Ten Big Questions… Nick Helm

Nick Helm Nick Helm
Posted: Thu Jan 20 2011

Supremely talented lovable shambles Nick Helm answers our Ten Big Questions

What can people expect from your Soho Theatre shows?
'I can confidently reveal that audiences can expect a lot of singing and dancing and poetry and jokes and red raw emotions howled into the night by a volatile yet tender loner. And his best friend Rob on guitar.'

Who or what makes you laugh?
'My friends make me laugh, and even though a lot of them are comedians that is by no mean a given. Me and my flatmate, who is a regular normal human being and not a comedian, laugh a lot. My family make me laugh when they're not talking me out of another panic attack and people who walk into things are always funny.'

What's the most memorable heckle you've ever received?
'At a gig in Cookham I went on stage and opened with about eight one liners as I usually do. Everyone just stared silently at me with a baffled look on their faces. I continued to do my routine until I was interrupted by one man frustratedly shouting out "Tell us a joke!" which I found irritating, because whether they were funny or not it was undeniable that I had just told over half a dozen.'

When did you decide you wanted to be a comedian?
'I always thought that being a stand-up was something that other people did. When I grew up watching comedy on telly it never really occurred to me that it was something I could ever try, let alone make a living out of because it just seemed like there was no logical route to get there. I had a go at a lot of other things, but was never really convinced by any of it until eventually I just decided to give stand-up a go. I suppose I was scared to try it, but I realised I wasn't getting any younger and after my first gig I realised that this was what I had been looking for all this time and even though I was pretty rubbish I knew it was something I wanted to pursue and get better at.'

What's your favourite children's joke?
'How about this? A Milkman is doing his rounds and rings on a doorbell only for it to be answered by a little boy in a smoking jacket with a lit cigar in his mouth and a tumbler of whiskey in his hand. The Milkman is horrified and asks, "Are your parents in?!" The boy responds "Does it fucking look like it?" I remember that one in the playground.'

What's the best/worst thing about being a comic?
The best thing is getting paid to watch and perform comedy every night in front of appreciative audiences. I don't usually tell people what I do, because one of the worst things about being a comedian is people asking you to tell them jokes in social situations and you having to explain that you're really not that kind of comedian and then they persist so you tell them the joke in your set that sounds most like a joke that they would understand as a joke without a stage and a microphone and then they don't laugh because it was all a rouse in order to get to the point where they could tell their joke which you have to listen to with a fixed grin on your face as it trundles its way awkwardly to its slightly racist conclusion. That's a standard response to that question I suppose though.'

What are your biggest fears?
'That one day you will be discovered to be the unfunny, talentless hack that you have always feared you were deep down inside. That the well of creativity and inspiration that you have drawn from in abundance without thought or hesitation so many times before will one day be dry and barren, and that you will die alone forgotten and unloved, strewn mercilessly by the wayside as your competitors race past your withered, crumpled corpse toward the finish line where infinite success and immortality awaits them.'

What gets you in the mood to be funny?
'A pint, a minutes silence and a little stretch.'

Are there any subjects you wouldn't joke about?
'Not really. It depends what context it's in. You can joke about anything as long as where you're coming from is clear, but sometimes irony or satire can get lost on an audience which can be tricky. And sometimes the fact that you've said something that is shocking or offensive is the joke itself. However underneath all the shouting and swearing I'm really not aiming to be offensive so I just try and write jokes that I think are funny.

Complete this sentence: 'A man walks into a bar…'
'…and says to his friend "Oh, there's a stand-up gig on. Shall we go for a drink down the road instead?" '

Nick Helm's 'Keep Hold of the Gold' at the Soho Theatre, Jan 27-29.