Tickling funny bones

Lee Nelson: comedy's answer to The Streets

Lee Nelson: comedy's answer to The Streets

First published in News

Meet rapscallion Lee Nelson, brainchild of Simon Brodkin, comedian and the next big thing to come out of the Suburb. ALEX KASRIEL catches up with him before his Edinburgh preview show

If chav was the word of 2004, Lee Nelson is the word incarnate.

The baseball cap-wearing, beer-guzzling, fight-loving scamp who merits people on how good their swearing vocabulary is has been causing riots in comedy clubs up and down the capital over the last six months.

Only last week Simon Brodkin performed alongside top comedian Harry Hill who said Brodkin was the funniest act I've seen for years'.

Brodkin's lovable yob' creation, Lee Nelsy' Nelson, likes to ride through council estates on his chopper bike, eyeing up the talent. Another favourite location of course (as well as the playground) is the pub, where he is likely to bottle' you if you spill beer on his Burberry socks.

"I've got into a couple of near scraps," laughs Brodkin. "It was in a pub in Old Street. One of the punters thought my character was for real. I was walking around the audience, and I was taking the mickey out of someone who had been talking throughout the show. He took offence to what I was saying, and he had to be pulled off me by his friend."

But despite the offensiveness, Brodkin (a very lovable character in real life) makes us warm to Lee Nelson. In his stage act, Lee will praise you when you please him. You might even be rewarded with a pint, or a Burberry cap produced from inside his tracksuit bottoms.

The character, which Brodkin has been developing over the past year, comes at a good time. While chav' is the buzzword of 2004, characters like Matt Lucas' pram-pushing teenager, Vikki Pollard, are making people laugh on the hit TV series Little Britain. Chav culture, with its bling and unapologetic ostentation, is something to be proud of.

Brodkin, 26, who lives and grew up in Kingsley Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb, has been working on various comedy characters since he quit his job as a junior doctor.

"Comedy grew in the last couple of years of medicine," he says. "I always had it in the back of my mind. I have always enjoyed making people laugh. My dad's funny too.

"The Jewish community puts an emphasis on entertainment and laughter as something to respect. Just have a look at the number of Jewish entertainers."

Jewish or not, it is a brave move for a young doctor to trade a well-paid job for the uncertainty of the entertainment industry.

"My parents were supportive," says Brodkin, who did his medical training at Manchester University after leaving University College School, Hampstead. "They have never been pushy. They never said: You should be a doctor, it's what I have always wanted, Simon.'" He slips into the nagging north London Jewish father routine.

"Being a doctor was very different to how I thought it would be," he continues. "It was very stressful. It's a horrible system. It is not fun working in the NHS generally and it is impossible to change anything. Because of its size, no-one takes responsibility."

The anti-NHS feeling is evident in Brodkin's Dr Ali, who featured in a series of five-minute shorts called From Baghdad to Balham which aired on Channel Four last year. In it Brodkin poses as an Iraqi doctor looking for work and the reaction of the real-life NHS doctors is more than a little disparaging.

Duping the public with foreign characters makes comparisons with Sacha Baron Cohen unavoidable.

"There's no doubt that watching him, I felt like that is bang on, that is something I'd like to do," he says of the fellow Jewish comedian and Hampstead Garden Suburb-ite.

Both were involved in the same Jewish youth movement Habonim as youngsters. At camps and weekly meetings, there were plenty of opportunities to perform cabaret acts and sketches. Suffice to say, they both took centre stage, even then.

"Also Steve Coogan's characters are very much ones which I admire," continues Brodkin. "They are real characters. I try to create characters which are three-dimensional and based in reality. I come across people like Lee Nelson all the time."

Simon has a catalogue of other characters up his sleeve. On his showreel, there's the Australian fitness trainer who is in love with himself; the public school-educated house music aficionado, DJ Jase; and the Austrian professor who has blurred the boundaries between science and magic.

Brodkin kick-started his career by sending this showreel to the commissioning director of Channel Four. In his words, he went straight for the heart of the beast,' and it paid off. Within six months of quitting his job he was on Channel Four as Dr Ali. He was immediately snapped up by comedy giants Talkback. He got a small part in the last series of Absolutely Fabulous and work on the second series of Channel Five's Swag.

Now Brodkin has gone back to basics' by pursuing a stand-up career and is writing a one-hour show, Don't Be A Chief...Be A Legend, for the Edinburgh Festival. He says it is a good medium through which to develop characters, and get known.

"Before I thought stand-up was a different industry, but I am proud to announce TV and stand-up: there's a big overlap in the two industries. And nothing more so than in Edinburgh."

See Simon Brodkin at Downstairs at the Kings Head, Crouch End Hill, Crouch End, on January 27, at 8pm. Tickets are £4 (£3 concessions). Call the box office on 020 8340 1028. His Edinburgh preview show, Don't Be A Chief... Be A Legend is at the Canal Cafe Theatre, The Bridge House Pub, Delamere Terrace, Warwick Avenue, today, tomorrow and Saturday at 7.30pm. Tickets are £6 on 020 7289 6054.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree