Pete Helliar Gives Zero Flips | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Pete Helliar Gives Zero Flips

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Is a doyen of mainstream Australian TV like Pete Helliar really going anarchist? Well, the fact he’s using ‘flip’ as the F-word in the title demonstrates precisely how rebellious he’s becoming. The defiance is definitely minor.

Though he barely mentions his children, you’d still peg this 48-year-old as a ‘dad’ comic from his attitude alone, mixing stories of being slightly incompetent with dated references to the likes of Clippy (last shipped with Microsoft Word in 2003), Russell Crowe’s Gladiator movie and Star Wars. 

‘Imagine Darth Vader trying to log on to a website,’ is the sort of premise that many comics would instantly dismiss as hack. Not Helliar – and, yes, he does act it out, heavy breathing and all.

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He accepts his position in the world, and is self-effacing about it. But that doesn’t compensate for the unexciting everyday observations that comprise the show. He grumbles about bike lanes, riffs on the unwanted responsibility that comes with sitting in an airplane’s exit row, and ponders the signs of getting old (buying a straw hat, apparently), all straightforwardly conveyed. 

The desperation to conjure up something interesting to talk about is almost palpable. He mentions almost being ‘cancelled’ from The Project, but you’re never going to mistake him for an edgelord. The gag in question was schoolboy smut, ‘shocking’, and ‘X-rated’ only in the minds of content-hungry tabloid websites. Quite funny in its way, though.

Similarly, he seizes upon a DNA test he did while filming Who Do You Think You Are? that found him to be 1 per cent Ghanaian, making that whiff of the exotic into a running joke.

However, one story the genealogy show unearthed about an ancestor who fought at Gallipoli gives Helliar’s hour some poignancy towards the end, but it’s a rare moment beyond the superficial.

On a technical level, Hellier is an adept performer, which ensures a minimum service level. But even so, the material could be leaner, more sophisticated, more surprising, however slickly delivered.

The hour ends with a contrived callback to several of the points in the show because that’s precisely what’s expected – and delivering what’s expected is what Helliar does. That will be the selling point for some punters, but not me.

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Review date: 3 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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