EXCLUSIVE: Russell Brand’s last major television job in the UK ended with him being dropped after he was repeatedly accused of being a “sexual predator” during the recording of the show.
Brand was booked as a judge on Comedy Central’s Roast Battle in 2018, but only lasted a single season on the series after he himself was roasted on-camera over allegations he had sexually assaulted women. He strongly denies criminal wrongdoing.
Three sources close to the Fulwell 73 production said Roast Battle judge Katherine Ryan turned the heat on Brand a number of times during filming. Her allegations did not make the final edit.
The confrontations reveal how speculation about Brand was circulating in the comedy and TV worlds, but he continued to be employed on primetime series. The show appears to be something of a turning point, however, given Brand virtually vanished from UK television screens after 2018, except for an appearance on The Great Celebrity Bake Off.
Deadline can reveal details of Brand’s spell on Roast Battle for the first time after The Times, Sunday Times, and Channel 4 reported allegations that the comedian sexually assaulted four women at the height of his fame. Brand vehemently denies the claims and has said all of his relationships were consensual.
Ryan has previously spoken about her experience on Roast Battle, but has not named Brand or the show she was working on. In an appearance on BBC series Louis Theroux Interviews... last year, Ryan revealed that she confronted her unnamed co-star: “I – in front of loads of people, in the format of the show – said to this person’s face that they are a predator.”
Deadline has confirmed with multiple sources that she was referring to Brand and Roast Battle. Ryan told Theroux that she did not name her colleague because it was a “litigious minefield” and she had not personally been assaulted by Brand.
One person familiar with the matter said Brand was “absolutely furious” at being targeted by Ryan. This person said other comedians may have also called out Brand, though this has not been confirmed by those who worked on the show. Two other sources said he demanded that producers protect him from being roasted by his fellow comedians.
The industry insiders said Fulwell 73 grew uncomfortable with the rumors swirling around Brand and his reluctance to be roasted gave the company an opportunity to drop him.
“Contract negotiations were made as tricky as possible, is the best way to put it,” said a source familiar with talks with Brand over Season 2. “In the end, it came down to the fact that it seemed like Russell didn’t have a good sense of humor. He didn’t feel he was fair game.”
Based on the U.S. show Jeff Ross Presents Roast Battle, Comedy Central’s Roast Battle format is predicated on comedians making jokes at each other’s expense, and judges Brand, Ryan, and Jimmy Carr were also considered to be fair game. Brand was replaced by Jonathan Ross for Roast Battle‘s second season.
Brand has not responded to Deadline’s request for comment. A representative for Ryan declined to comment. Fulwell 73 did not have a comment at the time of publication.
Paramount said: “We are aware of the very serious allegations raised in the investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times and Dispatches. Russell Brand was a presenter on MTV at periods between 2000-2012 and was a panellist on Comedy Central UK’s Roast Battle in 2017.
“We are not currently aware of any reports of misconduct having been raised with MTV or Comedy Central, but if any are brought forward they will be investigated. The welfare of all those working on, or contributing to, our shows is our highest priority and today we have robust duty of care procedures in place on all programmes produced for us including confidential whistleblowing lines.”
Roast Battle was Brand’s last significant recurring role on a UK show. He did appear on Channel 4’s The Great Celebrity Bake Off in 2019, but other bookings have been rare despite his regular appearances on comedy and chat shows on British TV earlier in his career.
Brand has reinvented himself as a self-styled counter-culture guru, questioning the narratives of the mainstream media on social media platforms. He has said that the criminal allegations against him are part of a coordinated effort to silence him, though there is little evidence to suggest this will happen.
Brand received a standing ovation at a gig in London on the day the allegations were first reported. He has received supportive messages from figures including Elon Musk who owns X (formerly Twitter), where Brand has 11.2M followers.
His preemptive denial video has been viewed 65M times on X. Channel 4’s Russell Brand: In Plain Sight: Dispatches was watched by 1.8M people in the UK on Saturday night, which will be one of Dispatches‘ biggest audiences in years.