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I TALK TO Simon Brodkin

"It feels like the right time to be doing stuff as myself."

Simon Brodkin is best-known for his character Lee Nelson, star of the hit BBC Three series Lee Nelson's Well Good Show as well as his multiple pranks as various characters including handing Theresa May her P45 during the Conservative Party Conference, showering FIFA President Sepp Blatter with bank notes, re-christening Sir Philip Green’s hundred-million pound yacht “BHS Destroyer” and joining Kanye West onstage at Glastonbury.

But having just completed a 180-date tour as Lee, his fifth sellout nationwide tour, Simon has decided that after seven solo shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it's time to step out onto the stage as himself.

But with no characters to hide behind, I caught up with Simon to discuss whether this means the end of Lee Nelson, how different writing material for himself has been and what audiences can expect from what is essentially his debut hour.

You've just finished a massive tour for Lee Nelson. Is this year's Edinburgh show a sign of you saying goodbye to Lee?

That's not the farewell tour. You've got to have the farewell tour and then the coming out of retirement tour and then the reunion tour! But no, there wasn't a masterplan here. This isn't the last you'll see of Lee. He's huge amount of fun to be, huge amount of fun to write and perform and we've sold more tickets than ever before on this tour so Lee ain't going nowhere.

When I started out it wasn't Lee and if I'm going to continue, it also isn't going to be just Lee. Obviously he's the one most people know me for and when I get stopped in the street they call me Lee.

My first Edinburgh show wasn't Lee, it was multiple characters. I've done lots of pranks and stunts in and out of character so this is just the next step.

When did you decide to do Edinburgh as yourself?

I just wanted to try writing material and see if I could write even just one minute and then worry about the other 59. The idea was just to give it a go. It feels like the right time to be doing stuff as myself.

I care about the world, I care about things and that's obviously manifested in some of the stunts I've done like giving Theresa May her P45.

Does it feel like you're doing your debut hour all over again?

Well the show was almost called Debut so absolutely. It's so very different. It does feel like a new act. It really did feel like starting again. How do I walk on stage? What do I say? What do I sound like? Where are the jokes going to come from? And that's been a thrill.

It's like an apprenticeship, you've got to try it to do it which is different to medicine which is my previous career and thank the lord for that!

But then it started to really come along, it felt good, it felt interesting and I was able to talk about things I wanted to talk about and obviously the natural home is Edinburgh. There's nothing like knowing you're going to perform the same show every day for 30 days at the biggest comedy festival in the world to motivate you and give you the kick up the arse you need to get something together.

How long have you been writing the show for?

18 months ago was my first gig as myself. But obviously the first time you do it, the last thing on your mind is an hour-long show at the Edinburgh Festival. I just wanted to get through 60 seconds without someone shouting "Aren't you supposed to be funny mate?" or "Isn't that Lee Nelson?" as is the challenge of anyone when they start doing stand-up.

It's a little bit like playing golf your entire career and your manager going "You're playing up front today."

Do you feel more vulnerable on stage not being able to hide behind a character?

Absolutely and I talk about that as part of the show. When you're being yourself you're vulnerable. I find that hard and I think a lot of men probably find it hard to talk about.

I did use an on-stage persona because you are more vulnerable because it's suddenly yourself on the line. You're talking about real things. I didn't want it to be a joke. First of all I want this show to be damn funny, my funniest work. Funnier than anything I've done before and funnier than any of the characters.

Then after that I didn't want to include jokes for the sake of jokes because I do that as Lee.

I wanted to talk about things that I care about or are part of my identity and things that mean something to me. And that's been really great to be able to do.

Why did you decide to call the show 100% Simon Brodkin?

It's called that because I am being 100% myself up there. I'm talking about real things that mean something. I talk about my identity. I talk about where I'm from and my education. I talk about being a doctor. I talk about being a dad. I talk about stunts and the anti-semitic abuse that came my way from the Ku Klux Klan after my Donald Trump stunt.

I'm honest up there! I'm really talking from the heart. I'm not telling everyone everything but the stuff I'm talking about is genuine, real and truthful.

Do you have any favourite pranks that you've done?

I look back on my pranks like children. I haven't got a particular favourite. They all have lovely memories of different police cells around the world.

How have the previews been going?

The previews have been good so far, there's a few more all the way up until Edinburgh. They've been fun because I've been able to make a connection with people that I haven't been able to before as there's no longer the barrier of me being in character.

What are you most looking forward to about Edinburgh?

I really want to be going up to Edinburgh with a show that I'm absolutely proud of and enjoy it with as many people as possible. I just want to enjoy the festival. There's no grand masterplan

I still haven't got over the buzz of talking about things that you care about and actually mean something to you.

The first thing is to see how it goes down because I believe that there's one or two people who go up to Edinburgh who know what they're talking about when it comes to comedy. Even those that don't think they do.

Finally, how would you sum up this year's show in just five words?

100% Simon Brodkin. 100% laughs.

Simon Brodkin: 100% Simon Brodkin runs from 31st July - 24th August (not 12th) at 9.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard (Baby Grand). Book tickets here.

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