Andrew Dipper

Review: Nick Helm, Chris Brooker, Andrew Ryan & Kai Humphries – Sunderland Empire

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Nick Helm

Hidden away in the Melvyn James Suite of Sunderland Empire – in the shadow of The Chippendales in the main theatre – is possibly Wearside’s premier comedy night. After recently supporting Daniel Sloss on tour, Kai Humphries compéred this month’s show amiably, and seemed to flit effortlessly from slight banter to some of his more playful routines about living with his girlfriend. There’s a childish enthusiasm to Humphries that’s quite endearing, but he’s also got some memorable lines in his material and kept the laughter coming throughout the night.

Opener Andrew Ryan is a likeable enough comedian, but failed to impress on this occasion; his observational material felt slightly too predictable at times and some of his routines overworked. Ryan’s narrative style of comedy brings him much success as an MC – and I think that’s where his true talent lies – but if he’s to progress to a regular opening act on a professional bill like this he’ll have to work more punch lines into his set.

Similarly, Chris Brooker initially struggled to find a rhythm and it showed with some wooden delivery of what were essentially well crafted jokes. He’s got some good material in his set though and soon won over the audience, using his time working in a call centre as a reference point for some clever wordplay; and Brooker’s closing piece on ‘dance’ was arguably the best routine of the night.

But in a change to the advertised line-up, Nick Helm, who recently appeared on Russell Howard’s Good News, closed the show at Sunderland Empire. Helm has complete dedication to his craft, and that’s crucial to pulling off his imposing anti-comedy character act. I’ve seen Helm a few times now, and though he’s presenting a fairly bleak persona on stage there’s something inherently uplifting about his stand-up, perhaps demonstrated in the memorable one-liners he delivers with such ferocity or the playful songs he uses to cleverly punctuate his set. Poetry, music, stand-up, theatre – it’s all in Helm’s comedy and you can’t help but feel that you’re watching a genius at work here. Is Nick Helm the next big thing? I think so.

Laughter Live is on the second Tuesday of every month at Sunderland Empire. Booking information can be found here, and their upcoming listings here.