An Interview with Nick Helm

nick helm interview comedian

By Ben Williams

‘Exhilarating.’ ‘High-octane.’ ‘Explosively funny.’ That’s just some of the words used to describe Nick Helm’s stand-up shows over the last decade and a half.

Over that time, Helm has established himself as one of the most thrilling, original and funniest comedians in the country, combining fist-pumping songs with delicate poems and in-ya-face stand-up.

But, in his new show, ‘What Have We Become?’, the panel show regular and star of BBC Three’s Uncle is showing his more sensitive side; tackling life-changing topics like the pandemic, uncle-hood and Pepsi Max Cherry.

I chatted to the British Comedy Award-winning and Bafta-nominated comedian ahead of taking ‘What Have We Become?’ on tour.

Tell us about your new show, ‘What Have We Become?’
It’s a really funny show, filled with stuff that I’ve thought about over the pandemic. It’s partly a story about personal growth and finding happiness. And partly a love letter to all my fans and audiences in general about how much I’ve missed them and how much we as comedians need them. In case anyone was feeling undervalued.

‘What Have We Become?’ is quite a different show to your previous solo offerings. Did you consciously want the show to have a different tone?
Yes. In the past my shows have been high-octane mish-mashes of songs, poems, one-liners and stand-up. And although they’re really fun to do, I wanted to do a more streamlined show. I wanted to challenge myself and focus more on stand-up, and audiences have been more than happy to go on that journey with me. It’s been liberating, educational, exciting and reinvigorating for me.

nick helm interview 2022

“I love people”

The show focuses on the pandemic. How did lockdown affect you?
I spent the first year thinking I was fine, but by the end of the year I realised I had fallen into a cycle of bad habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms. I was drinking too much, smoking again, eating too much, not exercising – all terrible habits, but I was kidding myself that I was on top of everything. Now I’m trying to focus on making my life as happy and good as possible. I’m trying to rebuild myself and leave my bad habits behind. I’ve battled with depression for years and it’s not good enough anymore. I’m trying to make my life into something that I’m comfortable with living.

The new show comes with a positive message. How do you keep things light when talking about the last two years?
The last two years have been terrible in many, many ways and everyone has had their own personal version of hell play out. But to only look at the negatives would be a disservice. On a personal level my family have become closer, I’ve had time to deal with my mental health a bit, and have become more energised over my work. I feel like politically certain groups, parties and individuals have been exposed even more so for who they truly are, were and always have been and we as a society are finally able to come together again and heal.

Can comedy help that healing process?
Stand-up comedy is a big part in doing that. I love people, I love making things work and navigating issues to help people get along better and just going out and meeting people and performing and making people laugh is an incredibly positive thing. How could it not be? My intent is to give people a fun, good night out and there’s no need to tear people down to do that. I think I’m trying to describe compassion.

“Eye opening”

nick helm interview shoutYou tackle politics for the first time in this show. Why did you feel now was the time to share your political opinions?
I’m not a particularly political comedian, I always try and have some sort of social message or explore the human condition in some way, but politically I don’t feel like I’m enough of an expert to throw my hat in the ring. However, some of what’s happened over the last few years is just wrong and has affected everyone. I don’t think it’s particularly one way or the other to say that it’s been a f***ing s*** show. I’m really just trying to vocalise how I and a lot of other people have been feeling.

You coached Conservative Baroness Sayeeda Warsi to perform her first stand-up gig for Stand Up for Cancer on Channel 4. How was that experience?
That was really eye opening. We got on really well and we won the contest. It made me realise: maybe if we all tried to work together a bit more to make things good we’d get further faster. I’m trying to do something that unites us after the last few years and makes everyone leave happier about themselves and energised to treat each other better than we have been.

You talk about getting to know your niece in the show. How have you found becoming an uncle?
It’s been life changing and transformative. I don’t have kids of my own and I guess you can take as much or as little interest as you like. I spent four years playing an Uncle on TV, but it’s only now that I’ve become one that I realise how rewarding it can be. I fell in love with my niece straight away and now I am on standby to be a friend and a guardian and brother and a helper and all that stuff. I love it.

As you mention, you’re well known for starring in the BBC Three sitcom, Uncle. The show ran until 2017 – how do you feel about the show, looking back?
I’ve always been incredibly proud of it. I knew why we left it at three series, but I also felt we had a lot more stories to tell, especially as the kid was becoming an adult. There was college, uni, the inevitable role reversal of him becoming a drunken stoner and me trying to salvage him. It’s sort of bitter-sweet. I miss it, but I had an opportunity that lots of other people never get and I didn’t f*** it up. I’m proud of it and of me. And the kid and I are always going to be friends for life.

nick helm interview tour

“Great pride”

Is there any role you would love to play?
Dr Who, Lemmy, Captain Hook and any cowboy in any western.

You’re on screen as yourself too, on panel and stand-up shows. What’s been your favourite to do?
Aside from getting to serenade Susie Dent on Cats Does Countdown, my favourite thing was my own show Heavy Entertainment on BBC Three. I loved doing it and would obviously welcome doing anything like that again.’

Is Susie Dent a good sport?
Susie Dent is a national treasure and I am incredibly lucky to have been allowed to work with her over the years. She is so supportive and the fact that we have built this little story line that people have enjoyed is a source of great pride for me. People mention it every time I leave the house and I never get bored of it. I love her. She is the best.

Finally, what would you like audiences to take away from the new show, ‘What Have We Become?’
I want people to leave with smiles on their faces and to feel like they’ve had their money’s worth.

Nick Helm is on tour with ‘What Have We Become?’ 30 Sep – 4 Nov 2022
He plays Leeds City Varieties Friday 21 Oct & York The Crescent 27 Oct
For full tour details and tickets visit
images: Ed Moore


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