Nick Helm Leeds City Varieties 21/10/2022 Live Review by Graham Finney
By his own admission, comedian Nick Helm has had a rough few years and, for over two hours on stage at City Varieties in Leeds, he looks like a man on the brink of completely losing it. A man who describes himself as a “human car crash of entertainment” on his own website, Helm has spent lockdown struggling with family conflicts, mental health issues and a cocktail of anti-depressants of which the side effects have been varied.
It’s these subjects, and many more, which the comedian tackles head-on in a manner that careers from sanity-losing anger to absolutely batshit bonkers. A full-throttle show, the first half of the set sees Helm ranting and raging from the minute he is introduced onto the stage by a lady plucked from the front row called Kate.
Tackling a range of subjects which have made his blood boil over the past few years including his desperation at performing Zoom gigs, discussions on his mental state with his GP and Boris Johnson all bear the brunt of his fury while, delving back further, one particularly tense family Christmas ends with Helm storming off to his old teenage bedroom after a spat with his sister.
Having bought a flat only to end up saddled with mortgage payments he couldn’t afford, Helm found himself effectively locked away for two years but, as the UK came out of the other side of the pandemic, the comedian is quick to point out that the news over the past six months hasn’t got any better as we see the UK lurch from one disaster to another. In fact, midway through the show, Helm ponders if pig-loving PM David Cameron wasn’t actually that bad even going far as to suggest that bringing back the holy trinity of Cameron, George W.Bush and Osama Bin Laden to bring some form of relief to the current political turmoil.
While there was some kind of structure to the first half of the set, the second half sees the foul-mouthed Helm in danger of losing the plot. A good chunk of the second hour is given over to a bizarre routine about time-travelling back to hook up with Hitler’s dad. He follows that up with a niche section about his new-found addiction to Pepsi Max Cherry before rounding things out by recalling his disastrous experiences with Hello Fresh.
At various intersections in the set, and usually unannounced, Helm takes to a podium to recite some quite brilliant poetry. Furthermore, when he delivers a heartfelt speech about mental health and depression, not only do you see how deeply personal these subjects are to Helm but you also discover that he is much more than an expletive-filled ball of rage.
Over two hours later, the night comes to an end up with Kate, the audience member, being dragged up for the kind of chaotic routine which sums up this evening with the pair leaving the stage to a well-deserved and suitably noisy standing ovation.