Ed Helms would have you believe that he’s nothing like the sweetly innocent doofuses he’s played in “The Hangover,” “The Office” and most recently in Miguel Arteta’s “Cedar Rapids.” But as he gets settled into a hotel room on New York’s Fifth Avenue, jumping up to open all the shades and let sunlight in, it’s obvious that he’s every bit the loveable geek that he plays on the big and small screens.
“I had a heart condition as a teenager and my doctor was like, ‘If you ever do cocaine, you could die,’ so that instantly sealed my fate as a nerd,” says Helms.
He’s referencing a scene in “Cedar Rapids,” where as buttoned-up insurance agent Tim Lippe, he finds himself at a backwoods meth party. Tim’s an earnest, sheltered man whose trip to an insurance convention is nothing short of an emotional and intellectual awakening. It’s that unworldly naivete that draws Helms to these sorts of characters.
“I am a genuinely naive person,” Helms says sarcastically. “No, I don’t think I mean as well as Tim Lippe, although I wish I did more often. But I envy that idealism and optimism. Tim has such faith in people and most of us who have been around for a while have lost a bit of that.”
But is the real Ed Helms anything like, say, his character Andy “Nard-dog” Bernard from “The Office”? The two share a love of a capella, after all.
“Well I think like a lot of people, I try to do the right thing most of the time,”?he says. “But I mess up a hell of a lot, and maybe sometimes I don’t try hard enough.”
The golden rule
He may be modest, but when asked about the best advice he’s ever been given, Helms gives a very Tim Lippe answer.
“This is really trite, but I honestly believe that the moral code of the universe is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he says with a slightly embarrassed smile. “That’s the best advice there is out there. That, and: You are what you eat.”