My re­ally awe­some year!

The funny man steps off the side­lines to steer his own show, writes Mercedes Maguire

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - PETE HEL­LIAR

I t’s one of the many oc­cu­pa­tional haz­ards Pe­ter Hel­liar has come to ac­cept as part of the job. Along with peo­ple ask­ing him to be funny on de­mand, the Mel­bourne co­me­dian says he is in­creas­ingly put on the spot to voice his opin­ion over just about any topic. But as far as his role on Net­work Ten panel show The Project goes, the hum­ble yet very tal­ented Hel­liar says he’s happy to sim­ply be the funny side­kick.

“I’ll be at a din­ner party and a guy will come up and ask me where I sit on the as­sisted dy­ing de­bate,” Hel­liar tells BW Mag­a­zine.

“Be­ing the funny side­kick on The Project is a fun place to be, (co-hosts) Car­rie (Bick­more) and Waleed (Aly) ar­rive at the of­fice ear­lier to re­view news but I don’t have to ad­just my chair in that sense. To be hon­est, my role on The Project is to not talk dur­ing the im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal parts, and then to throw to a clip of a mon­key fling­ing poo at peo­ple.”

If Hel­liar is down­play­ing his tal­ent and his ca­reer, it’s not in­ten­tional. The 42-year-old fa­ther-of-three has had a stel­lar year; he was nom­i­nated for the Gold Lo­gie (which went to Sa­muel John­son), he re­leased his first chil­dren’s book, Frankie Fish And The Sonic Suit­case, and he has just landed the role of host­ing a game show for Ten called Cram.

“2017 has been a lovely year,” he says in his typ­i­cally self-dep­re­cat­ing mode.

“OK, I do have “The Year of Pete” ban­ners hang­ing up around the house.

“Se­ri­ously though, I have been do­ing com­edy for 21 years, and on TV pretty much ev­ery year since I started with Rove in 1999. There’s been a few years where there’s been a few things hap­pen, but I guess 2017 has been a busy one.”

Cram, which will air weekly from Tues­day, is a UK con­cept where mem­bers of the pub­lic com­pete in two teams to see which side can re­mem­ber the most from a short video clip.

It has been re­designed for Aus­tralian au­di­ences by ITV Stu­dios to be more like a panel show, where two groups of celebri­ties, led by co­me­dian Dil­ruk Jayas­inha and ac­tor Vir­ginia Gay, com­pete against each other with Hel­liar at the helm.

The top­ics are di­verse, rang­ing from the his­tory of fly­ing to singer Justin Bieber.

“His­tor­i­cally I have been the dis­rupter and the sniper from the side­lines,” Hel­liar says.

“But this is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, I’ll get to steer the ship a bit more, yet still be part of the game. It’s re­ally ad­dic­tive, you can’t help but join in and any­one can play be­cause you’re given all the in­for­ma­tion, you just have to re­mem­ber it. I imag­ine fam­i­lies will re­ally get into it be­cause it’s some­thing they can watch to­gether. One of the show’s ex­ec­u­tives said, ‘Watch­ing you do this show is like you’re in your own play­ground’.”

Dur­ing the se­ries we’ll see Hel­liar joke around with fel­low co­me­di­ans such as his good mate Rove McManus, Dave Hughes, Jimeoin and Josh Thomas. Celebrity guests in­clude Mi­randa Tapsell, Natalie Bass­ingth­waighte and Danielle Cor­mack. I n a busy year, Hel­liar is prob­a­bly most proud of the re­lease of his first chil­dren’s book. Frankie Fish went to num­ber one in its first week, knock­ing the lat­est Di­ary Of A Wimpy Kid of­fer­ing off the top spot. “When the pub­lisher called to tell me, I said, ‘Is that good, is it enough?’ Be­tween March, when it was re­leased, and June it had sold 50,000 copies, but I had no ref­er­ence for this.

“I re­ally loved writ­ing and pro­mot­ing this book, I’ve been writ­ing kid’s book since I was a kid in pri­mary school, so this first pub­li­ca­tion was kind of spe­cial, and a long time com­ing.”

Hel­liar is busy writ­ing a fol­low up to the pop­u­lar book and has hinted at a se­ries of maybe five or six books plus some pic­ture books for younger au­di­ences.

He says he was chuffed to see the char­ac­ters of Frankie and his grandad in re­cent Book Week school pa­rades on Face­book and In­sta­gram, with his youngest son Os­car, 9, dress­ing as Grandad. He says kids send him their re­views of his book and some have even made him their own ver­sion of a Sonic Suit­case.

The books he wrote as a child were re­cently un­earthed by his mum and have proven good fod­der. They have a com­mon theme in that they gen­er­ally fea­ture Hel­liar as the heroic pro­tag­o­nist, as the ti­tles In­di­ana Hel­liar, and Me, The Sports Star, sug­gest. He read from them at the re­cent By­ron Writer’s fes­ti­val and is us­ing

them as ma­te­rial for a new com­edy show he is work­ing on.

“I’m work­ing on a few new live shows, one of which will be aimed at fam­i­lies,” Hel­liar says.

“It’s about the books I wrote as a kid. When I read them at the (By­ron) Writer’s Fes­ti­val, I re­alised kids loved them but so did their par­ents be­cause there’s lots of ref­er­ences to pop cul­ture, things like Back To The Fu­ture and Pat Cash, but it’s all through the eyes of an eight-year-old.”

As a fa­ther of three boys — Os­car, 9, Ai­dan, 12, and Liam, 14 — Hel­liar says he of­ten gets raised eye­brows and gri­maces of com­mis­er­a­tion. But he says so far his parental en­try into the teenage years has been easy. A ded­i­cated fam­ily man and hus­band to Brid­get, whom he refers to as the cap­tain of their home, Hel­liar says get­ting a good home­work bal­ance is a pri­or­ity. “I try to keep a work-life bal­ance at the fore­front of my mind, but it’s funny how kids have a way of re­mind­ing you about these things,” Hel­liar says. “Re­cently we were hav­ing din­ner and a pub­li­cist needed an­swers to some Cram ques­tions for an ar­ti­cle, so I said, ‘Sorry I have to do this.’ To which one of my sons an­swered, ‘Is it re­ally so im­por­tant? They can wait while you have din­ner.’ He was right, of course. “The bal­ance can be tricky. My own dad worked in the gov­ern­ment and had a very dif­fer­ent kind of job to me, I never saw him in the morn­ings, but the make-up of my job is very dif­fer­ent, I am around in the morn­ings, for one.

“I’m a very dif­fer­ent dad com­pared to my dad, I wear my heart on my sleeve a lot more than my dad did.

“I al­ways hug and kiss my kids good­bye and show them all the time that I love them.

“There are some times I think be­ing a dad has been too easy be­cause the kids have given us so lit­tle trou­ble and it makes me ner­vous for what’s po­ten­tially ahead.

“Peo­ple will go ‘Wow, three boys’ and raise their eye­brows like some­thing ter­ri­ble is about to hap­pen but, re­ally, they’re good kids.”

Cram airs on Ten at 7.30pm on Novem­ber 2

Pete and Brid­get at a red car­pet event, and (above) read­ing his book to chil­dren at Mid­dle Park Pri­mary School. Main pic­ture: Julie Kiri­a­coudis

Main pipc­ture: Dylan Robin­son

Peterter Hel­liar en­joy­ing a break with his his dog Ruby, and and (left ) with wife Brid­get theirand their sons Liam, Os­car and Ai­dan.

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