Sunday, 29 July 2012

Nick Helm - This Means War

I first encountered Nick Helm at The Wilmington Arms about a year ago when he, Michael Legge and Bennett Arron were previewing their 2011 Edinburgh shows. I had never heard of him before but he made a big impression on me. I was terrified. I remember saying at the time that he is the one comedian who I wouldn't sit in the front row for. At Edinburgh he was nominated for an award too and now he is getting a wider audience after closing each episode of Live At The Electric with some rocking tunes.

Here's a clip from Channel 4's "Comedy Blaps". The sheer desperation and self-pity is fantastic!

Next time I saw Nick was at Michael Legge's Private Hell and found out he was doing an hour at The Hen & Chickens each week so I decided to go along. 

By this time I realised that Nick's onstage anger is mainly directed at himself (or the audience of course if they misbehave) so I decided to plump for a front row seat. I was the only one. Nick came on stage and immediately went to the back rows, ordering people to move to the front. They all complied. Of course they did. Only an idiot wouldn't!

This was just a preview so I'm not going to give much away, but the opening song, "This Means War" saw Nick ordering the front two rows on to the stage to sing along backing vocals. He berated us for not singing loud enough and then added more backing vocals from various sections of the remaining audience. It was a very inclusive way to begin and we all sat down with big smiles on our faces.

He launched into a selection of one-liners before some poetry. Don't worry about the "P" word. It's much more fun than it sounds! An extensive section about the best soft drink followed, along with some more songs. This is a show, that if I were going to The Fringe (I'm not), I would definitely go and see.

I decided to go and see him the following week too and he had an excellent new opening which didn't involve him saying or moving very much. The audience though were awful. There were 2 lads beside me who hadn't seen Nick before but had come because of Live At The Electric. These lads, however, were not awful. They were great, and one of them spent most of the show on stage with Nick, looking both embarrassed and proud at the same time.

A lot of the others though were chatty, interrupting dicks. Two walked out after half an hour or so, which was fine, but when a woman in the second row kept talking, he said that he wished it was her that had left. She left, to a round of applause by me! Dicks aside, it was a really fun evening!

Afterwards I had a drink and a chat with Nick. What a lovely man. He is surprisingly soft spoken, and generous with his time and conversation. Go and see it Edinburgh people. make sure it's on your list if you want to see lashings of impotent fury, self pity,  self loathing and have a right good singalong. And the ever hanging threat of psychological violence.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I had been looking forward to "An Actually Rather Good Comedy Festival" for some time, but annoyingly managed to be late. I had planned to meet Heather, Neal, Sarah and Jack, and as I got to the venue Nadia was just arriving too. I caught the end of James W Smith who seemed to be going down pretty well. It's not often you hear fisting material before lunch time, but we dealt with it.

At the end of the first set I saw Neal so we went outside and were joined by the always awesome Lou Sanders who was compering upstairs. It's always nice to bump into Lou (one of the most enthusiastic and so far unrecognised comedians on the circuit - remember - she will soon be a star!) We were joined by everyone I was supposed to be meeting and we went through our viewing schedules with each other

Stuart Laws
Lou Sanders
ArgComFest was held in the Kings Cross Social Club, a venue I had not heard of before but after looking at Google Streetview realised it was an old gay pub, previously known as The Golden Lion. It had only really worked for a couple of years before changing hands. It's a pretty nice venue, though the main stage could have done with a bit more lighting, as from my position at the back of the bar, and having just come in from the bright outdoors, the first comedian was not much more than a silhouette on stage.

Neal and I followed Lou upstairs where we caught Stuart Laws. I had never come across him before, and he was immediately likeable. He clearly does a lot of compering as his style had a lot of audience interaction, skilfully done. He talked about alpha and omega males, and pointed out Cliff, a blue and black haired alternative looking type and asked him if he was the big spoon. It took me a while to work it out, and of course he was talking about who was behind and who was in front in a "spooning" situation. After helping Stuart fence him off with a coffee table I returned to my seat beside Neal. He obviously cast Neal as the big spoon, leaving me as the little one in the scenario. Later I had to be a mixing bowl on stage while another "little spoon" had to suck all the chocolate milk out of it. I liked Stuart a lot and will definitely be seeing him again, hopefully before we all go on holiday to Centre Parcs together.
Michael Legge

I went back downstairs, as next up was Michael Legge. You might have thought I'd seen Michael enough lately at Private Hell, but as he explained at the last one, it hadn't really worked for him as compering a gig is no way to prepare for an hour long show so this was the first chance I had. Michael is at an early point in his show, still using sheets of notes, but no one minded. We all knew we were seeing previews. The story about his journey to a gig in Manchester costing him over £200 went down really well, and the punchline about Jamelia brought the biggest laugh of the festival so far. Michael improvised a line about an "exciting watch" and wanted to remember it, so Michael, if you're reading this, write it down.

Footlights sketch groups "Sheeps" were next on. I took a spot near the door at the bar beside Michael. I always worry about acts I have never seen before, especially sketch groups, but it didn't take me long to get on board with their tales of how their sketch group formed and about their THUMP THUMP THUMP... what was that? Sorry, it didn't take me long to get on THUMP THUMP THUMP. Eh? .. about their trip to Hollywood. Upstairs there was a constant banging. But James Acaster was upstairs. What the hell was going on. I told Michael I was going to investigate, climbed the stairs and and as I got to the top, it had just ended and there was a big round of applause. I went downstairs and told Michael I had told him to shut the fuck up! I'm still not sure what he was up to but for such a slight man he made such a lot of noise. In the end, for me, Sheeps had a bit of a Trap vibe to them and I'm sure they'll be on BBC3 soon (That is not an insult by the way!)

The day was going really well, but every now and then a guy in a grey t-shirt would shout something out. I wouldn't even call it heckling. He was just saying stuff. Rob was getting annoyed about it and we chatted about it in the break. I hadn't actually heard anything at this time, but though I would keep a look out. He was sitting with 2 friends. But back to him later.

I have never seen Pappy's before apart from a drunken half an hour at All Day Edinburgh a year ago. (They were drunk, I was drunk, so my memories of them weren't that sharp). I am a big fan of Flatshare Slamdown so decided to watch them. I was originally going to see Sara Pascoe but I have seen her quite a few times before. This was Pappy's "Last Ever Show" and they came out as old men, trying to get the sketch group back together and relating their memories to each other. I was really enjoying them, but it was very important that I take a break for a bite to eat and 2 arguments.

I went to Kings Cross station to claim my free "O2 Priority Moments" Delice de France sandwich and drink. The only rule was it had to be between 12 and 6pm. But by the time I got to the station, the guy behind the counter had added his own rule - not on a Sunday. I argued with him but to no avail. I had picked a nice brie, bacon and spinach panini and was looking forward to it. I should have just bought it, but I wanted to make a point so I went to the Burger King beside it. That would teach him. I ordered a more expensive and much more shit Chicken Royale meal (£5.99). The guy asked me what I wanted to drink. I said I was fine for a drink and he whacked the price up to £6.08! After another argument with the manager I agreed to take a drink and he gave me my 9p back. I dramatically placed my drink on the counter and left. Again, that'll teach him.

Thom Tuck
I got back to the venue but still had some chips to eat so I chatted to the lovely bouncer outside. He seemed to be enjoying the day as he wasn't used to doing comedy gigs and I think must have been used to rougher events and kicking a lot of people out. In fact at the start of the day Lou Sanders had been making a lot of noise upstairs and he thought something had kicked off and got halfway up the stairs to sort it out!

I caught the end of Pappy's and found a marriage going on between one Pappy and an audience member. Back in their old men characters, a voice rang out from the audience "Poor old bastard". Off stage, I heard the guys say "Did he say poor old bastard?" but they continued the show and it was soon over. I got chatting to Thom Tuck outside and he was growing tired of this pseudo heckler too and vowed to destroy him.

Tony Law
I stayed on for Thom, missing the highly recommended Claudia O'Doherty upstairs. This year, Thom's set seems a lot more stand up based, and much looser than last year's show about straight to DVD Disney films. He was storming out. Then the voice rang out again. Thom gave him both barrels and a normal person may have got embarrassed and shut up by then. But no. He piped up just as Thom's set was coming to its end. Thom's anger was pouring out of his mouth directed at this dick. We never got to see Thom put his legs behind his head as we had been promised. I do think that this guy should have been told to leave by this point as he had been trying to wreck a few sets already. I went over to him where his 2 "friends" were asking him why he was being such a cunt. It turns out they just happened to be sitting together. I asked him if he could please not say anything during the next act. he seemed genuinely bemused. "But why is no one heckling?" I told him it was because all the acts were really good, and they were putting a lot of effort into getting their shows ready for Edinburgh, and that what he was doing is very disrespectful to both the acts and the audience. We had paid money to see funny people on stage, not to hear his idiotic utterances.

Bridget Christie
Stuart Laws was compering now, and I was at the bar beside Neal, and the next act, Tony Law. "What's better than going to your fridge and finding an extra ham in it?" he said. "I'm Jewish you arsehole" came the response. not form the original dick, but from a new one. Thankfully he soon shut up, and once I saw Tony make him laugh I knew it was going to be OK. I never get tired of seeing Tony Law. With his tales of 2 elephants walking into a bar told from both the human and elephant angles, together with some outrageous accents, he stormed it. I was sad that he didn't bring along his horse Tuppence, but after chatting to Tony afterwards, he will be back for The Fringe. Tony was asking Jack and I for some feedback about the end of the show, but what do we know? I think our "advice" was just "the more elephants the better"

Colin Hoult
Jack and I arrived just slightly late for Bridget Christie. She is continuing to work on her War Donkey show, but sadly no donkey costume or inflatable fat suit. This was a real "proper" preview with ticks and crosses and maybes being made after every joke. And her idea for the end of the show involving childbirth, donkey breastfeeding and a man with a fart machine is going to be astonishing when it happens...

And finally, there was Colin Hoult. I know him mainly for his role in Gutted, but I have seen him once or twice before. And he stormed it. With a suitably horrific opening combined with lots of characters, including the army veteran who was writing his "Hostel" type film, where I was chosen to play Mr Giggles - giggle giggle. A guy turned up late and was picked on. He didn't want to get involved but Colin insisted. He was in his karate expert character, and eventually he got him on stage for a martial arts lesson. I can't say what happens next though as it would be a massive spoiler.

Thanks to "Timidheathen" and James Lowey for putting this together. I hope we get more of the same next year, and who knows, perhaps another All Day Edinburgh?

Monday, 2 July 2012

Michael Legge's Private Hell - LET'S DO IT TO IT!

In order to prepare for his new Fringe show, Michael has put on 4 gigs, once a month (one of which he couldn't manage to turn up to) involving himself and his funny friends. He now acknowledges this is a mistake, because compering a show is no way to prepare for an entire hour of new material.

It wasn't a mistake for the fans though. We have got to see Paul Litchfield, Sarah Parrish, Dab & Tench, Richard Herring, Tony Law (and probably more that I've forgotten about), and today was the best line up of all: Caroline Mabey, Bridget Christie and Nick Helm.

The "Die Hard" fans met upstairs and comprised of, among others, myself, Neal, Neale (aka Hitch), Sarah, Sir Bob, Ian and Heather. We had fun. A lot of fun. It was Canada Day. We got stickers. But all good things must come to an end and we trudged downstairs to see the show.

Caroline Mabey
I love sitting at the front at gigs, but have always been wary of Nick Helm. Off stage, he is so lovely. On stage, he is fucking terrifying. But of course, even though we were late downstairs, we found the front row totally empty. Even the second row. Everyone was in the third row and further back. Maybe they were even more scared of Nick than me!

Michael didn't really have much time to give us a proper preview of his show but did throw in an story of his train journey to Manchester that, even after he was paid cost him £150, which happily ended up with Jamelia falling off a chair, as well as introducing a new slant: Michael's Indiscretions. Hopefully I will get a chance to see a full preview of his show next week in Kings Cross.

Bridget Christie
A heavy pregnant Caroline Mabey opened the show with some pretty close to the bone stuff mainly based around her pregnancy. But as she says, the jokes will be out of date in a week or two. But she is someone always worth seeing.

Jason the War Donkey as played by Bridget Christie was on next, kicking his way through Edwin Starr's "War". Aw, Jason is such a cutie, and as a donkey comic, touched on subject such as the issue about being related to a more famous donkey, and is that the only reason he gets gigs, to the prevalence of horse comedians these days. Bridget got out of the donkey costume eventually and revealed an inflatable fat suit so she could show us her Edwin Starr dancing when he was rather larger. This was pure physical comedy and totally funny. Unfortunately she was worried this might distract us from the serious points about feminism she was trying to make, and she was right to worry. She slowly deflated herself and carried on...

Nick Helm closed the show with a preview of  "This Means War", and he wasn't as terrifying as I thought / hoped. He started with a rock number, getting all the audience to punch the air, shouting "Helm Helm Helm" which we did, until he started singing. He berated us for stopping, so we continued. Of course when he split the audience in two to sing different parts this caused even more confusion and fury towards us. He told us to provide the pyrotechnic noises to the punchlines to his jokes, but very quickly spotted the problem, i.e. we had no place to laugh! A new catchphrase was born: "Let's do it to it" which he soon got annoyed by. A few more songs and poems and a run of about 20 awful jokes and it was all over. Nick Helm is on the cusp of stardom right now, and he will very soon be a household name. And, (keep this secret) off stage he is a lovely, sweet, soft-spoken man.

Afterwards we had a beer upstairs and headed home around 7ish. I headed to a bar in Kings Cross where my good friend and artist Donald was having his leaving do before he goes to Paris for a year and it was nice to see him warble along to some obscure musical numbers form some obscure camp musicals.

Next week, there's a show in Kings Cross comprising of 18 acts doing full Edinburgh previews. LET'S DO IT TO IT!