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Comedy night: reputable Brand, fish out of water

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Comedy night: reputable Brand, fish out of water

This week's focus turns to funny business, something I wouldn't call Jeff Dunham's routines. I don't find anything particularly humorous about puppets--unless they're vomiting or copulating. (Thank you, Team America.) I want more than props from comedians. This means no Dunham, no Carrot Top and no Gallagher among my favorites. Instead, give me insight and relevance. Give me Seinfeld, Carlin and Cosby. I need to hear something funny I can relate to.

Both of the performers I watched this week understood my needs, but only one of them managed to make me laugh with regularity. I'd been told that British comedian Russell Brand was a laugh riot, so I set his DVD aside, leaving what appeared to be a Howie Mandel look-alike--Filipino-American Jo Koy--as the set opener.

Though his trademarked breakdancing entourage and bald head make Koy seem like he's all street, he admits to being afraid of fighting (defensively sliding keys between each of his fingers when in scary situations) and how he can't beat his elderly mother on the Wii. He mentions how his wife and 5-year-old son--to whom the title of his special Don't Make Him Angry refers--keep life interesting, as his wife employs a magical "shush," and his son colors his own private parts with a green Sharpie pen. Koy does a nice job of seeming edgy while admitting he's wholeheartedly a family man. His best bit focused on watching Michael Phelps swim in the Olympics while Koy sat at home wearing only goggles. (His Speedo didn't come in on time.) Really, though, Koy seems more fit to entertain a small party than millions of cable network viewers.

When Russell Brand: In New York City whirred in the DVD player, my spirit was quickly rejuvenated and my jaw was soon in pain.

If you don't know Brand, he played existential rocker Aldous Snow in the 2008 comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and he hosted MTV's Video Music Awards last year. In Britain, he's something of a god, I've been assured, which explains his slinky outfit and Edward Scissorhands bouffant. "Without fame, this haircut just looks like mental illness," he offers.

In this special, Brand spends most of his time catching up non-followers on his American entertainment forays. In a sort of "get-to-know Russell" hour, Brand's persona ranges from Mick Jagger to Monty Python to Masterpiece Theater. His vocabulary is extensive. He counters rumors of his homosexuality by auditioning women two-at-a-time to be his soul mate, and he marvels at "that retarded cowboy fella" who recently spent two terms in the Oval Office. Brand is foul, but he's flamboyant, which makes him seem a lot less perverse.

Whatever Brand's shtick evolves into, at present, his wit is enough to make an audience crack up at even at the most innocuous of topics. Just be sure that if he starts to talk about "seagulling," get preteen boys--and your mother--out of earshot.