'So many sight gags, one-liners, set pieces and memorable scenes' | Nick Helm chooses his Perfect Playlist of comedy favourites

'So many sight gags, one-liners, set pieces and memorable scenes'

Nick Helm chooses his Perfect Playlist of comedy favourites

Nick Helm is bringing his Super Fun Good Time Show tour to an end this weekend, with two nights at the Leicester Square Theatre. Here he shares his Perfect Playlist of comedy favourites.

Freaked (1993)

Freaked is a movie by Tom Stern and Alex Winter (Bill from Bill and Ted) that blew my tiny mind when I was a young impressionable teenager. I’ve kept going back to it over the years and would make friends watch it and if they didn’t like it, they could still be my friend, but probably not a best friend. 

It’s basically a scattershot comedy about a washed-up former child star who goes down to South America to promote a product made from toxic waste and when he gets there he visits Randy Quaid’s Freak Show and gets turned into a hideous mutant freak. 

It stars lots of people, like Brooke Shields, William Sadler, Mr T as the Bearded Lady, Tony out of Blossom, Bobcat Goldthwaite as a man turned into a sock puppet and Keanu Reeves as a Dog Boy, but there are so many visual jokes and one-liners and amazing practical effects and gross out jokes, it’s just a really funny film and I have always loved it.  

Tommy Boy (1995)

I remember watching the trailer for Tommy Boy in the lobby of the UCI in Hatfield. It was up on the screens by the popcorn and even though there was no sound, the sight of Chris Farley getting hit in the head 20 times was enough to get me interested. 

I remember me and my sister went to see it together and the lobby was filled with people going to see Babe in the next screen. Our screen was fairly empty and we didn’t hold much hope for Tommy Boy expecting a typical low-brow, slapstick comedy from that time. Well, we got that. But we got a whole lot more. 

Tommy Boy stars Chris Farley and David Spade in a mismatched buddy-comedy, road-trip where a lovably, destructive Tommy (Farley) must team up with straight-laced, sarcastic Richard (Spade) in order to save Tommy’s dad’s brake pad company. It has an amazing cast of Bo Derek, Brian Dennehy, Dan Aykroyd and stand-out Rob Lowe – who has an incredible intro scene and running gag through the film. 

There are so many sight gags, one-liners, set pieces and memorable scenes, but also the film has a lot of heart and makes me cry at certain points every time. It’s a real comfort film to me, one of my favourite all time comedies and an absolutely incredible showcase for Chris Farley (RIP) and David Spade’s comedy and chemistry. Plus, Chris Farley gets hit in the head like 20 times.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Wes Anderson’s Rushmore came out in 1999 just when I started uni and I liked it enough, but in January 2001 when I walked past the Screen in Winchester – at the time the second-best independent cinema in the country – I saw the poster for The Royal Tenenbaums and, having heard nothing about it, went in by myself to see it thinking it would kill a couple of hours. 

Knowing nothing about the film at all, hadn’t even heard it was in production, I loved it immediately, but I was distracted by the narrator, his voice was familiar but I couldn‘t place it and I spent the whole film trying to work out who it was. It was Alec Baldwin.

 The next day me and my friends went to see the first Lord of the Rings film again and it was fine, but after the three hours of Middle Earth I was unfulfilled and I left the cinema and bought a ticket for the next screening of the Royal Tenenbaums which started in ten minutes. 

Anyway, now I knew who the narrator was, I loved it even more the second time. It’s got career best performances from nearly everyone in it, Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson’s script is funny, heart-breaking, tragic and surreal, the soundtrack, art direction and visuals are all stunning. I loved it. I loved it so much I went back to watch it yet again the next day, but it had been taken off. When I asked why the cinema said that it was only being shown for those two days so that it was eligible for a Bafta, so it became extra special because I’d accidentally seen an early screening two days in a row without realising.

 Anyway, I really like Bottle Rocket too, but all the Wes Anderson films since can suck it.  

Jack Dee Live at the Palladium (1994)

Thursday and Friday nights in the 1990s were comedy nights on BBC2 and C4 and I was lucky enough to get into comedy just as the British alternative comedy scene was blowing up on TV and beginning to take over the mainstream. 

At the time there was The Mary Whitehouse Experience, Jo Brand’s Through The Cakehole, Julian Clarey’s Terry and Julian, Viva Cabaret, Bottom, The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, The Day Today, The Fast Show, Fist of Fun, This Morning with Richard Not Judy, Harry Hill, Lee Evans, Eddie Izzard, Knowing Me Knowing You and of course The Glam Metal Detectives – what a time to be alive.

The first live comedy I ever saw was in 1990 when I went to see the Punt And Dennis Milky Milky Tour. I must have been 9. Jesus. 

When I was a bit older, all my friends were into Lee Evans and I liked Lee Evans – me and my dad went to see him at the Palladium in about 1995 – but my number one was Jack Dee

Me and my sister used to watch The Jack Dee Show on Channel 4. I had a cassette tape off the front of a magazine that had his mojo routine on it that we used to listen to in the car on the way to school. I’d tape everything he did off the telly and watch it over and over again. 

I didn’t want to be a stand-up back then, that wouldn’t even occur to me till much later, I just thought he was the absolute best. 

For my 14th birthday I got Jack Dee Live at the Palladium on VHS and we all watched it on our new TV. I think most of the material from his TV show ended up on his previous video, Live at the Duke of York’s, so Live at the Palladium was all new material for me. 

Unlike the TV show, the video wasn’t limited by the language you could use on telly, so it was the first time I’d heard the word ‘cunt’. Incredible scenes. 

I liked his suit. I liked his haircut. I liked his routines about compact discs – which were the latest technology at the time – and not being good at DIY like his dad. I watched it a lot. I mainly couldn’t believe he could remember an hour of jokes.

Steve Coogan: The Man Who Thinks He’s It (1998)

I remember when the Odeon closed down in St. Albans. It was a beautiful art deco cinema (now reopened as the Odyssey) which they didn’t do anything with for years instead just boarding it up to let fly posterers stick up fly posters for the circus and jumble sales and stuff like that. 

One day I walked past and saw the entire front of the cinema had been covered with posters for Steve Coogan: The Man Who Thinks He’s It Live at the Alban Arena and despite being a fan of Knowing Me, Knowing You, The Day Today AND thought that The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon was the best thing I’d ever seen and heard with my eyes and ears (still do sometimes) and even though it was local, I didn’t bother going to see it for some reason. 

Even though I distinctly remember the posters being there, I guess it never occurred to me to go. Instead, a couple of years later when I was at uni in Winchester, it was recommended to me by the most annoying person I had ever met, so I nearly didn’t watch it out of resentment, but I did eventually and it was very good.

Adam Sandler 100% Fresh (2018)

The best comedy special ever made. Seen it like seven times.

» Nick Helm: Super Fun Good Time Show is at  Norwich Playhouse tonight and at Leicester Square Theatre on Friday and Saturday.

Published: 6 Jun 2024

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