Lee Nelson creator to 'black up'

Simon Brodkin to play African preacher

Lee Nelson creator Simon Brodkin is to ‘black up’ for a character in his new series.

Lee Nelson’s Well Funny People, which starts on BBC Three next month, will introduce viewers to a raft of new creations, including African preacher Daniel Doolay.

He will be in full make-up for the evangelist, who presents a Christian TV station called Praise Be To Jesus.

It is not the first time the former medic has adopted an ethnic look, as his incompetent Dr Bob, who appeared in Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show, is of Asian origin.

However, the practice has proved surprisingly uncontroversial in recent years – as opposed to the Seventies when a backlash led to the cancellation of the Black And White Minstrel Show. ‘Blackface’ was popular in the slave-era minstrel shows, and has traditionally been seen as propagating racist stereotypes.

And only last month Dutch footballer Ruud Van Nistelrooy was accused of racism after visiting a hospital dressed as a king with a 'blacked-up' face.

But apart from a questioning Guardian article in 2007, Dr Brodkin has received no such criticism.

His portrayal comes after Little Britain brought the practice of white comedians playing ethnic characters into the mainstream, through such creations as as Thai bride Ting Tong – as played by Matt Lucas – and Desiree deVere - David Walliams blacked up in a fat suit. Brodkin will also be reviving Dr Bob for Lee Nelson’s Well Funny People, which starts on March 14. A publicist for producers Avalon Television said the show ‘features a whole host of comedy characters that are straight from the streets of modern Britain’.

Grime artist Wiley has produced the soundtrack for the series which is set, in part, on Nelson’s Bermondsey estate. It also features spoof TV shows including:

  • Reality TV star Gary from The Only Way Is Macclesfield in his own spin-off show OMG! LOL! FYI! It’s Gary!!!

  • Newcastle’s answer to Jamie Oliver in Geordie Kitchen

  • Club rep Chris in Kicking Off In Kavos

  • The inner-city ‘feral’ youth of Manchester’s M21 Gang

  • Police spoof Cop Cars with the unashamedly bigoted PC Haynes

  • Premier League striker Jason Bent in More Bent Than Ever

  • An unhinged Gangster Headmaster taking charge of a struggling Hampshire secondary school.

Nelson is going on tour on the back of the series, and is set to appear on this year’s Let’s Dance For Comic Relief, making him the only person to perform on the show twice. He danced to Wham’s Club Tropicana in tiny white trunks in 2011.

Published: 22 Feb 2013

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