Comedian Simon Brodkin has been in trouble with the police again. Rather, I should say, his character Jason Bent, a lampoon of a Premier League player, has.
Why? Because he tried, unsuccessfully, to board a plane to Miami with the England squad ahead of the World Cup. Unfortunately he didn’t pull it off and was detained by police instead.
But for Simon, it’s not the first occasion one of his alter egos has gotten him into trouble.
There was the time when he infiltrated Goodison Park to warm up with Manchester City, prior to a gig with Everton. It was a stunt that resulted in Simon appearing in court under the Football Offences Act. Manchester City lost too – something City fan Simon says, tongue-in-cheek, he blames himself for.
And then there’s Lee Nelson, the persona Simon’s perhaps most recognisable for and who he’ll appear as at the Harrow Arts Centre next week.
Cheeky, chavvy, with his own television show (Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show), he was pinned to the ground and almost arrested for stealing his own DVDs.
“It was the launch of Lee Nelson Live on DVD and we thought it would be funny if I pretended to knick them at the signing in Oxford Street, with an actor dressed as a copper coming to give chase,“ explains Simon, 37. “But with some of the things I do, I took it to the next level and started running down the street. Next thing I knew another copper was giving chase to arrest me for real. How can you explain to an actual police officer that a man that’s dressed up as an officer is an actor and that I’m not really a thief, that it’s all fake?
“Not easily I can tell you. It took a lot of persuading.“ Shameless self-publicity? Or a penchant for taking things too far? It’s hard to tell.
But Simon is actually an interesting character in his own right.
Having trained as a medical doctor at University College School in Hampstead, he worked in inner-city Manchester hospitals, before scrapping that career for a life as a comic.
“Do I regret leaving medicine for comedy? Let’s see how Harrow goes and I’ll let you know,“ he chuckles.
“In all honesty? I’ve always made people laugh. Without blowing my child trumpet too much, I think I was a funny kid. That sounds rude doesn’t it? And that’s the last thing the BBC’s going to want to hear.
“But yeah, I was always the class clown, always thrown out of lessons. So I thought I’d give it a go and try it out professionally. The response I had was encouraging from the start.“ The response to Lee Nelson is in fact a bit like Marmite. Some people absolutely love him, whereas others have accused him of contributing to the dumbing-down of television – an accusation he refutes.
“I don’t agree with that idea at all,“ he says. “People get confused between the character who’s dumb, acts dumb, sounds dumb and dresses dumb.
“But the actual jokes are written by someone with a medical degree and a decent education. I think people get confused.“ Given his privileged background, some might question his decision to ridicule council estate culture.
“I never mention chavs or talk about chavs when I do Lee,“ says Simon. “He’s a character that was inspired by a group of immature buffoons on a Manchester double decker bus that had this happy-go-lucky attitude.
“It’s not about belittling anyone. Lee Nelson is warmly portrayed, there’s no sneering involved. He’s meant to be actually quite a celebratory, loveable character.
“I’ve tried a bit of Simon on stage. I’m doing a bit of Simon now, just for you. I don’t hide behind these characters, I just find them more fun, more comfortable. “My heart lies in my characters.“
Lee Nelson is at Harrow Arts Centre, Uxbridge Road, Hatch End, on June 17, 7.30pm. Details: harrowarts.com, 020 8416 8989