There's nothing funny about animal cruelty. That's what comedians Ricky Gervais and Russell Brand agreed on when the two chatted it up on Russell's podcast  "Under the Skin" on Luminary during a recent episode. They bonded over a love of animals, the fact that grief can take you by surprise when you lose a pet  (in their case Gervais who had just lost his cat) and that when people are cruel to animals they do so because they rationalize it as a tradition or part of the culture "like slavery" or "child sacrifice," says Gervais. Here's the context.

Gervais starts out by talking about his "suffering" during the pandemic involves putting off his nap by an hour, till 2 p.m., and Brand says it's like hearing about the harsh conditions in the Gulag. The two get more serious as the interview goes on.

"It's lovely to have a proper interview with you," Brand starts. "I am trying to put you at your ease with a compliment. I admire you as a comedian."  Gervais explains he only looks anxious because he drank his soup too fast. "Yes Esophageal burning and anxiety have similar symptoms," says Brand. They compliment one another and then get into it. They talk about the uncomfortable situation of extreme success.

The topics of how to write about serious topics like meaningless feelings of despair, and after talking about the discomfort of being highly successful and making a lot of money, Gervais then talks about his childhood and love of  animals, which are linked:

Gervais:I don’t remember not loving animals. I was born into a family with pets…I remember when I was a kid my brother was ten years older than me and he got in trouble for punching a bloke in a park. And all my mother wanted of us was not to die or go to jail. All she wanted was "Don't die before me." And she asked What'd you punch him for? And he said, 'He kicked the dog.' And all she said was like, 'Oh, alright.'

Gervais continued: "We always had a dog growing up. I was fascinated with animals. I wanted to understand it all. Learning was my first love, about science and nature. I have always been fascinated by it. It makes me feel good. I don't know why. I'm in awe of an animal. Our cat died recently. That cat sat on me. It was a privilege that that cat wanted to sit on me. What a privilege. We are just part of nature. We are not above it. We are not as important as bees. So yeah I love animals." 

Gervaise keeps going: "My big hate about ... this species and that species is animal cruelty. I worry about the psychology of people. There is a weird scale from serial killer to people who don't think [animals] are worth worrying about that much. It's the only thing that makes my blood boil and keeps me awake at night. There is not a day that someone doesn't send me something [on Twitter] and I think, I wish that wasn't in my head.

Brand: People who are able to be cruel to animals ... there is an impeeded ability to feel.

Gervais: There is something wrong with someone who can actually watch an animal in pain. But there's propaganda out there. Like how bullfighting is okay ... As if it's an honorable way for the bull to die. Like it's okay. it's tradition, it's part of the culture. "Shut up, because it’s tradition? Well so was slavery and child sacrifice! It’s not culture. I don’t get it."

Brand: much of it can be derived as being separated from nature. People think they are making their own luck in the world and extracted from meaning or devoid of meaning. 

The two men seemed to like each other and admire one another's less comedic, more openly emotional aspect of their conversation. They also got serious when it came to atheism and belief systems. If you're a fan of either, the podcast is worth listening to for all their musings. Luminary offers a free 2-week trial if you are interested in delving deeper, sign up here. 

More From The Beet