The comedian ditches the pranks and personas as he talks carbs, Sergio Aguero and poor legal advice.
All his life, Simon Brodkin has felt most at ease hidden behind the masks of his characters. Most often donning the persona of cheeky Lee Nelson or the deadpan Scouse footballer Jason Bent, the Camden-born comedian has always deflected from himself through pranks and personas. “There was never anything in my mind going, ‘should I do stuff as myself?’” he explains as he draws to the end of a month-long stint at the Edinburgh Fringe. “It was always 100% characters, it’s what I wanted to do, it’s all I felt comfortable doing.” It’s telling that Brodkin’s first ever stand-up show 17 years ago, also here at the Fringe, was titled Anything But Myself.
But over the last couple of years, something has been changing within him. Just before lockdown, he went from zero to, well, 100, with 100% Simon Brodkin, in which he spoke to audiences as himself for the first time – dealing with topics ranging from parenthood to anti-semitism. He’s now back in Edinburgh performing Xavier, a kind of warm-up show to test material from Screwed Up, a new stand-up tour that kicks off this week. “It was like, I’m loving this, they’re loving this, let’s have a comedy marriage and carry on this long term commitment.”
Brodkin seems blasé about his evolution, but it’s also clear it’s a meaningful life change. “I’m no longer pretending to be anyone, I’m trying to do the opposite. These characters burn very brightly and quickly but they catch fire. But being me is harder to ignite. I sound like a w*nker, but once it gets going it can keep going, because we’re all interesting, different and complex people that think a million different things. And that can be expressed as oneself on stage.”
Screwed Up promises to dig even deeper into topics such as discovering Brodkin’s ancestry and his recent ADHD diagnosis. “I have a soft spot for Edinburgh, and a few hot spots as well, because it’s a challenge to come up here and perform for a month. I’d like to see how the Glastonbury headliners get on if they had to perform everyday for a month.” Performing at Glastonbury is something Brodkin, or we should say Lee Nelson, should be familiar with, having gatecrashed Kanye West’s headline performance in 2015. But that’s one for another time.
Or is it? As we get stuck in a lift with Brodkin, there’s no time like the present to ask the pressing questions…
Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
A lift mechanic. I’m always late. So I would never be able to just relax and go “Let’s chat, man.” I haven’t got time to hear what the Prime Minister is thinking or what some head of some scientific breakthrough is talking about. I’m probably running late for the gig, so if I’m in a lift, I’d want to be with the mechanic who can get me out ASAP.
Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
Probably no one. In my own company for hours? No, no no. That would drive me nuts.
What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person?
After I gave Theresa May her P45, I went over to Boris. I slapped on my thigh and said ”That went brilliantly.” He turned to, oh what’s his name? Let’s say he turned to Michael Gove. I can’t remember who it was. And he called me a stupid tosser. I don’t know if you’ve ever been called a stupid tosser by the king of tossers, but it’s actually a compliment.
You don’t hear tosser banded about much these days…
The deputy prime minister called me a stupid pillock on Question Time, which is even less common. I wanted to put it on a poster but apparently pillock means penis, so I wasn’t allowed to use it.
You learn something every day.
What was the last show that you went to?
I went to see the Crizards a couple of days ago in Edinburgh. They’re a great little off-beat sketch troupe who describe themselves as the lowest energy double act in comedy.
What’s on your rider?
Alarmingly little. Quite a lot of the places I play at are these beautiful theatres, but often backstage looks even worse than your living room. There’s not enough money in theatres. So, often it’s like, please can I just have a sink that works? Please, some running water? A toilet that flushes?
What work of yours didn’t get the attention that it deserved?
Everything. I think throwing swastika golf balls at Donald Trump got swallowed up in the news a little bit. I mean, I was told guns were drawn on the turrets.
Did you worry you’d gone too far with that one?
I was just totally focused, I had tunnel vision to get it done. Trump’s snipers could have shot me in the shoulder and I’d be like “I’ve gotta give him the golf balls!” like some f*cking clown Terminator.
What did 12-year-old you imagine that you’d be doing now?
I’m not sure the 12-year-old me thought about more than the 12-year-old him, is what I would say.
You trained to be a doctor before comedy, did you always want to be a doctor?
Yeah, it’s funny when people ask if I just went along with it. How can you just go along with it, you have to work f*cking hard, it’s not like you just pop along. I did want to be that yeah, or maybe a vet when I was 12.
What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given?
That going on the pitch at a Premier League football match is entirely legal. Never asked a divorce lawyer. Criminal advice.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Working in the NHS? Yeah. Yeah, pretty hardcore. A lot of work, fairly thankless, a machine that is so big that even if you want to change it, it can’t be changed. I’ve been paid to give hand jobs in car parks so you can imagine what it’s up against.
If you had to have a song playing every time you walked into a room, what would it be?
Well, my walk on tune is currently ‘Song 2’ by Blur.
Who do you often get told you look like?
What’s the skill that no one else knows that you’re great at?
I’m a decent cook. Yeah, I’m a good cook. If I cared more about food, I reckon I could have got into that, but I’m lazy and messy and happy to eat a bagel, so it just doesn’t happen.
What’s your controversial food opinion?
I have to eat vast amounts of carbs before I feel tired and warm before going to bed. I can’t sleep until I’ve eaten sh*tloads of carbs. Yeah, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass to be honest.
I can imagine. You’re the doctor, but I don’t think that’s good for you.
What film have you most rewatched?
I don’t know if it counts, but Sergio Aguero’s 94th minute winner in 2012.
What was the last TV show you binged?
I might start binging one now, you’ve distracted me. “He then stopped the interview… for six days.” What am I watching? That’s the annoying thing, once you’ve finished it’s gone and you’re watching the same sh*t again. The Bear springs to mind. Let’s say that. I’m not really binging it to be honest. So it feels a bit of a cheat. F*ck it, it will make me sound like I know what I’m talking about and it’s quite trendy as well. It’s probably that one where you have to guess if stuff is cake.
Do you have any superstitions?
No, I don’t think I do!
It’s bad luck to be superstitious anyway.
Simon Brodkin comes to The Limelight, Belfast on 2 November and The Sugar Club, Dublin on 3 November 2023. Get tickets for Simon Brodkin HERE.