Nick Helm – Live Review – Sheffield Leadmill
By Victoria Holdsworth, November 2019
Straight into the routine tonight, with not one second of breathing room.
Nick Helm’s latest tour offering, ‘Phoenix from The Flames’, sees him in his energy-filled sparkly gold hot pants, stood aloft in a box, in front of a screen projecting a risqué montage of imagery, while he rattles gruffly through a verbal montage of the same. It’s his opening musical track.
Then he’s into his usual intro: “Do you like jokes?” shouted into the face of an unsuspecting audience member, sat near the front. It’s his first victim of the night and never fails to make me chuckle.
Nick Helm is a big pussycat really, as the crowd were about to find out this evening, on a rollercoaster of comedy, bursting with almost every emotion.
Tonight is a different Nick Helm from the version I have seen before. His usually boisterous, bear-like, confident shell has slight hairline cracks. He acknowledges his off-stage struggles with mental health, opening up about his anxiety and depression, as he admits that he does not really want to be on stage tonight, and sometimes does not even want to leave the house.
But if there is one thing that Nick Helm is going to make sure of on his quest, it is that depression is not going to be depressing. He rallies his audience of troops to attention with some acidic wit and banter, relating to his own humiliations in life, as well as forcing some of those back on to the crowd.
The stories he regales about his resentment and pills of bitterness towards other comedians, whose fame has managed to surpass his own (namely Rob Beckett and Romesh Ranganathan) will have your sides splitting – whilst his musings on not being able to ejaculate due to his medications are comedy gold.
But the best part of tonight’s set is the story of his endeavours to help Comic Relief. For those of you who don’t know, last year Mr. Helm created his own boy band tribute act called No Direction. If the story behind that wasn’t funny enough, then his metered tale about his pledge phone line support will have you in hysterics.
The brutality of his delivery, brashness of confidence and barrelling enthusiasm always sets Nick Helm apart from the rest of the circuit.
Tonight was definitely more introspective, but he somehow seems to have connected with his audience more – especially when being deprecating about his previous TV accomplishments, Uncle and Heavy Entertainment. In a way it cajoles his crowd into giving his work the sort of endorsement that he perhaps craves.
It is also very clear to see that Helm is a fan of Stewart Lee – his routine uses Lee’s technique of whispered repetition to great aplomb, and his timing, likewise, is always spot on. But it is the musical numbers in his set that will bring a tear to your eyes. Maybe he should just do a straight music album – with a voice like his it is too good to waste.
The end of his set encourages us to ‘Keep On Trucking’ as he sends out a message to remind us that ‘Good things happen when you leave the house sometimes.’
Indeed. As good things happen when you go see Nick Helm.