My hazy teenage memories of Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show are not positive. Yappy, yobby, generally stupid – and as a North London teen, I was probably the target audience.
But I gave Lee Nelson a second chance – several years later – and was rewarded. As I’ve grown up, so has Lee Nelson, who now has some brilliant material on family life. It certainly seems that Simon Brodkin, the comedian and prankster behind the ‘Lee Nelson’ character, has grown into a much smarter writing style. Brodkin looks as if he could never be anyone other than Lee Nelson, and he works the character traits brilliantly, never dropping out of the only slightly irritating mockney accent.
The cheeky chappy act was unexpectedly charming, like the boy at the back of the class who always managed to get his way out of trouble with a smile. There were elements of the schoolboy bully in the routine; twenty minutes was spent getting to know the audience, then ripping them apart. But there was great craftsmanship in the writing as Nelson would ask for a demographic – “Anyone over 75? You legends!” – then make his pre-prepared putdowns seem effortlessly off the cuff. The hard work writing was audible as he picked on his old audience member, his young audience member, his audience couple etc., telling Davyd he’d pronounced his name wrong, and triple checking the ‘Legend’ had his hearing aid on.
Not the most intellectual jests but they certainly went down well, and a knowing smile from Nelson lets him off the hook. There was also some wonderful misdirection that turned the finger back at the audience, making them think again before assuming Nelson was incapable of compassion, or uttering something more profound than his fashion sense suggested he could. Nelson’s comedy also seems to have gotten darker – perhaps maturing with age, perhaps letting himself loose from the BBC shackles – but it really works well. This is especially true in some of his bits about fatherhood, like what he’s really thinking when his son asks ‘What do you think of my drawing?’
A few of these segments meander a little, the waffle leaving the audience confused in the run up to the punchline, but it’s not Lee Mack, it’s Lee Nelson, and the funny was – more often than not – worth waiting for. The comparison to Ali G has been made before, and I have to make it again, but I’d also add a dark dash of Jimmy Carr’s knowing insensitivity, and commend Brodkin on getting away with it much better with a wink and a smile that doesn’t look so much like a mannequin come alive.