Simon Brodkin interview
Simon Brodkin is the man behind Lee Nelson, Jason Bent, and a recent string of publicity stunts that saw him invade Kayne West’s set at Glastonbury and shower Fifa president Sepp Blatter in dollars.
Now doing the rounds as Nelson in his new Suited & Booted UK tour, Mark Wareham caught up with the man behind the polo shirt in a rare out-of-character interview…
I saw your show at the Edinburgh Festival. You stormed it.
Yeah, I had a great time there, I was playing a nice intimate venue and was able to really get stuck into the audience. It felt like a comedy club.
I wasn’t expecting your voice to sound quite as much like Lee Nelson’s. Are you turning into him?
I’m used to doing Lee in work mode. I hardly ever do interviews as me. The other day when I was on breakfast telly, my dad said, ‘Why did you sound like a cross between you and Lee Nelson?’ That’s probably what you’re experiencing now.
Why do interviews as Lee and not yourself?
As a comedian I’m always trying to be as funny as possible. As Lee I can be more playful and get away with calling people bellends. If I did it as myself it would go down less well.
So when you’re with your mates or your family, do you find Lee barging in?
Well I don’t call anyone in my family a bellend.
Getting on to your momentous summer, pranking Sepp Blatter and Kanye West… You did the Blatter stunt as footballer Jason Bent, didn’t you. A few of the papers credited it to Lee Nelson.
A few comics came up to me; ‘Great stunt but they got the bloody character wrong. I’m really annoyed for you.’ It didn’t bother me at all. The funny thing was seeing Sepp Blatter showered with dollars.
Was that always your intention?
It had crossed my mind, but you never know how these things are going to play out. You don’t get a rehearsal. When I handed him the first big bundle of dollars, I kept another bundle just in case… But I was fully expecting to be slammed to the floor and shot in the back of the head. But it’s a bit like going into a conversation. There are a few avenues that could play out… You’ve got to feel it in the room.
A bit like a comedy gig…
It’s my comedy gig. Why go to Banana Cabaret in Balham when you can go to Zurich. But I knew I wanted to get in there and let the world know that North Korea were going to get the 2026 World Cup with Sepp’s blessing and here was the cash to finish off the deal. That was the headline.
How did you infiltrate the conference?
I was right down the front… But I can’t give too much detail as it’s part of an ongoing criminal investigation. But I was in the press conference and just before he started up, it seemed like as good a time as any. I wasn’t prepared to listen to Sepp’s load of nonsense, so I thought, ‘Let’s get this over with.’
When you were in jail, did you meet any of the Fifa delegates?
That would have been great. We could have pulled together a cheeky bid for another city. No, but there was a lawyer who had originally said they’d be happy to represent me. Then I got a call saying there was a conflict of interests, because they’d actually picked up one of the Fifa delegates as one of their clients. Can’t imagine why they thought they’d give them more money than me. So I got outbid by someone in Fifa.
When you pull a stunt, how far ahead are you planning it? What about the Kanye West stage invasion at Glastonbury?
That was a few days before. I got that ‘Lee-zus’ T-shirt printed. Then someone I thought could get me an entry backstage said, ‘Sorry mate.’ But I was there anyway doing the comedy, walking around and I saw a cheeky little gap in a fence, and I got further and further in, and I thought, ‘I might be able to do this on my own…’ So I spent the next couple of hours buying an outfit to make me look a bit like a rapper…
So, no performer’s pass? You just blundered on stage…
No mate, not a single pass. In hindsight, that’s the cooler thing to do. If you’re a big rap artist, you don’t need a thing. I had the microphone I’d bought at Argos for £8.99 a couple of days before. I’d managed to get through lots of layers of security, but you’ve got the final golden inner circle where I got ushered away. Then I found myself backstage in hospitality. Pharrell [Williams] was there… looking happy! So I got out the mic and thought, ‘Show time!’, and started bouncing towards the stage.
When this security bloke stopped me, I said, as confident and cocky as I could, ‘Mate, I’m meant to be on stage, yeah.’ And he goes, ‘Sorry,’ and lifts his arm up… I hadn’t seen any of the set and I’d assumed there’d be backing dancers and a host of musicians, but it was just him and some torches. I was expecting to have to weave around some saxophonists and jump over the drums and navigate past the backing dancers… Instead, after two steps, there he was with a very large head. Kanye West. I was like, this is it. Let’s get pretend rapping.
Did you see Betway opened a book on your next stunt? The Rugby World Cup at 9/1. Strictly at 16/1. Prime Minister’s Questions at 33/1. The Oscars 25/1, Superbowl 66/1.
Oh, so there might be a way of making money out of this after all! Sometimes you have a great idea, then you look in your diary… No, I’m playing Milton Keynes that night. Gutted! But I’ve got nothing concrete in mind at the moment.
Were you a prankster as a kid?
I was definitely naughty. At uni I got in trouble a fair bit. I went through a ‘trying to pour myself drinks at bars’ phase. I even got the medics’ graduation ball shut down.
Did you play gigs at uni?
That came later. I was working and living in a hospital in Greater Manchester, fairly bleak to be honest, so I decided to hang up my white coat and put on my comedy tash and glasses.
Going straight from medicine to comedy sounds like quite a change
Well there are transferable skills, like pretending to know what you’re doing.
On the current tour, Lee Nelson’s all Suited & Booted. What’s the idea behind that?
It felt like time to smarten him up. He’d had three series, been on Live At The Apollo three times and a few different shows and it felt like time to up his game. Y’know, I’m Lee Nelson, got a little bit of cash now, time to go into Top Man, try on a couple of suits and run out the shop with my favourite…
And he’s maturing, talking about weightier subjects.
Yeah, he’s left the estate and seen a bit of the world. So he now has his opinion on loads of the big topics. But don’t get me wrong, he’s still got no idea what he’s banging on about. When it comes to global warming, Lee doesn’t advise turning off your lights as he tried it once and killed a cyclist.
Anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to, or dreading visiting, on the tour?
Let’s be honest, everywhere in Britain’s a little bit crap and that’s why we love it so much. But people get very defensive about their own places. Last time I went to Coventry I wrote on Twitter: ‘Apparently this place was flattened in World War Two. A real shame they haven’t had a chance to rebuild any of it.’ That’s some of the most hate I’ve ever had. I got stuff like, ‘I’m going to cut your head off next time you come to Coventry.’
And you read their biog and it says ’56-year-old gardener and keen amateur golfer’. So I’m looking forward to going everywhere equally and I love everyone the same. Funnily enough, when you diss their town in the gig, they love it!
When I saw the show, you had a lot of fun with the oldest and youngest in the audience. That went down really well.
Yeah it’s great getting such a huge age range coming in night-after-night. I never knew the oldies were fans but they love it! A few nights ago I had an 84 year old in. Went down a treat, she was basically a Monty Python version of an old woman, sitting in an old-fashioned wheelchair with a tartan blanket, all hunched over with no teeth. I said, ‘What’s your name?’ and she shouted in that Python voice, ‘Ethel, dear’!
There was a 9 year old in that night too. I asked him ‘what’s the worst swear word you know?’ And everyone was like, oh gosh what’s he going to say, and he replied, ‘geezer!’ Great he thought that was a swear word, but there was also the anticipation of what’s going to go through his ears over the next 60 minutes. But I don’t change it. He’s nine, he’s going to find out sooner or later, I might as well advance the learning process.
That’s why they’re there.
Exactly. It’s an education.
Lee Nelson: Suited & Booted, Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt, Thursday 12 November, 7.30pm. Tickets £20.00, available from Town Hall Box Office on 01642 729 729 or online.