Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Once again Simon Brodkin brings everyone’s favourite ‘Sarf London’ geezer to an appreciative crowd in Salford, and this time he’s brought along some friends – three more of Brodkin’s ‘Well Funny People’ fresh from his latest BBC Three show. Having enjoyed Brodkin’s last Lee Nelson show in 2011 I was looking forward to the variety this would add. He’s a talented comedian who shows a great skill in inhabiting the characters he creates. But it’s a weak start. 18-30 holiday rep Chris Young kicks off the evening with a sordid slide show of vomiting twenty somethings. It’s powerpoint overkill as the horrid images overshadow the not large enough character and not sharp enough writing of Young.
Premier League footballer Jason Bent is up next. Probably Brodkin’s next best known creation after Lee Nelson, scouser Bent has been enjoying his own recent adventures when he got Brodkin arrested for invading the pitch pre-match at Goodison Park and warming up with Manchester City players. It’s a stunt that suggests Brodkin’s natural prankster nature – and provided great publicity for the show. Bent draws on all the ‘not so bright but ever so charming’ premier league footballers you’ve ever seen shooting the breeze on TV as he chats amiably to the audience about life at the top. Bent has a quiet comic charm, relying on the hard truths and quirks of the celebrity sporting world for the humour rather than any over the top, grotesqueness which is often central to good character comedy. He brings a nice changing pace to the evening and the humour is sharp.
Before the interval Pastor Daniel Doolay delivers a sermon on the evils of homosexuality. It’s the low point of the evening, a string of not quite offensive yet very unfunny riffs on gay sex, a litany of slang words for sexual organs and a bit of rather cringe-worthy audience interaction. If the poor man who was dragged up to get humiliated wasn’t a plant, then he deserves a medal.
The second half is more familiar territory with Lee Nelson taking to the stage as ‘himself’. Some great banter with the audience puts the show back on track as Nelson talks nationalities, relationships and sex. It’s all fun and light-hearted, Nelson displaying the likeable, chirpy nature that makes him stand out from lots of character comedy. Brodkin is at his best inhabiting Nelson, like he’s grown into the part, got to know him and thus created the closest thing possible to a real person. He’s comfortable and at his most watchable when he’s interacting with members of the audience, his responses to drunken heckles are sharp and funny and he has some great, flexible material, punctuated with improvisation.
The evening ends with ‘Happy Couples’ – a ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ Style game-show in which Nelson invites up a young couple and an older couple and attempts to discover who’s happiest through a series of personal questions which make even the audience, let alone the participants, squirm. This is really the same game that Nelson played on his last tour, that time with sons and dads, which, although a bit lazy, takes a successful formula and squeezes a bit more humour out of it. The couples at the Lowry were fairly game but didn’t quite seem to want to buy into it all the way, leaving Nelson working hard to keep up the momentum, but the crowd off stage are behind him and are having the great night out they came out for.
Nelson’s encore is to get the crowd on their feet for a mass photo call which he posts on Twitter. It’s so blurred you can’t even see it’s him, let alone spot yourself in the crowd. “Only in Manchester”, he posts, “is the bird who took the photo this wasted”. Quite.