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The Comedian Who Crashed Kanye's Glastonbury Performance Is a Complete Hack

The UK hasn't done enough to stop unfunny bullshit like this at the source.
June 29, 2015, 4:15pm

Lee Nelson on stage at Glastonbury. Screen shot via the BBC.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

It's quite galling just how far the Jenga tower of British entertainment has fallen. The mess of wooden bricks—of vloggers with publishing deals, of teary X Factor contestants, of puerile non-comedy—strewn all over the floor, awaiting an angry father to come along and step right on them while trying to go for his morning shit.

Lee Nelson (real name Simon Brodkin, a former doctor) is a frontiersman of our dumbing down. He is a dog shit cowboy, and his 2010 BBC Three series, Lee Nelson's Well Good Show, was his very own Deadwood, South Dakota. It was a tremendous Hoover Dam of slurry, a furiously classist mash of total garbage, featuring a comically obese man called "Omelette" whose back he would ride around on like a cruel little boy on a wheezing old dog.

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Wikipedia describes the character Lee Nelson as a "happy-go-lucky chav." His catchphrase is "quality," spoken in an accent/manner not dissimilar to a Mastodon fan doing a bad Ali G impression while taking the piss out of hip-hop "because it's not real music." He also had a character called Dr. Bob, whose whole schtick was basically a silly voice and visual gags about man boobs.

Lee Nelson's Well Good Show ran, somehow, for two series, ending in October of 2011. Its successor, Lee Nelson's Well Funny People, ran for one series in 2013. And that was about it from him—until Saturday night.

Lee Nelson interrupting Kanye West at Glastonbury.

During the Glastonbury headline slot of American motormouth and rapper Kanye West, Nelson ran on stage in a T-shirt emblazoned with "Lee-Zus," then bounced around for about five seconds, clearly unsure of how to actually do anything funny, before being bundled off by a flustered looking stage-hand. It was a stunt enjoyed by no one.

Had the stage been invaded by anyone other than Lee Nelson, I imagine it would have been more well received—though only marginally. But because it was him—this man who won't go away, who won't leave us alone with his dangerously shit banter and awful, terrible gags—it was untenable.

There is something socially-horrendous about unfunny people doing and saying unfunny things. Being in the presence of an unfunny peer, one who constantly swings and misses, makes a special type of sweat secrete from your glands, a special kind of chesty unease. So how to cope when you're not just enduring these people at the pub or a party, but when the trailers for their terrible TV shows make you feel uncomfortable in your own home?

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What are we to do with our lingering mass of unwanted funny men and women? Where do we put the Lee Nelsons, the writers of Coming of Age, the past-it Ben Eltons?

Being "out of touch" is no excuse. By rights, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse should be long consigned to the gag cemetery, but their sketch show Harry & Paul remains one of the only examples of the format still working on modern British TV.

One of the most famous instances of a show reviled by many, while still managing a degree of ratings success, is Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, which ran—astonishingly—for an entire decade. It was a flagship BBC Three program, the life and times of four friends in Runcorn, Cheshire.

Ralf Little was lucky enough to play Antony Royle in Caroline Aherne and Craig Cash's much-lauded The Royle Family, so has at least one BAFTA-related notch on his belt. Sheridan Smith has skyrocketed into being gloomy-but-stoic northern woman du jour in some high budget dramas. But what of Natalie Casey and Will Mellor? People unable to shake the stink of a bad comedy, unable to break free from the amniotic sack of shit jokes about condoms and adult diapers. Where do they go now?

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We only have ourselves to blame for this. Lee Nelson is the Kevin we need to talk about, and he's not alone. We need to talk about Russell Howard's Good News. We need to talk about why all of the BBC's flagship panel shows—Have I Got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, etc—have decreased in quality or been canned.

We haven't spoken up enough. We've allowed our selfish torrents-streaming-Netflix culture, one of immediate gratification, to stir panic and stupidity in the upper echelons of TV programming—a stupidity that feeds right into the shows they end up commissioning, into what comedians think the public wants, into people like Lee Nelson running on stage in the middle of a Kanye West show for no real reason other than temporarily getting back in the news (which worked, obviously).

Mind you, what do we expect from Nelson, a man who does a minstrel show of a poor person? Do we expect quality? Do we expect nuance in his actions? Of course not—he is a terrible comedian who was given too big a break, and now we can't get rid of him. He will never make the transition to serious actor; he will never be anything more than a cheap jokester, a middling prank co-ordinator. He exists in a dire limbo, a shameless, self-aggrandizing, social media-driven grasp for re-relevance. Thirty years from now, he will dress up as Queen Victoria and photo-bomb Prince George at the next big Royal Wedding, and still nobody will care.

And it is us who are to blame for all this. We're not doing enough to stop it from happening, to stop TV channels from becoming a Dignitas for people's careers. We must start cutting them off at the source. We must set fire to any and all student comedy nights that occur anywhere in the UK. Together, we can beat this.

Follow Joe Bish on Twitter.