Published On: Mon, Aug 12th, 2019

Simon Brodkin: ‘Donald Trump, David Duke and the alt-right are like rocks to me’ | Ents & Arts News


Simon Brodkin would like to thank David Duke and the alt-right for their help with his latest stand-up show.

The creator of comedy character Lee Nelson, Brodkin is also well known for his high-profile pranks on celebrities and politicians, including one on Donald Trump.

Simon Brodkin hands Theresa May a P45
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Brodkin in character as Lee Nelson made headlines for handing Theresa May a P45 at the Tory Conference in 2017
The P45 handed to Theresa May at the Tory conference in Manchester

While he’s used to a flurry of public and media interest after a stunt, Brodkin says the reaction to showering the now-president with swastika-emblazoned golf balls at his Turnberry golf resort in Scotland knocked him sideways.

“There was this torrent of hate that came my way online from the Ku Klux Klan.”

It was fuelled by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK, who tweeted a link to a story about the stunt. Several of Duke’s followers suggested the comedian should be “gassed”.

It’s that “online anger, anti-Semitism and hate in general” Brodkin has used to feed into the narrative of his new show.

“I didn’t ever think that I would talk about being Jewish on stage but because it’s become relevant with the hate that I got, then suddenly that’s something that I do want to talk about,” he says.

“It’s pretty pertinent now with what’s going on with the mood of the country, and obviously a big talking point in the Labour Party.”

Despite the serious nature of the topic, Brodkin remains philosophical, jokingly thanking the white supremacist for his help with his set.

“David, thank you so much for the torrent of hate that came my way, it’s really inspired about 20 minutes of my show. You’ve been like a rock to me. Also, Donald Trump and the alt-right crew, thank you, guys.”

Comedian Lee Nelson/ Simon Brodkin is taken away by security while holding golf balls stamped with swastika as he protests against Donald Trump at his Trump Turnberry Resort in June 2016 in Ayr, Scotland
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Brodkin was taken away by security after protesting with golf balls stamped with swastikas at Donald Trump’s golf resort in Scotland

His show, 100% Simon Brodkin, which he is performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is the 41-year-old comic’s first as himself.

It comes 13 years after his first Fringe gig, Simon Brodkin: Everyone But Himself, so it’s quite the turnaround.

So why drop the cover and remove the mask now?

Growing up in the affluent Hampstead Garden Suburb, and training as a doctor, the real Brodkin couldn’t be further away from many of his comedy creations.

He says doing stand-up as himself, talking about things in the real world that he really cares about, feels like “the natural progression”.

He also says it’s something that every journalist he talks to is “obsessed with”.

“Obviously, in my everyday life I don’t normally stand there with a microphone and make jokes solidly for an hour. But that is as close to me as I can be up on stage, as much as performing a show as yourself can ever be you.”

And why the characters in the first place?

“I never really felt comfortable to be and perform as myself. And that’s something that I’ve changed recently. I want to step out because when you talk about yourself there’s fewer places to hide.

“As a character there’s always a layer there… Suddenly when you’re being yourself your balls are on the line.”

And many of his stunts do – to coin Brodkin’s phrase – take balls.

Comedian Simon Brodkin (L), playing his character Lee Nelson, interrupts singer Kanye West on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm near the village of Pilton in Somerset, South West England, on June 27, 2015
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On stage at Glastonbury with Kanye West

Trump is far from Brodkin’s only prankee – Theresa May, Kanye West and Sepp Blatter have also fallen prey to his tricks.

So how did it feel to hand Theresa her P45 back in 2017?

“It was a surprise that she took it in her hand so nicely. And that it has taken more than a couple of years for her to actually go down to the job centre and use it.”

And what about storming Kanye West on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival three years ago?

“He had a slightly smaller sense of humour than even I imagined,” says Brodkin. “I knew the guy took himself seriously… He just looked at me as I bounced on stage holding a toy microphone from Argos pretending to rap alongside him.

“He didn’t even give me the time of day. He just looked, thinking in his head: ‘Right. That’s that song ruined. I’m gonna have to start again’.

“I’d like to think had it been the Gallagher brothers, they would have let me join in one of the songs or just knocked me cold out.”

Away from politics and showbiz, the sporting world has come in for a bit of the Brodkin treatment too.

“When I joined the players in Manchester City there were a good few smiles back there.”

Comedian Simon Brodkin/ Lee Nelson prepares to attack FIFA President Joseph S Blatter (R) with money during a press conference at the Extraordinary FIFA Executive Committee Meeting at the FIFA headquarters on July 20, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland
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Sepp Blatter is also on the list of high profile figures pranked by Nelson

And when he showered former FIFA president Sepp Blatter with money, the resulting images quickly travelled around the world.

The resulting chaos saw Brodkin and Blatter both taken from the room and left together in a corridor.

Brodkin says it took him back to his younger days when he spent many an afternoon outside the headmaster’s office.

“While we were there, he said, ‘You should be ashamed of yourself’. And I said, ‘I think you should be ashamed of the things you’ve done’.

“So that was a lovely moment, outside with Sepp in the corridor waiting to see the headmaster, except it wasn’t the headmaster it was the chief of police.”

Brodkin admits he is one of few people to enjoy being carted away by the police, because that means he’s successfully pulled off his stunt.

And the arrests are very much real. “There’s no pretending I’m a character with the arrests. I have to be me.”

Is anyone off-limits?

“There’s many targets who would be fun to go for but might end up with a death sentence. Like if I went for Kim Jong Un.

“And then I think if you go for someone like the Queen, that would just be a national catastrophe because you need to go for people with that sweet spot who most people pat you on the back and go, ‘that was funny’.”

As for who might be next on his pranking hit list, he’s not letting on, but it seems unlikely his stunts will end any time soon.

As Brodkin says: “Once a prankster, always a prankster”.

And fans of Lee Nelson can rest easy too – he hasn’t retired, but is just resting.

So, one way or another, Brodkin will be back on a screen near you soon.

  • 100% Simon Brodkin is on at the Edinburgh Festival throughout August



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