I’m not sure about Lee Nelson, as my initially lefty think can’t help but wonder if he’s busy reigniting the class wars. I find it difficult not to feel there’s a slightly have-your-cake-eat-it aspect to Simon Brodkin’s character, so that some will see it as a critique of clueless chaviness and laugh at his dimness and stereotyped antisocial attitudes, while others will see him as some type of working class hero. Are we meant to laugh at or with his shoplifting and sexist jokes? Is it an act that essentially makes fun of marginalised people or celebrates them? I suspect Brodkin is playing both ends against the middle, or else he solely cares that it works and people enjoy it.
I also think that if Brodkin didn’t play Nelson as such a chirpy, happy, optimistic and looking-for-a-laugh presence, he’d come in for a hell of lot more stick than he does. But that’s the thing, whether it’s a good thing or not, Nelson is played as so harmless it’s tough to get too angry about him. The real question becomes whether you find him funny.
To be honest it doesn’t really float my boat. While I found some of his jokes pretty funny, much of it fell flat for me – I can’t say it was bad, it just wasn’t my thing. There’s undoubtedly a dodgy undercurrent of picking on people, whether they’re fat, ugly, female or possibly gay. It’s easy to say Nelson’s just having a laugh and you’re not meant to take his attitude seriously, but the jokes still often rely on laughing at others and picking on their differences. It’s not a type of comedy I like all that much, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the sort of deliberate cringe-inducing humour he does either.
Whether it’s getting a member of the audience on stage and deliberately ‘peer pressuring’ him into dancing in his underpants or hosting a mock game show where young lads have to find out about their dad’s sex life, I get a nasty taste when it’s comedy based on embarrassment. Sure those picked out from the audience don’t have to take part, but personally I find it all unnecessary, a little bit juvenile and far less funny than Nelson seems to think it is.
But then, that’s the great difficulty of reviewing comedy. Objectively I can appreciate that this is a well put together show and Nelson is well-performed, fully formed character who’s far less one-dimensional than previous attempts to find comedy in chav-dom (e.g. Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard and Catherine Tate’s Lauren). The audience obviously appreciates it enormously and Nelson works exceedingly hard to make sure everyone’s having a good time. But it’s definitely not to my taste.
It’s also undoubtedly true that if you haven’t seen Lee Nelson’s TV Show, there are times you might get lost. You may be wondering what the hell is going on with Lee’s ‘fat legend’ best mate Omelette, and why the audience often seems to know what Lee’s going to say before he says it. However if you did see the series and enjoyed it, I have no doubt you’ll love this too.
Overall Verdict: Although I worry it’s laughing at the underprivileged and stereotyping them, Lee does his best to put on a good show that fans will certainly lap up.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac