Not laughing anymore? How a well-good stunt landed the joker behind Lee Nelson in court

The man behind Lee Nelson tells Ian Burrell he will have to keep a straight face in front of magistrates this week

The comedian Simon Brodkin is appearing in Liverpool this week in a rare performance as himself – standing up in front of the magistrates’ bench.

The star of BBC Three’s Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show has been charged with pitch encroachment under the Football Offences Act after one of his alter egos – Jason Bent, a pastiche of a Premier League player with a diamond earring and a bleached Shark’s Fin haircut – joined in a warm up with Manchester City players ahead of their game at Everton last month.

“I would never have done this stunt had I realised we would have been ending up in court,” he told The Independent in his first interview out of character. “I took advice beforehand and I thought I wouldn’t get arrested. I thought it would be taken as the joke was meant to be taken – which the players all seemed to pretty much enjoy. On the footage you can see them all grinning.” He said he would not be using Wednesday’s court hearing as an opportunity to showcase his comedic talents. “I have got to treat the court with the respect it deserves,”  he said.

Brodkin, 35, is an interesting character in his own right, a trained medical doctor who worked in inner-city Manchester hospitals before abandoning that career for a life as a funnyman.

He claims not to be a crude publicity seeker. “I’m not looking to go ‘Look, I’m being outrageous and aren’t you going to be really offended?’”

That’s a case he will also need to make in court. Brodkin was at Everton’s Goodison Park in full Manchester City away strip in order to shoot some clips to promote his new series. Having gone onto the pitch he will not want to give up the comedy gold dust that he subsequently gathered, warming up with City’s star names. “I was getting in there with [Gareth] Barry and [James] Milner, giving it some,” he says, mimicking a loosening up exercise. “And I managed to pass the ball to [Samir] Nasri.”

Brodkin could argue that he was helping to burst the artificial bubble that separates overpaid footballers from those who attend matches. The Jason Bent persona is an attempt to highlight the ludicrous seriousness of so many televised interviews with players. “Part of it is our fault because we stick a microphone in front of them 24-7 and they’ve got nothing to say. They’ve had the personality sucked out of them and they end up saying nothing – win, lose or draw.”

He continued to play Bent, with his broad Scouse accent, even as Everton stewards marched him from the pitch, telling them: “Just give me 10 minutes – I had 50 grand on me scoring the  first goal.” He claims that one police officer joked to him that the paperwork would be done quickly “to get you off to Old Trafford”.

Brodkin has been in trouble before. At school he was the “class clown” and he was “booted out” of the gynaecology module at medical school after  inappropriate treatment of the mannequin and telling the lecturer: “I’m putting the patient at her ease”.

He remains in touch with some of his former fellow doctors and has “no regrets” about going into comedy. “They’re still doing exams,” he said. “I’ve been pretending I’m a Manchester City footballer and going on the pitch at Goodison.”

Awkwardly, he has already appeared on court steps in one of his BBC3 sketches. Bent was depicted facing the press after being cleared of a night club assault. “I intend to make no further comment now or in the future,” the footballer told reporters with due gravitas. “Although you can read my side of the story exclusively in my forthcoming book Getting Away With It.”

In real life, Brodkin is funny, describing his time as a junior doctor on call and being “bleeped” in the night. “I got out of bed, grabbed the white coat and headed onto the wards, and while I was talking to the patient looked down to see that I had put my dressing gown on instead of the white coat. That was the level of exhaustion.”

One of his characters, Dr Bob, (a terrifyingly shambolic GP who says things like “Let’s Google it!”), is based on a bungling medic he encountered. “I remember he was removing someone’s gall bladder, a pretty routine operation. The 45 minutes passed when the whole thing was meant to be wrapped up, then two hours passed, then three hours. The sweat was building on his face and everyone was eyes-rolling and head-shaking, watching this bloke. Eventually he went, (foreign accent): “Right, I don’t seem to be able to do zis correctly so…” and he literally left. Someone had to come and finish the job.”

Brodkin is best known for playing Lee Nelson, a softer, male version of Catherine Tate’s infamous chav character Lauren “Bovvered?” Cooper. Nelson is a simple soul in a baseball cap, a grinning member of a social underclass who happily resists any sense of responsibility in life. “I love Lee and his attitude to life. He bounces back, he’s fun to be with, he’s cheeky and he’s got a great joie de vivre, though I don’t think those would be his words.”

With his medical qualifications, and the fact he attended the independent University College School in Hampstead, north London, some might question his right to lampoon council estate culture. But Brodkin says he has not received any hostility – “honestly, no” – and points out that Lee is one of his wide range of characters, from Pastor Daniel Doolay, a homophobic African minister with a satellite TV channel (catchphrase: “Let me help you get the dick devil out of you”), to camp reality “star” Gary from The Only Way Is Macclesfield (catchphrases: “OMG, LOL”). He said that one sketch involving Pastor Doolay (for which he blacks up) had been held by the BBC until after Easter, commenting “I think that went all the way up to the BBC Trust actually”.

Given that he is in his mid-thirties, Brodkin might be expected to drop the role soon, much as The Inbetweeners cast have had to grow up. But he has no plans to do so. “Lee, no matter how old he grows, will still have the same outlook on life,” he says. “He will always have the cap on. He’s meant to have kids himself but that hasn’t helped him grow up.”

Lee Nelson's Well Funny People is on BBC Three on Thursday. A new national stand-up tour starts in April

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
    World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

    Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

    The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
    Why the league system no longer measures up

    League system no longer measures up

    Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
    Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

    Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

    Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
    Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

    The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

    Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness