Comedian Peter Helliar is a busy man, juggling a new stand up show and comedy tour with commitments on ‘The Project’ and writing, directing and starring in the second season of his hit show ‘It’s a Date’.
So you’ve been quite busy lately, taking up a permanent position on The Project, creating and starring in It’s a Date, and still touring your stand up – how have you been managing it all?
I have a very supportive family and I guess it’s a bit of time management, which I’ve gotten better at over the last few years. I’m compartmentalising, and I can work out when I need to be doing things and when things can wait.
With this new show, I started earlier than I usually would. I started working on it in August; in fact I started in Brisbane actually, it’s almost come full circle. I did the Sit Down Comedy Club in August and I still hadn’t decided whether I was going to do a new show or not, I was actually closer to having a year off and not doing a new show, and I did maybe three minutes of new material at the Sit Down Comedy Club, and I thought, ‘Oh, I reckon I could build a new show around that’, that was basically when I decided I was going to do a new show.
How has it been taking over from Hughesy on The Project?
It’s been fine, it’s been really good. I’ve been asked that question a lot and I’ve spoken to Hughesy, even before I took over, months before I took over.
We speak a lot when we see each other about where we’re at and where we want to be going – I think we’ve been good sounding boards for each other over the years – so I knew it was on the cards that he might be leaving.
I haven’t really thought of Hughesy much at all while we’re on air, I’m certainly not thinking “how would Hugeshy do this?” because I think we complement each other but we’ve got different styles.
I get to wear a suit and go to work and my kids are pretty impressed with that, I’m a bit like the other dads, and that’s kind of cool. It’s nice to have a routine as well.
The first season of It’s a Date was really popular with both critics and audiences – is the pressure now on to live up to expectations?
I’ve thought about that occasionally, but we’re pushing it a bit more this year – we’re pushing the scenarios a bit harder than we did last time. We can’t just have more people sitting down and talking about their lives – that will still be a part of it, and the pathos and the sweetness of the series is always going to be there, but I think they’re pushing the comedy a bit harder.
We’re putting our dates in stranger situations and mining the comedy a bit harder. It’s been a lot of fun. There’s been some episodes we’ve written that I cannot wait to shoot but even more so to show people.
And there’s some very well-known names offering to do things that you’d never expect, we’re showing them in a light you’ve never seen them in before. It’s been nice to have a series already under the belt, there’s a lot of trust there. The actors who have come on loved the first series.
So it will be very exciting – I can’t wait to start even just telling people more about it, but we’re being a little bit cagey at the moment about who’s involved, but it’s pretty exciting.
What can we expect from your live show, Totes Grouseballs?
You won’t learn a single thing. There’s no evangelising or anything like that. It’s just fun, I talk a little bit about myself and the world. It’s not political, I don’t mention Tony Abbott, so it’s a political-free zone. It’s an hour of the funniest things I can think of.
There’s a story about me getting trouble on the internet, and about me taking my wife to Paris for our anniversary – it’s lovely but when I tell the story live it’s more funny than lovely – also about losing my doppelganger this year in Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
It had a weird impact on people around me. I had a lot of people coming up to me quite concerned about me, saying “I thought of you when I heard,” and I thought, “Why?”
They know I was a massive Philip Seymour Hoffman fan and I go into that into the show, I talk a little bit about why I was, but it was a little bit… it was almost like a family member had passed away, but it was just somebody who looked like me had passed away, somebody who I’d never met. It’s okay, I’m okay, I’ll soldier on – I’ve just seen a lot of his movies.
What do you prefer, live television, scripted series or stand up?
I’ve never been able to decide what my favourite thing is; often what I’m not doing is my favourite thing. With that said though, I’m loving the combination of The Project and It’s a Date; [The Project has] that live TV element which has been a really big part of my career, and then with It’s a Date, I can’t wait until we start preproduction in a few weeks.
I can’t wait to get the crew in to make my scripts become real and that’s a really exciting part of it. I’m going to direct a few more episodes and I loved doing that last time and I can’t wait to do it again.
Do you like visiting Brisbane? What else will you do while in town?
I love playing the Powerhouse and it’s been three years since I’ve done the Brisbane Comedy Festival. I’ve got to say that the shows that I’ve brought to Brisbane have been the best shows that I’ve ever done and I’m really happy to come back to Brisbane and really perform.
I’ve been travelling around with Tom Gleeson, we did Townsville and Cairns then we went over to Bunbury and Albany to both work on our new shows and build up to doing an hour onstage, and it’s been a great way to do it.
I often find when I’m touring I enjoy the shows even more because sometimes you lock yourself away a bit, you might go and see a movie or you spend time in the hotel room, so by the time the show comes around you really just want to speak to somebody. It’s an hour of getting all the words out that you haven’t spoken through the day.