Review: Lee Nelson Live – York Opera House
Simon Brodkin performed at York Opera House as part of his ‘Lee Nelson Live’ tour. The comedian, famous for his onstage personae, has achieved notoriety through a number of television appearances including a series on BBC 3. Lee Nelson usually takes the stage alongside his overweight ‘best mate’ Omelette.
Comedy via persona is usually a very difficult thing to evaluate objectively; it’s potentially ironised, so it’s often far more than a simple case of good or bad. Lee Nelson makes things frighteningly easy, however. His persona isn’t cohesive, like Murray’s pub landlord- his persona is just an idiot. Why an idiot? As a convenient excuse for sub-par humour, perhaps.
The jokes are weak, and the overriding sense is of a comedian who is not prepared to put in the effort necessary for composing anything beyond a rudimentary setup-punch line arrangement. The crowd seemed happy enough to laugh when Nelson, for example, pointed at a man in the audience and said: ‘Nice moustache… paedo’. There’s no delivery, no artifice, no nothing- and the audience is supposed to accept this because the persona is a ‘Chav’? A little thin for me.
Nelson’s performance is characterised by jokes that are tired and underdone. They’re also, often, offensive jokes. Now, I like a little edginess to spice up my humour, and when there’s moral high-ground to be taken I’m seldom on it. But for me, offensiveness in a joke is justified by the relative hilarity of the joke. If a joke is very funny, then offensiveness is permissible; the end justifies the means, as far as I’m concerned. Nelson’s jokes are lame, formulaic- and offensive anyway. In my opinion, this is unforgivable.
Nelson is joined onstage by his ‘best mate’ Omelette, a character who is apparently humorous because he’s fat. I assume this was the joke, anyway- no other punch line was forthcoming, and Omelette didn’t do much except sit around onstage.
At one particularly disturbing point during the evening, Nelson brought a teenage girl on stage, and proceeded to squeeze her breasts. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The girl’s father, also onstage, simply laughed along as Nelson- who first squeezed one breast, then the other, then both simultaneously- suggested that the girl should join him in his dressing room later.
I saw nothing in this show of value, and nothing I would ever want to see repeated; in fact, I saw a few things I wish I could un-see. Nelson not only doesn’t make me laugh, but he’s also unpalatable and uninteresting. No doubt Brodkin would diffuse these criticisms by claiming ‘it’s just a persona, it’s all ironic; I’m actually exploiting the ‘Chav’ identity’. Whether or not this is true, it is undeniable that the audience didn’t turn out to laugh at the character, but with him.
So if Brodkin acts like a ‘Chav’, for an audience who want to laugh with a ‘Chav’, then I would suggest that what he’s doing is actually just being a ‘Chav’, for money- which, if anything, is worse than doing it for free.