Issue 289
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As Nick Helm would say, you lucky people! That’s because one of the most explosive comedic talents of a generation is bringing his Phoenix From The Flames tour to B-Town later this year. Never seen him live before? Think the sexual charisma of Blackadder’s Lord Flashheart and the vulnerability of Chris Farley, melded with the gag writing skills of Gary Delaney. Beloved by our comedy editor James Gill — who is himself a fellow comic — Gill sat down with The Comedian's Comedian ahead of Helm's Brum date. Best see what all the fuss is about, eh?
You, my friend, are lightning in a bottle. How are you?
Feeling a bit cramped stuck in this f*cking bottle now you mention it.

Nick. To any of the uninitiated people of Birmingham, what can they expect from a slice of live Helm, please?
I'll tell you this, I am the only comedian on the circuit that does it all. I put everything I've got into my shows, so expect not only songs, poems, and at least five jokes, but also sweat, blood and tears. But no semen. Never semen.

How've you found Brum when you've gigged here in the past?
Last time I was in town two grown men on separate sides of the auditorium fainted because my show was so intense. This is probably my proudest moment as a performer. My show this time is less intense with more fun and frolics so I'm not anticipating any fainting, but I love Birmingham and am looking forward to seeing some old and new faces in the crowd.

What's the best and worst thing about life on the road?
Best thing is taking something you're proud of out and about to show audiences all over the country. It's nice to take it to places you haven't been before and meet your fans and have some fun with them. The worst thing is that I get really nervous before a gig so can't eat beforehand and tend to eat after, which is usually pretty late so you're very lucky if you can find an Indian Restaurant that's still open. Suggestions are always welcome. 
You're one of the best writers of jokes out there. How do you do it?
Thank you. I generally hang around green rooms listening to all the funny things people say. Every so often I'll hear something perfect and I'll ask the person who said it, if they're going to use it on stage. If the answer is no, then it's in.

Some comedians' fans like them. But yours love you. How lovely has all of that been?
It's great. I love my fans. Especially the ones that know and understand boundaries.

You're a huge movie fan. Have you seen anything decent recently?
I really liked Rocketman although I don't think it had an ending. I've watched a few Indies recently that I've really enjoyed. A film called Uncle John was a lot better than I was expecting with some good performances and I didn't know how it was going to play out. I also saw a movie called Thunder Road written and directed by, and starring, Jim Cummings that I think is my favourite film this year. I host a weekly radio show/podcast with my friend Nathaniel Metcalfe called Nick and Nat's Fan Club where we just talk about films all the time and I keep a record of every film I watch on my Twitter.

The night after seeing you live, I suspect folk will need to stay in the next night to recover.  What should they watch on their night in?
Uncle, Nick Helm's Heavy Entertainment, Loaded, Eat You Heart Out with Nick Helm, The Reluctant Landlord, Live at the Electric (Series One), 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown, The Killing Machine and Elephant on iPlayer. Once all that is done watch Daisy Haggard's latest series Back To Life, repeats of Rick Stein on the Food Network and Chef's Table on Netflix. Then maybe some more Nick Helm.
At Just The Tonic on Thursday October 24, tickets are from £13.50.


If the first rule of Flight Club is that you do not talk about Flight Club, then we're going to be black-balled in the next 120 words. Which would be somewhat disappointing, because the new darts meets bar meets technology, Temple Street venue, is every bit an arrow throwing nirvana. Even if flinging darts isn't your go-to pub sport, the boards are smarter than your average NASA mission control — the tech was genuinely invented by an astrophysicist — and they'll do all the maths for you. Because maths is not a pub sport, whatever Jim from accounts tells you. They'll also recommend moreish games — give Demolition a go — with each oche (they have 13) allowing a dozen people to play at once with tournaments that can connect up to 150. The 370 capacity club opens July 19, and you can hire the entire venue, if you're looking for a company-wide summer mixer. Bookings are open now, from £15 per hour, per oche. Decent


Taking risks in order to achieve something — that's how Collins English Dictionary describes audacity. So we're thinking a festival dedicated to the concept will need to be both brave and bold with a decent dollop of daring on the side. On July 19 and 20 join young artivists (art activists — geddit?) on guided walking tours of the events and arty happenings that are taking place across the city as part of the Festival of Audacity. It's £5 for a spot on the tour and ensures you're in all the right places at all the right times, which looking at the programme, could be quite challenging. If you're set on going solo our top pick is Foreign Bodies: An underwater love story. The supremely international dance piece focusses on what it means to be a citizen of the world through a blend of styles, from contemporary to Latin to house, and an even bigger blend of origins in terms of soundtrack. It's free to attend and you can catch it at various spots throughout the festival.
Venue: Edwardian Tea Rooms, BMAG, Chamberlain Square, B3 3DH; website
Choice: Pork belly bites (£7.95) Chooser: Tom, sous chef

Some time last decade, we had a nice slice of cake in the splendiferous surrounds of the Edwardian Tea Rooms and thought little more about the venue as a standalone lunching option. Fast forward to right now, and you can still get cakes, afternoon tea and all the old faves but under the chef-ship of Tom Cruickshank, you can forget any thoughts like "from frozen" and instead expect bags of flavour and hard-working twists on classics. We tried most of the mains from the updated menu and the standouts were the fish cake (£10.95), which is huuuuge and packed with properly flavoursome salmon and plenty of hollandaise, set off with a fennel and orange salad. The vegan sharing board (£11.95) gets you broad bean and sesame falafel as well as bhajis and all sorts of tastiness, though it's the mint yoghurt, the mango chutney and dipping sauce that really makes the platter sing. The pick, though, is the pressed confit of pork belly — deep fried, then stir fried in sweet chilli — served up with sticky, glossy homemade pineapple hot sauce, sesame and soy. Coming with a refreshing and well-considered salad of cucumber ribbons with coriander and lime to cut through the satisfying fattiness of the pork, this is a great lunch plate and one we'll be back for. Now to start the campaign for the ETR to be open more regularly in the evenings... Last orders are currently 4pm but we're sure chef will thank us for this suggestion.
Opening times and sample menu


In a pun worthy of a raft of awards, Touchwood are opening a blimmin' great sandy beach in the heart of their shopping complex and they're calling it the Costa Del Solihull. Take a bow, team. From this Saturday and well into August visitors will be welcomed to slump into deckchairs, build Westeros-esque sandcastles, chill out to muzack and get their 🍦 on. The theme is African safari, and live music will abound. The soulful sounds of the Roy Forbes Band are just one of a packed programme of ear-tickling, as are the show-stopping nine-piece Zulu Land Warriors, while kids (and adults, presumably) can have their face-painted and/or get into mask-making. Plus, if you're looking for something a little more substantial for your tum than ices, may we point you in the direction of Touchwood's independently-owned Caribbean venue, Jamaya? Their fried chicken game is tip-top. More 


The crew of Apollo 11 travelled 240,000 miles to get their tootsies moon-side before anyone else. To get to the Museum of the Moon (pictured) you need venture no further than Summer in Southside, where the internally lit spherical sculpture with NASA-grade deets will be yours for the studying at The Arcadian. The two-day lunar-themed festival of performance art, dance and music is taking place across Southside (the bit around the Hippodrome), the Bullring and Grand Central. Spy Urban Astronaught, springing around the sites (literally, using a harness and flying machine). Also in town, a fallen asteroid, a very pink intergalactic invasion and something called The Heliosphere — a balloon-like structure from which an artist will be suspended in the air controlled by a team on the ground. This weekend and free. From 11am, Saturday and Sunday. Full programme
Birmingham Cocktail Weekend starts today and continues until the final of the 50 venues involved closes on Sunday. If you haven't got your wristband yet (£10), probably give yourself a severe talking to.
It takes an orchestra of 16 to attempt to recreate Stevie Wonder's greatest hits. Join them at the Town Hall on July 27. Some standing tickets are still available at £16.50. 
Have a snoop round B-Town's newest park launching at Port Loop on July 21 with picnicing, crafting and local traders with all the coffee and ice cream a Sunday meander might require. From 11am 'til 4pm, it's free but register for all the deets.

By the end of the F45 8-week challenge, our editor doubled the number of bench hops she could do in 45 seconds. Oh, and she shifted 23.53% of her body fat. Interest piqued? Complete with a meal-by-meal nutrition plan and daily HIIT classes, join Challenge 23?
We didn't get invited to SW19 for the weekend's little knock-ups either. But fortunately for everyone, the Mailbox has installed an excessively large screen on which you can watch this year's Wimbledon finals and this little lot.
Crestfallen that we're busy on the night of this silly good looking Malay pop-up. Chef Melvin Cheema's got experiene at the Fat Duck but the price tag for his first Brum pop-up, taking place at the JQ's unconnected Lucky Duck is £24 for four courses. Book

"I needed a password eight characters long, so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves."

Nick Helm, Edinburgh Fringe Funniest Joke 2011

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WORDS: James GillTom Cullen, Katy Drohan
PICTURES: Foreign Bodies — Jessica Mitchell, Museum of the Moon — Carl Milner

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