Nick Helm likes to shout. A lot.

“There are so many nice people doing comedy, so I just thought ‘Why does everyone want to be nice?’ ponders the comedian.

“Nice doesn’t equal funny. You can be both, but you don’t have to be if you don’t want to.”

It’s a work ethic that has done wonders for Helm’s comic career.

A stalwart of the Edinburgh Fringe – he’s been there in one form or another since a school trip in the 1990s – Helm decided to give up the theatre pieces, sketch antics and musicals in favour of stand-up comic musings.

In doing so, he aimed to give up the near-empty houses too.

He succeeded.

However, having an audience brings its own complications.

“You get so many apathetic audiences when you’re doing mixed-bill gigs that I ended up screaming at them asking ‘Why are you here? You’d be much happier if you just left. Just leave. I’m not enjoying, you’re not enjoying it… there’s not one person in this room that’s enjoying it and yet there’s 80 people here and another six acts on!’ I used to be really friendly, but then Edinburgh 2008 knocked it out of me,” he laughs.

“I don’t think the audience hated any one act in particular, just life in general. Me shouting was funnier than my actual show, so it splintered off from that. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel but there’s no one else doing it. If anyone else discovers it, I’m in trouble.”

Previewing his second solo show Dare To Dream in the coming weeks, the comic’s erratic, confrontational and hilarious routines – sometimes as simple as a pun delivered with such raspy vitriol that leaves the front row cowering – also encompasses singalong guitar songs and poetry.

It’s reassuring to know that in person, Helm’s inner beast is normally reined in.

“I just don’t talk that much I s’pose. I think this is probably the first time I’ve spoken out loud all morning,” he smirks.

“It’s funny. The best thing is just going on and shouting at old people – they’re the ones who love it… they come back afterwards and shake my hand.”

His first show – last year’s Keep Hold Of The Gold performed with musician Rob Stott – was a surprise hit of the festival.

“We’d never had an audience before and last year we werewaiting to go on stage, watching people flood past us. We were just looking at each other thinking, ‘I can’t believe this… where have they come from and what are they doing? Why didn’t you see the musical I was in… that was amazing!’” he laughs.

“It was just really weird. Before last year I’d gotten to a stage where I thought ‘I’ll do this one more year and if nothing happens I’ll have a year off… but the b******* showed up and it was like ‘Oh, right, I’ve got to do another one now’. This year is quite stressful because it’s like a difficult second album… even though it’s the tenth time I’ve been up here.”

Weaned on a comic diet of live stand-up and Jack Dee videos, Helm’s evolution into comedy genius wasn’t necessarily the obvious choice at first.

“I did an arts degree so I was never going to get any work out of that. I knew I wanted to do something creative, but you never thinkof comedy as an option,” he says.

“It’s always something that other people do and you think, ‘How on earth would you remember five minutes of material, let alone an hour?’ I found out the secret was just writing it on your hand.”

When it comes to previewing material, Helm is quite happy to think on his feet (having forgotten his guitar before one recent gig, he wrote an hour of material during the first act’s set) and has no problem in discarding the gags that don’t hit the mark.

“No matter how much you love a joke, it doesn’t compare to how much you hate it after you’re humiliated yourself. It’s like having a kid you’re really proud of, then realising he’s an idiot and disowning him. There’s no morals to it,” he laughs.

“You end up thinking, ‘Well, people hated that, and now people hate me a little bit’. I’d rather have five minutes of silence than five minutes of plugging at a joke that everyone hated. I want to leave Edinburgh with my dignity intact.”

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