Prankster Simon Brodkin had tears of relief when first hearing about his ADHD


Simon Brodkin masquerading as a Tory Party conference delegate in 2017 (Picture: Shutterstock)

It has taken a long time for Simon Brodkin to be himself on stage. The man who has pranked some of the most powerful people on the planet and become the most viewed British comedian on TikTok has spent much of his career pretending to be other characters, but that’s changing.

Many will know Simon from his audacious stunts, which include showering disgraced ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter with fake banknotes, handing then-Prime Minister Theresa May a P45 at the Tory Party conference, emptying a big bag of swastika-covered golf balls towards Donald Trump and crashing Kanye West’s set at Glastonbury.

Theresa May and Simon Brodkin

Simon handing the then PM Theresa May a spoof P45 (Picture: Getty)

He also tricked the producers of Britain’s Got Talent into believing he was a Jewish Orthodox rapper, and got three yes votes from the judges.

Others will be familiar with his comedy characters, such as the swaggering, perma-tanned footballer Jason Bent, and cheeky ‘chav’ Lee Nelson. But in Simon’s latest stand-up show, Screwed Up, he’s showing audiences who he really is, while making us laugh.

But this is not Simon’s first attempt at revealing something of his true self. In 100% Simon Brodkin (which critics suggested was ‘only 68 per cent Simon Brodkin’), he left character comedy behind and, in Troublemaker, he dipped his toe in the water of explaining how he was always getting into scrapes, whether at school or getting arrested for his pranks.

But Screwed Up really digs down into what makes him who he is. And a big part of that is his recent ADHD diagnosis.

On his way to a gig a few years ago he listened to a podcast in which a doctor described the symptoms of the condition.

‘He was talking about what he sees in his patients and I had to pull over because it was just overwhelming. I was thinking, “Oh my God, it’s as if he’s been following me my whole life, written down everything I do and called it a condition.”

Simon holding golf balls with swastikas when Donald Trump visited Scotland (Picture: Shutterstock)

‘ADHD affects the wiring of your brain. Your brain is like an orchestra, and all the different parts are working on different things for the same common goal,’ says Simon, who used to be a doctor himself.

‘But in the ADHD brain, the conductor is drunk. Wasted. That means all these different things in one’s life that I thought were disconnected, such as sleeping, eating, memory, exercise and drive, come down to this one initial wiring issue. I had tears coming down my face listening to it. I’m not sure how good that gig was,’ he smiles.

Knowing more about ADHD helped Simon understand why he had chosen the path he had. ‘It explains why I was so attracted to character comedy, avoiding stand-up as myself because I wasn’t comfortable as myself,’ he says.

Simon about to throw fake dollars over FIFA president Sepp Blatter in a protest over corruption in 2015 (Picture: Getty)
Fake dollars raining down on the Swiss official (Picture: Getty)

‘Stand-up is more nuanced and complex. I knew I wasn’t quite normal. I used to do things to try to fit in, and pretending to be someone else was what I’d done my whole life with different people and different circumstances. We are chimps with some mad upgrades going on.’

Not long after the ADHD diagnosis he also discovered that his great-grandparents had been driven out of Russia in the pogrom. ‘I was thinking, “Come on, is there a worse time to find out I’m Russian?”’

His mother’s side of the family had escaped from Germany in 1939, and his identity as a cultural – though not religious – Jew is important to him. In the show he jokes about his bar mitzvah reading, but it’s all underlined by a valid concern about antisemitism.

Simon as his cheeky chappy alter ego Lee Nelson (Picture: WireImage)

Being ‘outed’ as a Jew by American white supremacist David Duke was one of the consequences of Simon’s prankster notoriety.

‘The hate that came my way was insane,’ he says. ‘It’s disturbing.’

And his eyes widen at the prescience of him targeting Kanye West a few years before the American spewed antisemitism on Twitter late last year. Referring to the rapper’s tweet about going ‘death con [sic] on Jewish people’, he says: ‘Can you imagine a Jewish person saying those things about the black community? Going defcon on all black people because they ruin everything?’

The version on Screwed Up you’ll see on tour takes a different form from the show that earned enthusiastic reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, being longer and adding a lot more topical material, some of which you can get a taste of on Simon’s TikTok videos – one of which has had more than 5.5million views.

One suspects that he’s still not completely himself on stage, but it’s clear that being able to discuss his ADHD is a relief.

‘It’s comforting and fortifying to know what makes you tick. Knowing who you are and being comfortable with who you are is probably the greatest state of mind a human being can be in,’ he says, emphasising that this show is going to be fun, full of jokes and not as serious as he might be making it sound.

‘It’s an important shift for me, mentally. The stand-up I aspire to is personal, intimate and real.’

Screwed Up is at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells, tonight, and touring

MORE : Comedian Simon Brodkin on his nightmarish renovation experience

MORE : Who is Simon Brodkin’s celebrity prankster persona, Lee Nelson?

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