In showering the embattled Fifa President Sepp Blatter with $600 in cash, as he did last month, comedian and inveterate chancer Simon Brodkin created what is likely to prove the defining image of Blatter’s career. And, in jumping up on stage to join rapper Kayne West a few weeks before that at Glastonbury, he did a little – one could (perhaps generously) argue – to prick the rapper’s zeppelin-sized ego.
An admirer of Steve Coogan and Sacha Baron Cohen – that is, character comedians who enjoy pushing scenarios as excruciatingly far as they possibly can – Brodkin performed both stunts as Lee Nelson, his cheerfully-cocky-chav alter ego. And it is in this guise that he is now at the Edinburgh Fringe, in a new solo hour, Suited & Booted.
Unsurprisingly, Brodkin is no shrinking violet live. With his creation’s geezer-ish views about age, nationality, religion and suchlike, he works the room with complete confidence, riffing off the audience for much of his material. But, while I admit to having cracked a smile at one joke about porn, his dominant approach to jokes – an apparently sincere set-up with a fairly coarse pay-off – is one that that soon grows tiresome.
Given than Brodkin himself is in fact a privately educated fellow who almost 15 years ago qualified as a doctor, it is impossible not to compare him to another comedian who “dresses down” on stage, Al Murray, not least as the two performed together in the latter’s Multiple Personality Disorder show on ITV. And it is here that Nelson starts to looks like thinner gruel still.
When the Oxford-educated Murray’s boorishly Middle England pub landlord insists (for example, as he did last year), “I’m not sexist – I’m not! That’s why I let my female workers work longer than the men so they can make the same money,” he is using rich humour to make a sound point. When Nelson suggests that Muslims get together to sing “Ramadangadingdong”, it is infuriating not only because of its lowest-common-denominator crassness, but because Brodkin himself surely can’t fail to know what a pathetically weak line that is.
Even Coogan’s Alan Partridge blushed at having said it, in his marvellously dire Christmas special Knowing Me Knowing Yule, 20 years ago.
Elsewhere, Mecca Bingo is deliberately confused with the holy city, Muslim prophets with Jews’ alleged fondness for profit, Nelson Mandela for Morgan Freeman – you get the idea. It’s not exactly unpleasant, and in fairness Brodkin (who himself is Jewish) does insist at the close that he wants people everywhere to “share the love”. But it is irksome, feeling like a bright man at once talking down and pandering to an audience that may or may not be fully in on the so-called joke, in the pursuit of cheap laughs.
Congratulations again to him for having the cojones for that Blatter moment, but this set is best avoided.
Until Aug 30. Tickets: 0131 556 6550; edfest.com