Replacing Dave Hughes after 5 years, he is tasked with the job of the show’s regular funny news clips. But linking from more serious news comes with its own set of challenges. How do you follow with a bizarre YouTube clip without sounding out of place?
“It’s one of the truly unique things about the show. I can’t think of any other show that has sharper U-turns and topics than The Project,” Helliar admits.
“Mostly it’s easy but sometimes it can be quite ridiculous, but that kind of helps it. It’s a tougher gig from Carrie or Charlie’s point of view to get from something funny into something darker or serious.
“I’d rather do a silly segue that the audience knows is ridiculous, than to have to get from me showing a wacky clip of Tony Abbott into the Royal Commission. That’s tricky to pull off.”
Where possible, he tries to find a common theme from the preceding segment, but sometimes honesty is the best policy.
“We do plan where the things go, off the back of (something relevant). I’ll say ‘Yeah, I can make that jump work.’ But some of them are ridiculous,” he says.
“Sometimes it’s providing a little breaker. And sometimes it’s admitting ‘This has nothing to do with the next story.’ Like Monty Python, ‘Now for something completely different!’”
Helliar is no stranger to the role having filled in for Hughesy for some 12 months, and being a regular on Thursday shows. He has a long history with Roving Productions that also helps make the transition as seamless as possible.
“I knew what I was getting into. Sometimes it can be a bit nerve-wracking to say ‘Yes’ to something without knowing all the machinations, but that was handy for me, and for the network and the production company, I imagine,” he says.
“It’s great to be working with Carrie on air, and Charlie. But to get back working with the guys who were there when I was on television for the first time like (producers) Craig Campbell and Rob Brearly, has been great. It’s a good team.”
Helliar will appear Mondays to Thursdays with Anthony ‘Lehmo’ Lehmann remaining in the Friday chair. The day is broken up as such to allow him to continue his other interests, such as performing or writing.
“I rock in about 2:00 and have a meeting with the guys who compile all the clips. They run me through about 30 on a decent day and I’ll choose which ones are good for the show. The rest of the guys come in and we go through the show for about an hour and a half to get our opinions and angles,” Helliar explains.
“Once you’re in there it moves pretty quickly. And that was one of the attractions in doing it, I can still get stuff done. As of tomorrow I’m writing It’s a Date Series 2 from 9 – 1 and drive down the street to The Project after that.”
Having worked on the show so much already, Helliar has already worked with most of the regular co-hosts and various experts. He’s not even fazed about working with arguably the show’s most regular conservative voice, radio’s Steve Price.
“We’re a bit different, but he’s alright,” he admits.
“I’ve worked with most of the regulars, like Natasha Stott Despoja a lot. She’s got a new role so hopefully she’s on the show just as much.”
He also notes Steve Vizard and Todd Sampson as good to work with. But there is one name that still leaves him somewhat floundering.
“There’s no-one I have issues with. But I always have a bit of a moment when Kerri-Anne is on. I’m a little bit in awe. When she talks to me on air I think ‘I’m just looking at Kerri-Anne!’ I’m not engaging like I do with others, and I want to apologise,” he concedes.
“It’s funny who you get star-struck around. Backstage or in make-up it’s all fine, but on air I’m totally KAK!”
The Project airs 6:30pm weeknights on TEN.