamous web image. "You feel like Alexander the Great, when there were no kingdoms left to conquer."
Brand then read out a selection of the death threats he had been emailed after the MTV appearance, together with a feature article from the Daily Mail describing his colourful lifestyle.
"There's a kind of subtlety to that newspaper's message," he said. "You have to admire it in a way? in the way that one might admire? naked evil."
Written down, Brand's humour can seem misplaced or inappropriate. But in the Largo, a grungy late-night comedy venue opposite a strip club on Hollywood's La Cienega Boulevard, it fit.
Although the audience was enthusiastically supportive throughout, Brand didn't perform an encore, and failed to mingle with the crowd afterwards, as he has done at other small-scale Los Angeles performances.
Instead, as for much of the past fortnight, he ended the night attempting to dodge the waiting paparazzi by fleeing from a back door.