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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ed Helms brings laughter to
By Nick Iffrig
Published: Thursday, April 14, 2005 Page 1 of 1

Last Friday night, SUB presented a familiar face at the Havener Center as part of their "Comedy for Dummies" comedy series. Ed Helms took the helm as the master of laughter for the evening. He began in our fair burg with a bevy of topics ranging from our hideous male to female ratio, "digital vaginas" (whatever those are), the comical nature of McNutt Hall's name, and the fact that we are mostly a school inhabited by non-athletic nerds. But it was Okay, he was one of us. He had started off his college career as a computer science major. You could tell by the look in his eyes as he referred to his younger days that he too knew various complex applications for integration; he could probably write his name in some form of binary encoding; and that because of his awkward nature around the ladies had once used his school's Internet access for something other than educational reasons. Yes, it was all right. He knew our pain.

Helm's own neediness was the highlight of the evening as he clearly connected with the students on this intellectual front. From there, the night took a sharp decline towards his inner psyche. He moved into topics that were mostly foreign. After making fun of our interesting wording on our hazing rules, he moved into a very awkward story about his childhood bout with baton twirling. It wasn't so much funny as just sad and scary as it was too similar to news stories about violence towards homosexuals from the mid 1990s, although this was a good explanation for his apparent obsession with Yanni.

Ed Helms is one of the higher profile comedians that we've had in my recent memory. This led to a full house at the St. Pat's Ballroom. Many people seemed excited by the prospect of such a celebrity. There were even those who had brought in copies of John Stewart's latest book, "America (The Book)," to have him sign. He had a quick wit about himself, playing off of the crowd and the environment. Seemingly interactive, he would wander off topic and just muse about people or the performance environment; for someone of his reputation, a couple plywood risers and a SUB banner seemed sub-standard.

Mr. Helms' style of humor and somewhat uptight demeanor is more suited for his job as a "The Daily Show" correspondent. He was more comfortable playing off of nerdy crowd participation regarding The Stonehenge and awkward political situations than developing a stand-up routine, as was blatantly obvious. Yanni and baton twirling don't stand on their own in this day and age. Many people were heard leaving the auditorium saying, "Who in the world is Yanni?"

The venue chosen for this type of performance seems inappropriate. Leach Theater would make enjoying a comedian much easier. I know that everyone is extremely excited about having this brand new big building in which to have events, but the plywood stage risers are wrong for someone with such a high national profile as Ed Helms, and the flat seating makes viewing an arduous task. But overall, it wasn't a bad time. I had much more fun watching him than I would have had trying to meet women on the Internet.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I enjoyed this Ed article a lot. It's from last month. I like how the author of the article had the balls to critque the show: (critque parts in bold)

d Helms, the cornerstone of serious journalism
By: Vinnie Penn, Contributing writer 03/23/2005
An alarming percentage of Americans claim to have gotten their Election '04 coverage from Jon Stewart and company on Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Frightening, sure, but maybe there's some way we can blame them for the results. It's worth a shot.

Stewart, who during a recent installment declared that "CNN is no longer a news channel, just video equipment hooked up with some dude narrating," might shrug off such reports, but others from the show are not nearly as nonchalant.

"Those reports freak me out. Getting your news from our show is like grocery shopping at a candy store," says Ed Helms, one of many correspondents to The Daily Show, while I sat in traffic on the Q Bridge. "It's not exactly nutritious."

Helms, who brings his stand-up routine to the Mohegan Sun this week, downplays his job duties as "peppering in coverage." But, in reality, he rides a seesaw, alternating between studio and field segments, the former shooting before a live studio audience in real time and the latter holing him up in a "cheap hotel in Portland, Oregon."

Sure, occasionally those "field" segments from Baghdad are merely Helms standing before a green screen, but why nitpick?

A former editor for the E! channel half a dozen years ago, Helms knows a thing or two about paring a mediocre five-minute segment down to a funny two-minute one. And stand-up stints at Caroline's coupled with a gig on MTV's Say What Karaoke helped him sculpt the performance end.

"Where'd you get that bio?" he asks. "That was all so long ago!"

It was the stand-up that gave Helms the balls to go to a cattle call for The Daily Show, and he was one of the lucky few called back to read with Stewart himself.

"Obviously it's Jon's show. He's the focal point."

I asked Helms if he has since been out doing his stand-up, been getting heckled to death, only to find out via a shifting spotlight that it's Stewart in the shadows, nursing some Cutty Sark.

"No," he laughed. "He heckles us enough at the office."

Then I wondered aloud if doing a show like The Daily Show has affected his approach to stand-up at all.

"That's a good question." I smiled, so proud of myself I almost rear-ended a CRV. "And, yes, it has," Helms says. "My stand-up wasn't political at all before I got the show. I feel like people expect some political bits now."

I watched The Daily Show that night on television. It was all Stewart, nothing but Stewart, 30 minutes of him with a side order of Stewart. Good thing Helms has continued to do stand-up comedy.

"I'll never stop doing stand-up," he told me earlier. "Oh, and I should also plug my opening act. His name is Rory Albanese. He'll do about 10 minutes. He's a producer on The Daily Show."

I imagine they've all got part-time gigs, what with Stewart's penchant for hogging. The PA who brings him a coffee in between takes probably serves up the Brazilian blend at the Starbucks on 42nd after they're done filming.

But, Helms described a typical day, and at no time did he say, "Well, then I go home and don't leave the house for a month."

Actually, there are two types of days for the correspondents, depending upon the aforementioned field or studio segments.

"I can (describe) it for you in broad strokes," he says. "If it's a studio day, we'll first focus on whichever news story defines the day. You write, rewrite, test run. Rehearsal's at 5:15 and we'll run through it. We tape at 6:15 in real time. There's no retakes and we do it in front of a live studio audience."

During the last 10 minutes of The Daily Show that night Stewart interviewed an author. It was the only time another human being was on camera the entire show.

In addition to the show and doing stand-up, Helms has also recently completed shooting a pilot for NBC.

"It's a sitcom, an ensemble thing," was all he'd say.

But, what if it gets picked up? Will Helms leave The Daily Show or pull a Heather Locklear?

"I don't know what that means," he replied. No wonder Stewart goes it alone on occasion.

I reminded him of Locklear's glory days doing two series at once - Dynasty and TJ Hooker.

"Oh, well, that remains to be seen," he laughs. "We are a lot alike. We're both really hot."

Visit Vinnie Penn online at
www.vinniepenn.net.

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