Nick Helm: What Have We Become? | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review
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Nick Helm: What Have We Become?

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review

Once a thrilling, all-consuming parody of how showbusiness excess masks desperate insecurity, Nick Helm’s shows have become increasingly intimate and personal, and What Have We Become? continues that trend.

As we file in, the surly comic exudes brooding menace as he marks out his territory with neon tubes, fiercely protecting them from audience members who have to cross the stage to get to their seats and erupting in fury whenever one is disturbed.

But once we get into the show proper, the anger is more seething than explosive as he presents a straightforward-ish stand-up set based around lockdown, occasionally punctuated with a heartfelt poem. There’s a risk that talking about such a universal experience might be hack already, but Helm argues there is simply nothing else worth talking about from the past two years – and we have to process the shock to our collective system that it delivered before we can move on.

That doesn’t entirely mitigate the fact that a fair bit of what he speaks about is common currency not just among comedians but everybody. However, there’s no questioning the sincerity with which he covers these shared experiences, and his take on some topics, such as Hello Fresh deliveries, are a winning mix of frustration and self-loathing. He’s trying to live better but is thwarted by his innate weakness.

Milking this routine works well, though in others – especially one about his love of Pepsi Max Cherry – the rewards of repetition are less obvious. And going off on tangents about Prince Andrew and what David Cameron allegedly got up to with a pig in his student days do little to calm him down.

On a more personal note, he recalls some fierce family rows ruining Christmas, when that anger bubbled to the surface again. But the birth of his sister’s baby, making the star of BBC sitcom Uncle a real-life uncle for the first time, is one of the main reasons he’s softening.

Professionally, too, after experiencing the misery that was Zoom gigs, he’s palpably delighted to be back on stage, saying it’s the first time he’s properly enjoyed stand-up. That might also be down to the antidepressants he’s on, which have transformed his life for the brighter.

Indeed, from the misery of Covid, an optimism emerges. Helm gets such a lift from being on stage that he tries to get at least one audience member to experience the same. After all the frustrations of confinement, this strikes an uplifting note that perhaps we should now all appreciate what we previously took for granted. How touching.

Nick Helm: What Have We Become? is on at Pleasance Dome at 5.25pm

Review date: 19 Aug 2022
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Dome

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