Simon Brodkin: One Man Comedy Club
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2007
A trailblazing new show from the winner of the Writers’ Guild Award 2006 for Best Comedy Newcomer. Simon’s new show presents four stand-up comedians, skillfully and ingeniously linked by the critically-acclaimed comic.
What a great idea: recreating a comedy club night but with one person playing all the acts. But unfortunately, all Simon Brodkin has proved is that there’s huge gap between character work and stand-up which is near-impossible to breach.
The only creations that work in this patchy show are the ones who aren’t comedians. When he attempts stand-up, in whatever guise, it mostly misfires.
Brodkin is best known for Lee ‘Nelsy’ Nelson, who acts as the compere of One Man Comedy Club – and he’s an absolute delight. In a comic landscape where chav characters are hardly thin on the ground, his version really does take it to the (TK) Maxx. Not only is he excellently portrayed, the gags come fast and sharp, usually just an unexpected twist at the end of a sentence that takes a satisfying moment to register.
Plus Brokin is so at home in this well-established character that he can ad lib and riff with the audience without once breaking his stride. Ideal, then, for the MC’s role.
But when he adopts the role of Billy Moffit, a deadpan Australian one-line merchant, this vehicle for his talents starts to struggle. Single, dry, gags are probably the hardest to write as they can’t rely on the personality of the teller to succeed, but with a couple of notable exceptions, Brodkin’s simply aren’t up to scratch.
His American comic Eddie Ramirez, billed as a political act, is also underpowered, with a very undersold delivery, completely atypical of US comics. And if he was American, his set surely wouldn’t be referencing Jade Goody and Ron Atkinson. The points he makes are similar to a bog-standard topical comic, but he doesn’t make them very well.
The problem with both these personas is that they haven’t been worked in enough. Decent stand-ups take about five years to get good, and Brodkin’s tried to develop two diverse acts in less than a year – so they’re basically at very new open-mic standard. Were they real acts, they’d be in a far-flung Free Festival venue in mid-afternoon, not the Pleasance Courtyard in early primetime, and if they’re supposed to be parodies of bad comics – well, it’s too close, as they just seem like bad comics.
Perhaps realising this, the third act on Brodkin’s bill is a character act. So it’s a character act, doing a character act, doing a character. Still with me? Basically, it’s an excuse to temporarily ditch the comedy club conceit and just trot out a creation who isn’t a stand-up – and the result is all the better for it.
Jason Bent is a premiership football, reading from his autobiography, which is as semi-literate and dull as you’d expect, saying nothing about nothing at excessive length. There are some obvious jokes in it, but some more skilful ones, too, and the dense creation as a whole works well.
For the final act, we have the Mike Yarwood ‘And this is me’ moment, as Brodkin performs as himself. And in case we don’t believe him, he reassures us with a self-deprecating ‘It is me. I would never have written such a bland comic persona.’ Previous evidence might suggest otherwise, but we’ll let it slide.
The problem is, Brodkin genuinely does struggle to bring much energy or personality to his routine, explaining, perhaps, why he usually prefers to perform from behind the safety of a character. There are a few neat Jewish gags – that’s his ethnicity – and a few more besides but, ironically enough, the persona needs more work.
One Man Comedy Club is a brave experiment, but on the evidence of an excellent chav, a decent footballer and three below-par comedians, the advice to Brodkin will have to be to stick to characters from outside the world of comedy, and leave stand-up to the stand-ups.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Date of review: Aug 2007