Brand promises spiritual experience
For someone who makes people laugh, it's odd to learn British comedian Russell Brand is a fan of a man whose song lyrics are generally considered more likely to leave you crying.
Brand even has a cat named Morrissey.
"He's exciting and electrifying, just like the real Morrissey," says Brand, who's touring here from next month.
"Morrissey is my friend and I'm in communication with him and trying to organise so that at some point I can collide with him."
That's most likely to take place in Wellington in December, where Morrissey, who fronted English band The Smiths in the 1980s before a successful solo career, plays on December 14, the day after Brand performs in the same city.
Morrissey, whose second album with The Smiths was called Meat is Murder, also gets the credit for Brand becoming a vegetarian.
"I thought I didn't need the bad karma. It was an easy thing to give up on the old animals," he says.
Brand's I Am A Walrus tour of New Zealand, which opens in Hamilton on November 26, is the comedian's first visit to New Zealand.
Now living in Los Angeles, Brand, 37, is one of the few British comedians to have gained a high profile in the United States in the past decade and heads here after filming the Eric Idle musical What About Dick? with fellow comedians Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard.
Brand says Connolly and Izzard were among his favourite comedians when he was growing up in Grays, Essex.
To be a good comedian, he says, is hard work. "It's really important to be truthful, really important to be spontaneous - to be in the moment - and not be afraid of admitting things that make you look stupid."
Despite an increasingly successful career, which also includes radio shows, acting, writing and singing alongside his standup comedy, Brand says he was never one of those kids who was good at everything.
"I was rubbish at school. I was in a lot of trouble at school all the time. I had to leave four or five different schools with different problems."
Sport, he says, is not his forte.
"I was rubbish at football, which was the only thing that mattered where I grew up.
"The only things I'm good at are comedy and one other thing that it's crude to talk about."
He's heavily into spirituality, which, he says, will be part of his performance in New Zealand.
"More than any show I've done before, I'm very proud of its content in terms of the connection between sexual freedom and spiritual revolution," he says. "People inhibit our sexuality, make us nervous about our sexuality, because it's one of the most powerful, primal energies with which we have the power to change our lives."
It might not sound that funny, but Brand responds: "I'm not at work now - you can get my comedy when I'm on the stage.
"But it's going to be a really brilliant show. I'm working really hard on it.
"It's a very smart, sexy, wild, loopy, chaotic show that covers a lot of topics - celebrities, the Olympics. Obviously, there's a lot of sex, a lot of mayhem."
Brand's other sporting love is West Ham United, the football club his father Ron first took him to see play at Upton Park when he was five.
He's not aware the club's defender Winston Reid is a Kiwi. "Oh wow, he's from New Zealand is he? Good player."
And while he's only the second Kiwi, after Ryan Nelsen, to really make a name in the English premier league, "that's quite a triumph in itself", he says.
Brand is looking forward to visiting. "New Zealand's got a good reputation worldwide. It's regarded as a tranquil, peaceful place.
"Most people like The Lord of the Rings and Flight of the Conchords and it's regarded as a positive place.
"Plus I love Flight of the Conchords. I think they're fantastic. And I know there are things like underground caves with glow worms and all that."
* Russell Brand's I Am A Walrus tour opens in Hamilton on November 26. He performs at Auckland's Vector Arena on November 28 and Wellington's TSB Arena on December 13.