The character comic bares all in his Edinburg Fringe run
Simon Brodkin is best known as the sarf London geezah Lee Nelson, his comic creation who starred in three series on BBC Three. He's also gained a reputation for performing stunts on Donald Trump and Theresa May, scattering swastika-covered golf balls on the former's golf course in Ayrshire in 2016 and handing a P45 to the latter during her speech at the 2017 Conservative Party conference. Less known is the legend behind the larfs.
In an engagingly sparky show, Brodkin manages to be both playful and serious, often in the same sentence, as he traverses a range of subjects. These include the inadequate British response to global warming and the hegemony of climate change deniers in America, Brazil and Saudi Arabia, the waste-of-timers venting their anger on social media and the risibly incompetent (if well-intentioned) Jewish security at shuls.
Sporting jeans, a t-shirt and pumps, the 41-year-old father of two from north-west London reserves the bulk of the show for a sinewy section on his Jewishness. By way of introduction, he expounds: "Try telling your Jewish mother you are giving up being a doctor to become a clown."
Brodkin shares that his grandmother fled Nazi Germany in 1939 and recalls telling his daughter about centuries of antisemitism, building up to a climax that is interrupted by a member of the front row walking out to go to the toilet. "He gets up to have a wazz just as I'm reaching the denouement. Don't let him back in," he jokes, adding that he "hates him more than Nazis".
The comedian's weapons of choice are the power (and manipulability) of words to ridicule his subject and a deftly paced delivery. After the Trump golf ball prank, he remembers, David Duke, the former high priest of the Ku Klux Klan "outed" Brodkin as a Jew. "To be honest, I already knew. I was actually OKKK with it," he quips before turning on the uniforms. "Guys, if you don't allow the Jews in, the tailoring will suffer."
He has a knack for artfully switching stance, often at his own expense, such as when he explains that when his wife went on holiday, he realised that for the past 9 years, behind his back, she'd been doing all the childcare.
For all the perceptively wry observations and snippets of the man behind the mask, there's a sense in which the show is also part-therapy (Brodkin's taut, perma-smiling face suggests opening up even to this limited extent is incredibly awkward for him). He talks about men being emotionally repressed and gives a mock funeral speech for a close friend, in which he implies he knew next to nothing about him due to a lack of communication between men. He acknowledges that he himself has "hidden behind" his characters for 13 years, ever since his Fringe debut, Simon Brodkin: Everyone but Himself. "We could all do with sharing a bit more and hiding a bit less," he admits, before swiftly covering up with another joke.
By Lee Levitt
100% Simon Brodkin runs until Saturday 24 August (exc. 12 Aug). 9.30pm. £12, £11 concs. Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ. www.edfringe.com