Update (24 June): The longer I think about it, the more suspect this whole tour cancellation business becomes. Everything considered, Brand must have expected threats. It is not his style to back down without so much as an angry TV rant, so what happened? While it's understandable that he might want to pull out of gigs in more volatile areas or more conservative venues, it is difficult to see why Abu Dhabi got the axe, too. For better or worse, this is one of the - if not the - most stable, safe places in the Middle East. I can't help but wonder: did he ever really mean to start his tour to the Middle East, or was it always just about being seen as a bad-ass for trying to pull off such an audacious move? Just a thought.
Russell Brand is not going to open his world tour in the UAE. He is not going to perform in Lebanon. No shows in Israel either. On Thursday, the tour's entire Middle East leg was cancelled because of safety fears over a potential backlash from extremists and conservatives. How dreary. How tedious. How disappointingly predictable.
Of course, the idea of him performing a comedy programme of this kind in these places at this point in time was a long shot to begin with; and when tickets hadn't gone on sale two months before the scheduled tour-opening gig in Abu Dhabi, I thought there might be problems. Still, when the official announcement came, it was a sad thing.
Whatever your opinion of Brand's work, his appearance would have signalled a little loosening up of rigid attitudes, a short escape from the moralistic stalemate. Instead, we get to see a collective sense-of-humour failure confirm prejudices against the Middle East. Again. All we can do, it seems, is to look on in wonder as the vocal minority 'defends' society against an imagined enemy. No country for funny men, then?