Lee Nelson: Serious Joker, Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury - review
It must be a great moment for a comedian being able to stride on to the stage with a swagger, chest puffed out as the audience cheer and whoop.
But then when the applause and acclaim dies down, the serious bit of getting the gig going is a pretty important moment. If a few gags fall flat you could lose a few people before you’ve started.
So Lee Nelson got to work – and then a woman walked in late. She had forgotten to give her teenage son the house keys while he was around at a friend’s.
A quick haranguing, on with the show. And then it happened again. And again. And again.
This could have been hugely frustrating for Nelson – who as he pointed out, had made it from London on time. But in a show that very much feeds off the audience in among the cheeky one-liners, Nelson made sure he turned it to his advantage.
He was actually a bit too quick off the mark – the second batch of “latecomers” turned out to be theatre staff at the side of the room. Whoops.
But with people still making the walk of shame to their seats a good 20 minutes into the show, he had plenty of ammunition to work with.
Two lads from Bridgnorth walked in 15 minutes late. “We couldn’t park,” chirped up one of them under questioning from Nelson. After a gentle bit of probing it turns out this guy was the passenger – and he couldn’t find the driver in the theatre.
A young couple were the last to face the Nelson interrogation. “He (partner) told me the show started at 8,” said the girl. Awkward.
But the best was perhaps saved for one guy who made it on time in the front row – only to catch Nelson’s eye due to the empty seat next to him.
Turned out he hadn’t been stood up by his date as Nelson assumed – it was the man’s brother who hadn’t come because “Lee Nelson isn’t funny”.
In no time the guy’s mobile phone had been handed over and a voicemail message left with a comedy ransom note and an invite to come along for the second half. Alas, he never showed.
It’s a new look Nelson these days. Gone is the trademark baseball cap and in place a dapper grey suit and shirt. The “chav” from South London is going up in the world. But some things will never change.
Issues such as Brexit and immigration were tackled, and invariably ended with some quip about Nelson’s sex life.
Simon Brodkin, who plays Nelson, made every effort to engage the audience at every turn – indeed 80-year-old John a few rows in front of us was one of the stars of the show and a very good sport. Nelson probed in the hope of unearthing some comedy gold. It didn’t always happen.
But he is at his best delivering sharp and borderline offensive one-liners – and he always had that to fall back on.
That included insulting members of the audience (suggesting one young woman needed a guide dog judging by the way she dressed) or falling back on gross stereotypes such as the older generation being racists and Americans being fat. All delivered with the trademark cheeky grin.
As he always said after pushing the boundaries, “You’re all welcome, everyone’s welcome”. We certainly were. We wouldn’t have it any other way.