Lee Nelson: ‘Brighton’s close to my heart’ We Interview the South London scamp
We caught up with the one and only Lee Nelson and chatted Kanye, X-Factor, Greggs, Brighton beach and why the shell suit is now in the charity shop.
Comedian Simon Brodkin has had a busy year making countless national headlines. From humiliating Sepp Blatter to out shining Kanye West, Brodkin is known for pushing the boundaries and blurring the lines between his fictional characters and the real world. Following the spring leg of his 68-date nationwide tour, his most famous creation, Lee Nelson, plays Brighton’s Dome on the 22nd October with his brand new live show, Suited & Booted, as part of it’s three times extended run.
“Brighton’s close to me – close to my heart, close geographically,” begins Lee. “Always used to come down here, do some racing in my Corsa back in the day on the beach front. It’s a good little vibe innit. It’s a nice place, it reminds you of why we should be so grateful for cheap air flights to Spain.
“No seriously, I love it. Who wants golden white, sandy beaches and warm waters when you can have freezing cold, grey sea lapping against your stony beach covered in syringes and used Johnnies? That is what Britain is all about.” And burnt down piers, surely? “When you look out and see a burnt out pier and you’ve got a rock digging into your backside, you just lie back and think ‘this is England, this is home. I love it.’”
— Jason Bent (@Jason9Bent) July 20, 2015
Lee Nelson is a big name on the comedy circuit, with countless tours under his belt and two TV shows to his name. But for those who don’t know him, how would he describe himself. “South London Legend. So obviously Brighton’s first point of contact if you’re driving towards civilization. I’m just an ordinary lad who has a giggle. I like to make people laugh whatever their age, whatever their background. I’ll certainly make anyone feel welcome who comes along to my show in Brighton.”
And how do the crowds compare in Brighton to the rest of the country? “They do get a lot of comedians coming down there so they know their beans they know what they’re looking for,” Lee says. “I used to come down and do Komedia comedy club back in the day, so I always have fond memories. I’m in the Dome now mate. I don’t know what that is but it sounds good.”
Originally working as a doctor, Simon moved into comedy in 2004 and there’s been no looking back. I ask him how the big venues compare to the smaller, intimate gigs. “I still do little ones to warm up, try new stuff out. Often one of the best ways to see a comedian is when they’re trying out new stuff. When you play a big room it’s more like a cup final. Both of them are great, different atmospheres. I always make sure I banter and chat to the crowd no matter how big or small.”
Lee’s most notorious appearance was at this summer’s Glastonbury where he somehow managed to jump on stage during Kanye West’s headline set. The rapper was not best amused and Lee made headlines throughout the country.
“It was a buzz,” Lee reminisces. “It was a bit weird he was on the stage with me though. I knew a lot of people weren’t that up for him performing so I thought I’d give them another option as a headliner. I just went ‘go for it’ – bosh – next to Mr. West, spitting some lyrics, rapping like a legend. That was a giggle.”
Now, suited and booted, a more thoughtful Lee has begun to engage with life outside his estate and is grappling with bigger issues, offering his unique spin on religion, politics and immigration. “Upped my game a little bit. After I’d had my 16th kid I thought it was about time I grew up. Given all my old clothes to the charity shop. Hoping to see them on some other people in the next Comic Relief.”
Dealing with life’s weightier issues and touring on the road, Lee has seen what modern Britain looks like in 2015. “On tour you get to see the towns a little bit. I expected Brighton to be pretty welcoming towards the gay community but went there in the summer and there was like hundreds of police officers who’d rounded up every gay bloke and was making ’em march through the city centre wearing some terrible clothes. I must’ve seen like 105 different Greggs up and down the country too so you learn stuff. Think I’ve got three more to see which is exciting.”
The comedian has an uncanny gift for sneaking into places. From queuing up with the England football team as they boarded their chartered jet, to warming up with Man City (this particular stunt landed him in court), Lee also managed to gatecrash the X-Factor stage dressed as the ninth member of boyband Stereo Kicks. “For me that was big time,” declares Lee. “They were a special group. Only eight of them and everyone knows that’s too few so I got in there and made the band what it always should have been – a nine piece. Gutted to hear they split up recently but that’s clever; money wise, they’ve now got eight separate bands.”
I ask Lee if he has a message for any up and coming young comedians out there. “Leave it out son. It’s hard enough already as it is. The last thing we need is more competition.”
So will he be sticking around in Brighton after the show? – “The party is always at Brighton, let’s keep that happening! Skinny dipping at midnight is happening. What’s a good night on a Thursday?” I offer to take him to town for a large one. “Do that! We’re gunna end up in Greggs aren’t we?”
Lee Nelson’s Suited and Booted is on at Brighton Dome, Thursday 22nd October, 9:30pm