Comedy preview: Nick Helm @ Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Published by METRO

Before I begin, please let me make one thing clear. This guy is absolutely not to be mistaken for the Reverend Nick Helm, author of A Short Course in Exploring Prayer and Finding Support in Ministry. If you’re disappointed, feel free to turn over the page, but if you’ve attended this performance as a consequence of confusing the two, then I’m afraid I can offer no refunds.

Yes, I know it’s true that the poster for Helm’s new show – in which he appears nude, angelically ascending towards the heavens – does allude to the divine, but really, any comparisons between these Nick Helms do not venture any deeper than this.

The Nick Helm I’ve been asked to write about is a comedian who – and this seems a general consensus among reviewers – shouts a lot. He’s bullish, confrontational, and brash.

Helm is also described in many sources as a ‘professional dick-kicker’ – which if you didn’t already know was the comedic term for a twisted punchline, would seem the likely occupation or hobby of a man who projects as much anger on stage as he does.

When Helm’s ever-so-slightly-unhinged persona approaches his audience in an extremely fragile and temperamental state, an environment more similar to a hostage situation than a conventional stand-up routine very quickly unfolds.

Heavily burdened by insecurities owing in part to failed romances, a determined Helm proceeds to bark some pretty appalling one-liners and read his heart-wrenching poems as he teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Did I mention he shouts a lot?

Helm’s acoustic guitar makes an appearance for a few comedy songs, but it’s the interaction – and confrontation – he enjoys with unfortunate members of his audience that is the nucleus of his performance, and for this he has earned comparisons with the likes of Johnny Vegas and Al Murray.

Regarded by many critics as the best emerging comedian at last year’s Fringe, Helm was nominated for a number of accolades in 2010, yet somehow went away empty-handed. This time around, the self-described ‘multi-award-losing’ comedian will undoubtedly employ the strategy of shouting even louder to make himself heard.

The first time I’d seen Nick Helm perform was on Russell Howard’s Good News last year. From the moment he was introduced, I’d foolishly written him off as yet another safe, observational comedian soon to be been consigned to sporadic appearances on the panels of Mock the Week.

However, I quickly learned that his particularly chilling brand of humour wouldn’t really work for comedy quiz shows. Only the most thick-skinned of front-rowers could have survived that 15-minute set, but to put up with it for a whole hour? You have been warned.