This is Nick Helm’s pandemic show. It is also his redemption show, in part. A lot has happened since Nick was last on stage – he’s found new passions, new relationships, and new pills. All to good effect.
Shuffling onto the stage apropos of nothing, Helm shiftily coerces a front-row audience member to read his intro. No, not like that! Finds another member – and we’re off. Haranguing as a warm-up fits like a familiar glove to Helm, even updating his old “Do you like jokes?! Do you like jokes?!” assault with a post-pandemic twist. It’s familiar so has less of the punch of previous attacks, but it sets the tone nicely and perhaps begins a less outright aggressively energetic time.
Helm has had a mixed bag of a pandemic. He didn’t want to write a pandemic show, but then nothing else happened and here we are. Common shopping shortages segue nicely into a passion for a new non-alcoholic beverage he has an evangelical devotion to. It’s just one of a number of classic Helm bits doubling down into a topic, increasing intensity, until there’s a small breakdown on the stage. Jump on board or miss out, as it’s his study of the minutiae that mines the laughs.
There are a smattering of songs and a poem, true to his brand, stand-out amongst the these being ‘Mabel Rose’, something of a lullaby-love song to his newly acquired niece – an oasis of peace in his disorganised life, and a catalyst for change to the family dynamic. With gentle wonder, he finds a kinship with the toddler who has made him a real-life uncle for the first time, and the love is utterly discernable.
Helm’s humour usually comes from a depression-fuelled spiral, self-abusing and self-hating while berating an audience into frenzied laughter – but now he’s in the best place he’s ever been mentally and the self-loathing doesn’t hold the same energy. There’s a shift to transition, with less set numbers and more personal sharing that intrigues and tickles rather than attacking. Perhaps a happier Helm is softer Helm.
Nick Helm – What Have We Become?
17.25, Pleasance Dome, Queen Dome, 3 – 28 (except 17th) August 2022