Irreverent British funnyman Russell Brand is known for his tabloid-ready personal life (as Katy Perry’s ex), no-holds-barred opinions and edgy stand-up style—all of which should suit him well as the host of the “comedy news” show Brand X, premiering Thursday, June 28th on FX. TIME talked to Brand a few days before the first taping about American politics, late-night news and Los Angeles spirituality.
TIME: Brand X was originally called Strangely Uplifting. Why the name change?
Russell Brand: I have a friend who didn’t name his twins for months—just called them Big One and Little One. I said Look, they’re going out into the world now. You’re going to have to give them names. The same was true for the show. When it was apparent it was real, we named it.
It’s completely your own show. You can do anything: stand-up, a monologue, yoga…
[Laughs] Yoga! Why didn’t I think of that! Actually, the format is that first I’m going to start with some standup about something that’s happened or something I’ve seen. The second part is I’m going to analyze it. For example: I could talk about my experience meeting the Dalai Lama. Then the second part would be analyzing what the Dalai Lama is, the role of the Dalai Lama, why is there no Western equivalent of the Dalai Lama. Third part—talk to the audience about spirituality and religion in contemporary life.
You won’t have any guests, but you’ll encourage the live audience to participate in the discussion. Should they be worried about debating with you?
As long as they don’t have outstanding arrest warrants, they should pass gracefully through the studio.
There are a lot of things you can’t say on American TV, you know.
They bleep stuff, don’t they?
Maybe if you had someone to rein you in…
I have a sidekick! Matt Stoller, a political analyst, Harvard graduate and former Congressional advisor. He doesn’t have the charisma of Paul Shaffer or the derring-do of an Andy Richter, but he’s incredibly well informed about American bureaucratic and political life.
Tell me more about the “comedy news” aspect.
This show is going be very spontaneous and exciting and a very truthful take on the news. It will be in defiance of the proscriptive narrative that we constantly see on TV and in print media. I’ve experienced it first hand—I’ll do something, then I’ll see how it’s reported and I’ll go, Wow, look at the relationship between what’s in the media and the actual truth. Whose agenda is being served by that portrayal even in the most pointless and trivial celebrity story. An agenda is always being served. I want to examine that.
What’s your take on current American politics?
I don’t really see any difference between Democrats and Republicans except one’s got a donkey and one’s got an elephant. I don’t think politics is representative of people. They are just administrators for corporate interests. English politics, same thing.
Enjoying any good summer reading before the new gig?
I’m reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s The Yoga of Jesus: Understanding the Hidden Teachings of the Gospels. There are strong corollaries between the teachings of Jesus and yogic philosophy. The message is the same, I reckon. Ultimately we’re trying to get to the same place.
Do you have any problem being spiritual in Los Angeles?
It’s a good place to live to be spiritual. Pretty magical light. It’s very peaceful. A lot of good nature. We’re all spiritual really and we just get distracted. It depends how much you cave to the distractions, you know? You could be spiritual in New York or Tibet or Bombay or Krakow. It’s just within you.
Your next movie is a Diablo Cody project.
She is fantastic. And I work with Julianne Hough again, who is very beautiful and a great actor. I worked with her in Rock of Ages. The new movie is more of a humming, nocturnal, adult Vegas-set comedy drama.
You made out with Alec Baldwin in Rock of Ages. How was it?
We didn’t genuinely kiss, though I certainly fell in love with him over the course of that production. I would be more than happy to consummate the relationship—perhaps on the day of his forthcoming wedding.