Simon Brodkin: Screwed Up | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Simon Brodkin: Screwed Up

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Despite several high-profile stunts, such as giving Theresa May a P45 and handing swastika-emblazoned golf balls to Donald Trump, Simon Brodkin isn’t the household name he feels he deserves to be, routinely labelled in the media as an ‘anonymous prankster’.

He doesn’t even have sufficient name recognition for I’m A Celebrity, a show almost defined by its lack of recognisable celebrities. And his last television appearance was a 2019 episode of Roast Battle, so traumatising it prompted Jimmy Carr to call up afterwards and enquire about his well-being. Not even Boris Johnson endorsing him as a man of character akin to his own has been enough to elevate him in the nation’s consciousness.

Away from the limelight, Brodkin, who made his name – in comedy at least – with characters like the chav scallywag Lee Nelson, is continuing his belated, intriguing excavation of his own personality that he’s been pursuing over the last few years.

This is all relative, and compared to some soul-baring stand-ups, he’s barely scratching the surface. But he opens up a little about his narcissistic gym addiction and becoming the latest comic with an ADHD diagnosis. Reflecting on how it fuels his career drive and affords him tunnel vision when pursuing a project, he soon snaps back into character and uses it as justification for ignoring his kids, before going full Nelson with a rascally bit about flogging his amphetamine-like medication to youngsters.

Similarly, Brodkin’s jealousy of fellow Jewish, sometime comedian Volodymyr Zelensky’s fame – and his sniping at the Ukrainian president’s comedy stylings – is informed by the bloodline of his Russian ancestry. But while Brodkin draws attention to the satirical impetus and risks attached to his pranks, he knows he’s no hero on any barricade. And typically he turns it into another gripe about I’m A Celebrity.

All of this is a bonus, though. The seemingly genuine insecurities and vulnerabilities he shares humanise an act that’s otherwise a bit of a relentless gag machine contained in an impregnable cheeky-chappie persona: an insight into the feckless, self-obsessed manchild behind the slightly exaggerated, feckless, self-obsessed manchild.

The horrors of Ukraine initially prompt Brodkin to some ingratiating lines on the uppity, hardnut Scots marching on England. But there’s something considerably darker and more substantial in his musings on the young Ukrainian women currently killing invading Russians, before presumably returning, post-war, to the traditional, nurturing professions from whence they came. It may not be politically correct or sensitive, delivered with an insincere grin. But it’s an original take that further emphasises the degradation of the conflict.

The struggles Brodkin has with his Jewishness, the rules it imposes upon him, are also returned to towards the end. And it seems likely that he’ll dig further into this if his stand-up continues to evolve and shed more of its disguise and artifice.

Simon Brodkin: Screwed Up is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 9.40pm

Review date: 13 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Jay Richardson
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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