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Pete Helliar's Comedy Odyssey

We caught up with Pete Helliar ahead of his show at The Pavilion Performing Arts Centre on July 6th.

Pete Helliar's journey into comedy began in the suburbs of Melbourne. Reflecting on his early years, Helliar recalls, "I had a very happy, suburban childhood. I grew up in a red brick, white bread, sport-loving community in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. We valued laughter in our family; we love making each other laugh." This foundation of humour was enriched by a steady diet of comedy films and television, with shows like The Big Gig igniting his ambition to perform stand-up comedy.

Pete Helliar at The Pavilion July 6

Helliar's first foray into stand-up comedy happened almost serendipitously. Initially contemplating a start in London while traveling in 1994, he postponed his debut until his return to Australia. "I came home and began working on material and booked into The Espy in St. Kilda for an open mic spot. That was October 26th, 1996," he recalls.

Stepping onto the stage for the first time, Helliar's nerves were tempered by a sartorial choice meant to create a persona distinct from his off-stage self. "I wore a suit with no tie. I wanted to feel not like me, a separation between me off stage and on stage," he explains. Despite this conscious distinction, he admits that there's little difference between his on-stage and off-stage personas. His first performance was a success, which only fuelled his passion. "The gig went well, second gig even better, then the third gig was a cold, hard death. That was sobering. It felt like your worst heartbreak tenfold. Luckily there were way more good gigs than bad ones."

Helliar has since worn many hats in the entertainment industry—comedian, producer, podcast host, and presenter. However, his heart remains firmly in stand-up comedy. "I think stand-up is the ultimate test. That’s why stand-ups are mostly impervious to trolling. We are means tested by audiences, actual people, paying customers in real-time giving us feedback. I also love that stand-up comedy involves zero meetings," he says with a laugh.

Expanding his creative repertoire, Helliar ventured into writing children's books, a passion rooted in his childhood love of reading. "The Magic Faraway Tree was a big influence and inspired my Frankie Fish series. Having parents tell me Frankie Fish was the book that got their kids reading is perhaps the best compliment I could ask for."

Despite his success, not every performance has been smooth sailing. "Anytime the audience doesn’t connect with you feels disastrous and personal, but I could count using my fingers that’s happened over 28 years," Helliar admits. His inspiration for comedy is drawn from the world around him. "Life. Life around me, life inside of me. What am I thinking about? How is it interesting and entertaining? Each show I do is reflective of my life over the past year or so."

Helliar's ambition continues to drive him toward new creative ventures. After leaving The Project, he has thrown himself into various projects, including an animation, a horror film, a dark comedy satire, and a dramatic series. "I am excited about all of them and the people I’m working with," he shares enthusiastically.

Taking part in I'm a Celebrity offered Helliar a unique blend of highs and lows. The best part? "The people. I got to make lifelong friends with people and share in a pretty unique experience. Also, taking time away from social media, phones, and the news cycle was genuinely brilliant." The worst part was the lack of contact with his family, which weighed heavily on him.

At the moment, Helliar is touring his new show, Pete Helliar Gives Zero Flips. "I have been loving touring it around Australia. I was very keen to come back to The Pavilion because I performed at the opening night for it and had a great time. The show is reflective of where I am at, approaching 50, getting used to a CPAP machine, learning about my family history. I really love this show," he says.

Reflecting on his career, Helliar fondly remembers performing in Montreal just before the pandemic at the iconic Just For Laughs Festival. "I got to perform in a 4,000-seat theatre. It was both thrilling and nerve-wracking. Wanda Sykes MC’d and introduced me. The gig went great. Because I’ve been lucky enough to have TV jobs in Australia from Rove Live to The Project they have kept me home for most of my career so to be invited to perform at the iconic Just For Laughs Festival was an honour."

Through the highs and lows, Pete Helliar's journey in comedy is a testament to his resilience, creativity, and never-ending love for making people laugh.

Book tickets to see Pete Helliar's Gives Zero Flips at The Pavilion HERE!

Pete Helliar at The Pavilion Performing Arts Sutherland Shire


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