In the world of ideas that disrupt the norm, Russ Hanneman blows shit up.
Silicon Valley, currently in its fifth season, became a certified comedy hit for HBO in 2014. Creator Mike Judge (Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, and King of the Hill) is a pro at creating exaggerated versions of different personality types and how they interact. And the Silicon Valley area of California with its eccentric tech bros and their peculiar habits is the ultimate toy chest for a writer like Judge. He covers plenty of ground in season one with the awkward adventures of Richard Hendricks and his team at the startup company Pied Piper tackling the colorful world of tech billionaires. It would have been all too easy for him to lean on that dynamic more for season two, but instead he inserted a character eons removed from the typically self-righteous mindset of most Silicon Valley players. He gave us a character who disrupted everything he touched. He gave us Russ Hanneman.
When a character on a show primarily populated by shy introverts pulls up in an orange McLaren blasting “Nookie” by Limp Bizkit, wearing rivets in his designer jeans, you know it’s about to get fucking explosive. No TV character has ever had a more fitting, more ridiculous entrance.
Russ Hanneman, played by Chris Diamantopoulos, made his money putting radio on the Internet. And that’s about it. He’s earned enough from that venture to invest in all types of companies in Palo Alto. And he saw in Pied Piper his next promising investment, becoming their biggest investor throughout season two.
The guy is a walking scenery-chewer. He consumes everything in the room and can not be stopped. It’s as if he were plucked from the asshole tribes of New York or Los Angeles where his materialistic schtick is commonplace and was dropped into a land of “lemmings.” His assumption that Jared fucks, which turns out to be correct; only referring to Dinesh in Islamic terrorist terminology to “diffuse the tension with humor”; taking one look at Gilfoyle and saying, “Oh man, I wanna know what kinda fucked up childhood this guy had”; or perhaps the best of all, completely not addressing Ehrlich at all. Rewatch any scene the two share: Ehrlich swings and misses every time with Russ and its inexplicably perfect.
Russ’s driving force throughout the show is to stay in “The Three Comma Club” (because a billion dollars had three commas in it – what a great asshole he is.) With everyone in the Valley getting entangled in “trying to make the world a better place,” Russ could not give less a shit about the world. Russ is about Russ staying a billionaire, which isn’t easy to do. He needs his car doors to open a certain way.
He’s upfront about what he’s about. There are layers of hypocrisy to peel back from the multi-billionaires of Silicon Valley before you realize they’re mainly greedy pieces of shit – but not Russ, he’s a neon light glaring in your face. He knows what works for him and he wants you to know it too. His dream, the American dream, is for you to have a car with the doors of a billionaire, as long as it keeps him his third comma and his doors too.
Russ is not a main cast member but he resurfaces every now and then to throw a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans (that’s what I call a Valley maverick.) He will be making another appearance on Silicon Valley this Sunday. So let’s all raise a bottle of Trés Comás in appreciation to the MVP of Silicon Valley season two.