★ ★ ★ ★
His punchlines were everything a punchline should be, funny, smart and unexpected.
After seven shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, over a decade performing comedy, pulling pranks on Theresa May, Donald Trump, Sepp Blatter, Sir Phillip Green and hiding behind characters (most notably Lee Nelson) Simon Brodkin is taking to the stage for the first time as himself in a show aptly titled100% Simon Brodkin.
I'll admit, I found Lee Nelson's show at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar in 2015 disappointing with too many predictable punchlines. However, not one to write people off completely, I wanted to give Simon a chance this year and it seems as though other people had the same idea. Waiting to go in, a lady behind me in the queue turned to her partner and said "I'm yet to be convinced by him, I didn't like that Lee. Hopefully he won't be doing Lee tonight." and the reason that stuck with me was because she articulated perfectly how I felt, yet to be convinced.
With most performers you go and see in Edinburgh you either know them already and love them or don't know them but watch them without any real expectations. But with Simon I was walking in with rather high expectations, I wanted to be impressed, I wanted to change my opinion of him and I didn't want to get served predictable punchlines. No pressure then.
Thankfully, I was impressed, my opinion towards Simon did change and his punchlines were everything a punchline should be, funny, smart and unexpected. Jokes about being a rubbish husband and seemingly absent father landed particularly well with the audience, often leaving Simon waiting for the laughter to die down before he could move on.
Some unexpected moments from the audience involving blazers, doctors and sort of doctors proved Simon to not only have the ability to think of his feet and come up with quips that get just as big a laugh as his written material. A joke about a GP keeping us all waiting when Simon asked if there was a doctor in the house was particularly quick.
If you're looking for a show with an impressive gag rate then this is it. Even when things start to get more political and Simon talks about Michael Gove, climate change, anti-semitism in the Labour party and his Jewish heritage, it's unfailingly funny. And insight into how he pulled off his pranks with Theresa May and Donald Trump help audiences understand Simon even better.
Simon also talks about male emotion and how feeling like you shouldn't open up, means that men know very little about their best friends apart from their "Would you rather?" answers. What would you fill your best friend's eulogy with? And it's this question which leads to the rip-roaring finale in which he's invited to offer a eulogy at his best friend's funeral.
Packed full of sharp gags, this show proves that Simon Brodkin no longer needs to hide behind characters and stunts to be funny. He's funnier without all of that.
And remember the lady behind me in the queue? Well at the end of the show she said "Well, that's the funniest show of the Fringe." which I'll think you agree is quite the turnaround!
But was it 100% Simon Brodkin? Not quite. Somewhere between 85-90%. There were odd occasions where Lee would creep in and unsurprisingly it's these moments that generate the fewer laughs. But that's to be expected, Lee Nelson is so engrained in Simon that he's going to take a while to shake off.
To put yourself out there after over a decade of hiding is brave and to be commended. It's possibly the biggest gamble of his career but one that most definitely paid off.
Simon Brodkin: 100% Simon Brodkin runs until 24th August at 9.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Baby Grand). Book tickets here.