Interview: Nick Helm

I interviewed Nick Helm this summer for the London Evening Standard in the run-up to his new tour and new Dave TV series Eat Your Heart Out. You can read the original interview here but he said so much that I couldn't fit in that I've posted the interview transcript below. I've made a few changes to the questions to make myself look more articulate than I am but Nick's answers are Nick's answers. He is currently on tour and I recommend you see him. Buy tickets and check dates here.

 

BTJ: You've spoken in the past about the contrast between your stage personality and your TV appearances and how it can be confusing. Have you worked it out yet?

NH: I don't think I'll ever get my head around it. It’s a Venn diagram of me in the middle, Uncle, stand-up. 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown is different. Onstage I’m dominant in charge, a dickhead but in charge. On Cats Jimmy Carr is in charge and there’s a hierarchy and comedians you’ve never worked with before. I'm not a raconteur I really think about what I’m gonna do on those shows. Whereas Rob Beckett will just open his mouth and talk. I plan three things to say per round and once one gets a laugh I don’t talk any more.

My character in Uncle is a suicidal failed musician, my stage act is about a manic depressive suicidal failed entertainer so actually not million miles part. I think about it more than anyone else. I do try to imagine what it is they want. Is it like what if Nicholas Lyndhurst was a stand up? I think it’s good to talk about this because it prepares people for what they are going to see. 

I did a dry run for Jack Dee’s Helpdesk show at Soho Theatre and the audience would ask questions about cats, flatmates, supermarkets and what was mental about it was I had routines but they required repetition and the energy of pacing up and down. Katherine Ryan completely understood the format, whereas all I had was swearwords.

I talked to Seann Walsh about it and he said he just does stuff that he is good at now. Whereas there's a part of me that wants to be good at everything. I'm going to keep doing it until I learn how to do it right. Seann said 'that sounds like a lot of hard work.'

If you transcribe what I say it’s not even about the material. One thing I don't think my act is is all about swearing, but it is an element to it. When you see me live it all makes a lot more sense. It's always better when you are in the room. I grew up watching Dee, Evans, Izzard on VHS. Stand-up can work on telly but with me you don’t get the atmosphere.

BTJ: So is the anger and swearing onstage the real you?

NH: It’s my sense of humour so it obviously all comes from me but is on an ironic level. Going up there to get upset and lose your temper with audience members is the opposite of what you should be doing. Rude and shouting is the point, it’s not about being liked or polite, I’ve never done that. The more people want to be liked onstage the worse they are offstage. I’m not there to get a girlfriend or make best friends I’m just going onstage to make people laugh and I'm doing that by presenting myself in a terrible light, like a light entertainment cabaret bloke who has no social skills and is going through a nervous breakdown. I would say maybe it's less conceptualised now but I’m not a ponce.

Interview continues here.

 

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