Posted: Wed Apr 01, 2009 5:23 pm Post subject: Tim Minchin
Tim Minchin: Ready For This? Jason Blake,
April 1, 2009
WHAT do you have to do to get Tim Minchin to write and perform a song in your honour? Just pan his show. In Song For Phil Daoust, a therapeutic ballad about the Guardian critic who rubbished Minchin's Edinburgh show in 2005, the Perth-bred musician-comic indulges in Hannibal Lecter-style revenge fantasies, including making Daoust eat pieces of his own face. (For the record, Daoust described Minchin as "a bog-standard stand-up with a silly voice and a few good songs").
Based on Ready For This?, Daoust should at least get ready to eat his hat. Minchin's third stage show (after Dark Side in 2005 and So Rock in 2006) opens with a smoke machine and an ironic rock star pose for Who Needs A Band?, a multi-tracked squall of stadium-rock bombast blasted through a multi-storey PA system. Loud, certainly. Funny? Not very. It's hard to sustain that kind of irony when you can sell out a large rock venue like the Enmore three times over.
It takes a few unnerving minutes for Minchin to establish audience rapport in the relative quiet that follows. In fact, it takes the cleverest song of the night: Taboo, a dazzling piece of anagrammatic wordplay on what Americans call "the N-Bomb". Minchin's take on American culture informs much of Ready For This?, and while taking shots at marketing hyperbole and religious conservatism isn't original, he sets about it with the zeal of a Richard Dawkins, ending in a ferocious, hillbilly send-up of Bible literalism, The Good Book.
Funnier still is If I Didn't Have You (Somebody Else Would Do), a deft pop ballad parody (performed with an enticing shimmy at every chorus) that takes the big mathematical probability stick to the cliches of made-for-each-other romance.
Minchin's signature anthem, Canvas Bags, rounds off the first act but there's no convincing comeback from a 20-minute interval at the 60-minute mark, even with a nine-minute Beat poem about a run-in with a New Age chick at a dinner party and a little help from a break-dancing audience plant in a bear suit.
Should standups use directors? Musical comedian Tim Minchin suggests standups should work alone to perform their best work, but plenty of his peers are hiring hands to direct their shows Brian Logan
Is standup comedy poetry, or is it theatre? Is it a romantic and individual pursuit, or is it people working together to put an artistic artefact on stage? The former sounds more likely, doesn't it? It's the view Tim Minchin signed up to anyway, when I interviewed him last week. He was talking about his new musical for the RSC, and how he enjoys receiving feedback from collaborators on that project. This contrasted with his comedy work, he said, because "in my head, direction doesn't belong as happily in comedy as in the theatre world ... from what I've seen, the comedians who get themselves a director don't do as well".
Is he right? Should comedy be a director-free zone? Minchin wasn't denying there are difficulties in putting standup (or, in his case, musical comedy) onstage. "I'm sure I could do with a more strict directorial brain on my stuff," he admits. "But who would I call? Who knows musical comedy better than I do?"
But he speaks for a tendency with deep roots in standup – the idea that the act is inseparable from the artist. "The whole point of my show," he says, "is that it's 100% me." Whereas in many artforms – including theatre – several collaborators may feel ownership of the final work. Even poets and novelists defer to their editors from time to time. But standup, as per the Minchin argument, is practically defined by its un-directed nature.
Not all acts agree. My unscientific straw poll suggests that, if there isn't necessarily a boom in directing standup comedy, there are a significant minority of acts who prefer to use directors. Laura Solon's current (and excellent) show is directed by George Perrin of the theatre company Nabokov, and the directorial input is easy to spot: Solon's show is effectively a one-woman play. When Garth Marenghi's comic-theatre show Netherhead won the Perrier award in 2001, it was directed by Paul King. King went on to helm the Mighty Boosh's TV work and in both of those cases, one could likewise see the need and the benefit.
Standups use directors, too, although you wouldn't always know it. The director is usually a hired hand, a moonlighting friend, or "an outside eye" – and is often barely credited. Recent examples include Paul (brother of Ed) Byrne's work with Andrew Maxwell and Glenn Wool; the comedian John Gordillo directing Reg Hunter and Eddie Izzard's shows; and Marek Larwood of sketch troupe We Are Klang, taking on Cardinal Burns's very funny Edinburgh two-hander.
But, I've seen these acts, and they wear their direction lightly - bordering on invisibility. When Lenny Henry returned to standup a few years back, he turned to one of the world's best and most identifiable directors, Complicite's Simon McBurney, for help – and even McBurney's input was hard to discern onstage. Standup, which strives to appear personal and spontaneous, may feel the need to conceal direction. Unlike in theatre, the director is never the lead artist. (Mind you, even in theatre, the director as kingpin is a fairly recent innovation.)
Far from Minchin's anxiety that directing equals "applying a template", or challenging the comic's authority, standup has defined a looser performer/director relationship to suit itself. I see plenty of comics who might benefit from engaging in that relationship, and others who might try giving their directors a longer leash – without, I think, endangering the lone-wolf romance that Minchin is keen to protect.
Reprieve Laughter/Pain gig starring Tim Minchin at the Lyceum, London Tim Minchin, Stewart Lee, Ed Byrne, Robin Ince and Phill Jupitus do a fundraiser gig for Clive Stafford Smith's Reprieve charity at London's Lyceum Theatre.
Rating: * * * *
09 Jun 2010
It must be hard being a comedian doing a charity gig nowadays. You can do a great set, everyone laughs, you think you've done pretty well, and then Tim Minchin comes on and the crowd explodes. Minchin, nowadays, is more rock star than comic. This fundraiser gig for Reprieve at London's Lyceum theatre, usually home to The Lion King musical, involved some of the big names of the British comedy circuit, and they were - almost exclusively - excellent. But even big names like Robin Ince and the peerless Stewart Lee, who both did excellent sets, were put in the shade by the reception given to the kohl-eyed, back-combed, piano-playing Minchin.
Reprieve is a prisoners' rights charity - which, to febrile British readers, might evoke an image of providing an in-cell jacuzzi for Ian Huntley, but overseas means dealing with miscarriages of justice on Death Row, or providing legal support to Guantanamo Bay inmates. Founded by human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, it promotes the rule of law and fights for fair trials for prisoners. None of which, you might think, lends itself naturally to comedy.
And so it proved - Stafford Smith's heartfelt introduction aside, few of the comics said much about the charity's work. Maybe there was no need - it was a friendly audience for a Left-leaning comic, as Stafford Smith illustrated by describing himself as a "commie pinko liberal" to loud cheers, so it's not as if they had to sell the idea of human rights particularly hard.
But that's a relief, because instead of being preached at, we got three hours of good comedy from about a dozen top acts. Ed Byrne was excellent and the compere Alistair Barry is a reliable host (he has perfected the art of stalking on stage pointing at the just-departed act with an expression of awestruck adoration, which must be why he keeps getting the role). Ince - who does so many free benefit gigs he must be on a police watch list for having no visible means of support - was entertainingly angry, as ever. Shappi Khorsandi and Phill Jupitus put in good stints.
But the night is really about two acts, Lee and Minchin. Lee is a feline presence, if more Bagpuss than Bagheera these days, and he is unmatched in his ability to bring an audience along with him on veering rants. His targets this time were people of his age who have moved to the countryside or abroad ("If there's one thing I can't stand, it's emigrants. We should put a cap on them"). But even as the audience wheezed and gasped, it felt like an excellent support act at a Wembley Arena gig.
In fairness to Minchin, he lives up to the hype. A slight, barefoot figure, he is a consummate pianist as well as an excellent comedian, and the four songs he played here are all as good musically as they are lyrically. "If I Didn't Have You" is particularly good, and his latest release - Pope Song (warning: link contains lots of swearing) - is brilliant, although it is so rude that were I to type out the lyrics here they would largely be dashes ("---- the ------------, ---- the -------------", etc).
With all his sudden success and various talents, it would be easy to dislike Minchin, but he deflates any ill-feeling with amiable self-mocking banter. Best of all is a pastiche of the sort of Bono-style posturing that he might be accused of - Canvas Bags, a huge, stompalong lighter-waving stadium rock number, complete with electric fan blowing his hair and open shirt back behind him, all about the importance of cutting down the use of plastic bags at the supermarket. He might be a rock star, but he's a damn funny one.
Skiddle caught up with one of the most exciting comics working today to discuss his latest DVD ‘Ready For This?’, writing music for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s forthcoming adaptation of Roald Dahl’s beloved ‘Matilda’, performing with a 55-piece Symphony Orchestra, and, of course, revenge. ‘Ready For This?’ was filmed over two nights at Hammersmith and is released in the UK on 29th November.
As soon as the interview begins, Tim reaches across the table…
I thought you were going to steal my dictaphone then!
This whole career of mine has been a massive highfalutin trick to get that.
To steal this one dictaphone?
The last six years I’ve been aiming for your ‘Campus’
Oh, Olympus! ‘Campus’… that’d be a good name.
Not heard of Olympus?
Yes I have. They make cameras don’t they? And, erm, God.
And also God. That’s who made this.
Wow. Divine MP3 recorder.
That’s what he does now. Just that.
Well in this age, this post-deistic age, gotta do something. Good job he had a trade. His Dad’s: ‘well just in case this ‘God’ thing falls through, might as well have a trade.’
It’s just like Bruce Willis doing the Aviva adverts; it’s just to keep the money coming in.
(Starts writing something down) I’m stealing your joke. ‘In case the ‘God’ thing doesn’t work out.’ It’s good to have good aim. It’s good to have big aims, but you need a fall-back.
Right. Have you ever heard anything back from Phil Daoust? [Guardian critic who slated Minchin's 2005 Edinburgh show]
No, although he is on Twitter and I did comment on something he said, in defence of it, and he’s commented back. It’s quite funny, the Guardian at the time I first started playing it (the ‘Song for Phil Daoust’) in Edinburgh wrote a little story and got a comment from him and he said ‘I’m just glad to be remembered’ which is what they say. I mean, he’s been extremely good about it because…
There’ll be another song if he’s not?
The shit that would rain down on him if he tried to… because although the song is extremely rude, and talks about wanting his family to die, it’s so obviously a joke, and it’s a joke against myself in the end. Whereas if anyone follows a link to the review, it was just straight-up mean to a new comic and so he’ll never end up looking good. (Read the Guardian's review).
His review was actually my first exposure to you.
That’s why it hurts, because you know that, even though it was all just a joke and all that, but this is, you know, my first year and something I’ve worked really hard on…and then when you know that a whole load of Guardian readers, you know my paper ‘my lefty, intellectual paper’, getting their first taste of you by some guy who’s just turned up tired and grumpy is just, it’s just very hard to get it out of your head.
I just don’t believe in that style of Arts Journalism, but there’s a grand tradition of it; of scepticism. Especially theatre critics and stuff. I might be about to walk into a shit-storm with ‘Matilda’ because that’s where the baddies hang out. In theatre criticism.
Tim Minchin: interview
Dec 2 2010
Piano-playing comic Tim Minchin has gone from sitting at pub joannas to concert-hall grands in a year. So has he watered down his act? Has he fuck…
'Excuse me,' says the pretty, young, heavily pregnant teacher, breathlessly tapping me on my shoulder. 'Is that Tim Minchin?'
'Yes, it is.' She giggles and blushes. 'I love him! I've seen him live, and the other day I saw him on the tube! He was so lovely. He offered me his seat.' 'Did you take it?' 'Oh, good gracious, no…' 'Here, Miss, what's he doing here?' We're joined by a young man who towers above both of us. 'I've seen him on YouTube; he's bare funny.' Gawping, he points. 'That's proper good.'
Our photographer has brought us into a secondary school in Camden to get a shot by some young birch trees she's spotted. The experience teaches me two things about Tim Minchin. One, he is far more famous than he was when I last interviewed him 12 months ago. And two, he has some remarkable hidden talents. 'Would this make a good shot?' Minchin is asking. Having gripped the tree with the skill of an experienced pole dancer, he's effortlessly lifted himself into a perfect perpendicular position, his legs outstretched at 90 degrees.
Minchin is a hugely successful comedian and acclaimed musician; he's about to play a show at the O2, he's just written the music for the Royal Shakespeare Company's much-anticipated production of Roald Dahl's 'Matilda' and to top it all off, he's a bloody acrobat. You can really go off some people.
How do you deal with the thought of 16,000 people seeing you perform at the O2?
'I think a lot of people don't really think about what that would do to their ego. They just think: Well, that guy's turned into a bit of a cunt. Not that I've given people reason to think I've turned into a bit of a cunt, but it changes you. You either get scared or you convince yourself you deserve it - even if it's an exercise in self-delusion. I oscillate between the two states. Sometimes I think: You know, I'm fucking good at this - of course 16,000 people are going to come see me. But then, in the middle of the night when you wake up and can't get back to sleep you can lie there scared shitless.'
How has fame changed your everyday life?
'I don't think that it has that much, apart from having a little more money. I think I'm in a slightly unique position, because as far as I know there's no one else in comedy at the moment who is both as well known and as little known as I am. There's no one who's not on TV regularly selling the amount of tickets I sell. Which is nice. I guess what I'm saying is, there's no problem walking down the street.'
So you don't have to go out in disguise?
'I get recognised a lot but it's not a problem. When it first started to happen I was like: God this is a head-fuck! But somewhere along the way in the past year I've just forgotten about it. Besides, if I wear my glasses and pull my hood up nobody notices me.'
Do you worry about the impact of your fame on your kids? (Tim and his wife Sarah have a daughter, Violet and a son, Casper.)
'I'm probably a bit in denial about it because, ultimately, what can you do? But I'm not going to reach Russell Brand levels of fame. The only risk comes when, because I'm so opinionated, the kids get to an age where they can Google me and see some fairly nasty stuff about me because of something I might have written a song about.'
Like your 'Pope Song' which includes the lines: 'If you cover for another motherfucker who's a kiddie-fucker, fuck you/You're no better than the motherfucking rapist…'?
'Yep, that would be the kind of thing. That song's actually an examination of what we find offensive. It challenges people who find that language more offensive than the act. I'm constantly outraged by that. If you listen to the song carefully, it justifies its language: this is the language you should use when you're angry at kiddie-fucking.'
Many comics tone down their material when they become famous, but you seem to have become even more outspoken.
'I feel that the bigger the audience, the bigger the obligation I have to say something I think is important. I've always written material about religion. I think it grew from my shock as a kid that adults actually believed this stuff - and from there I got more and more into science, secularism and rationalism. Some of the things I sing about are contentious, but I seem to get away with it by being cheeky and charming - at least that's the theory. I'll play the “Pope Song” to 16,000 people and hopefully I won't lose more than ten of them.'
In the past you've said you 'tread the line between self-mockery and wanting to be an iconic figure'. Is it hard to hold on to your perspective now you're playing arenas?
'Definitely. I'm never sure of the level to which I'm taking the piss with the rock star posturing - taking the piss out of rock stars while I'm sort of becoming one. But what I can do is mock the idea of grandeur - hence having a 55-piece orchestra on stage with me. I said to my promoters: “If I'm going to play these huge venues, it has to be a show that's so ostentatious and so over the top that the joke would fail if it wasn't in an arena.” So that's what I'm trying to do.'
As you've become more famous, have your fans been getting a bit more fanatical?
'I've had some really kooky ones. But probably my kookiest has decided she's over me. She sends me messages which start, “It was nice, but…” they're all rejection letters, tweets and stuff. She promised she'd stop being too obsessive and coming to all my shows, which she has, but every now and then she sort of reminds me that she's stopped. Crazy woman. That being said, the majority of my fans are wonderful.'
Tim Minchin’s Storm – an interview with producer Tracy King Producer Tracy King speaks with Hailey Settineri about transforming the famed nine-minute beat poem into a short film.
08 April, 2011
Tim Minchin is as much famed for rationalist views and anti-thiest lyrics as he is for musical prowess and wordplay, so his popularity amongst sceptics should come as no surprise. The Australian comedian is often listed alongside the likes of Richard Dawkins and James Randi in lists of influential sceptics (there’s even a Top Trumps card dedicated to him) because of his entertaining and enlightening rants.
The work most frequently cited by his rationalist fan base is 'Storm', a nine-minute beat poem that discusses science and spirituality through the entertaining premise of an argument at a dinner party. Now, thanks to a small team of hard-working animators, fans can now enjoy 'Storm' in a new guise, as the official animated movie of the same name has been released on YouTube.
Producer Tracy King and director/animator Dan C Turner first came up with the idea of turning Minchin’s poem into an animation in 2008. “We saw Tim perform Storm a few years back when it was brand new,” explains Tracy, “and it was the best expression of more or less everything we think, from a sceptical perspective, that we'd ever seen. It seemed obvious that it should be an animation. It was simply a case of persuading Tim (who at the time we'd never met), to let us have his poem, which we did a few days later. Fortunately he said yes!”
Entirely hand-drawn, the film’s visuals were inspired by the art of the beat movement and classic animators such as Chuck Jones. Initially, Dan was the sole animator, working on 'Storm' in his spare time. But as it grew in scope, additional team members were brought in and it became a full-time project.
“One of the weirdest and most unexpected hurdles was 'Storm' suddenly being much bigger than we planned,” said Tracy. “What started as a little side project suddenly became this enormous anticipated thing. That meant upping the ante in terms of production. From a simple three-person project we went to a team of ten, with all of the complexity that goes with a project that size.”
Despite the additional pressure of a shoe-string budget, 'Storm' was completed in time for a sell-out premiere at Animated Encounters in November 2010, and was even longlisted for a BAFTA. However Tracy says the short film was always intended to be released on YouTube.
“I do a lot of pro bono work to promote pro-science or critical thinking, and 'Storm' was always part of that philosophy. It needs to be somewhere where anyone can access it, free of charge, with the objective of getting as many people to see it as possible.”
King has a lengthy background in pro-science communications – she worked on the viral video hit 'The Colour-Changing Card Trick' with Richard Wiseman (now considered the biggest science communication video in history, having been seen by some 85 million people online and on TV) and has worked with the James Randi Educational Foundation – so it’s unsurprising that she's so passionate about 'Storm'.
“The bit in the film that gives me goosebumps every time is when it transitions to Tim and Storm standing on the hill, hair blowing in the wind. It's a really touching moment where Tim changes his approach to Storm, bringing her into his ideal rather than forcing her to observe it. I think that's a lovely visual expression of what can be a turning point in a debate in real life. I'm not saying that in Storm's case it worked though!”
As Minchin already has a strong audience of rationalists, does 'Storm' risk preaching to the converted? “Hopefully those of a rationalist mindset will appreciate the film as an animated version of something they agree with, and those new to it may be inspired to seek out more information on some of the themes in the film. Or they may just like it as art. We have already had emails from lecturers asking to show it to students though, so hopefully it'll have wider appeal than just the choir.”
“The great thing about just putting it out on YouTube for free is that anyone, anywhere in the world, can watch it. We don't yet know how the atheistic themes in 'Storm' will go down with a general USA audience, for example, but what's strong about the animation is the performance and the visuals, whether you agree with the themes or not. Hopefully even those who disagree with it can still find something to enjoy.”
Tim Minchin is not just a man with funny hair He triumphed with the RSC’s 'Matilda’ and is now touring Britain’s arenas. Comedian Tim Minchin talks to Mark Monahan.
17 Apr 2011
In 2005, the kohl-eyed, poodle-haired, ivory-tickling Tim Minchin came from nowhere to be crowned Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe, with a solo show of beguilingly witty songs, all belted out in the persona of a mildly Tourette’s-ish rock god.
Six years down the line, Minchin – a capable singer, dexterous pianist and supremely articulate lyricist – is fast becoming the supercool megastar he was once pretending to be. Last year, he appeared on Jonathan Ross’s chat show to perform Song For Wossy, a melodic proclamation of his desire to sleep with the presenter’s wife. He also wrote all the songs for the RSC’s garlanded adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. And his tour of Britain’s arenas with the 55-piece Heritage Orchestra, which resumes tonight in the Scottish capital, has drawn rave reviews and huge crowds.
How quickly things change. Before winning the Edinburgh gong, he was a jobbing musician and arranger; now he’s playing the Royal Albert Hall. Does he pinch himself sometimes? “I do,” he says, “though it’s hard to get those moments of clarity in your life. You have a child, change country, whatever, and I think we’re all very good at contextualising those experiences and making them normal again. Often, I just think: this is what I do. But then again, I came home from Australia a couple of days ago, to find an original hardback of Matilda there, with a message from Roald Dahl’s widow in it, saying, 'Thank you.’ I thought: this is insane!”
Matilda was one of the critical triumphs of last year. In his review of the production, The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer commented that Minchin and dramatist Dennis Kelly “suddenly look like the brightest prospects for British musical theatre since Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice broke through”. Audiences agreed, and the show transfers to the West End this autumn.
“I really, really enjoyed the process of writing Matilda,” says Minchin, born and now based in Britain, but raised in Australia. “Even when I was hating it – even when whole songs were discarded – I knew I was enjoying it. I just feel I can go ahead in my career and challenge myself more now. I’m going to persevere with comedy, but I want to be writing things that outlive my comic persona.”
Matilda has, he says, led to plenty of interest from prospective collaborators, he has one or two possible (but, he says, “nickable”, and so currently undiscussable) ideas in the pipeline, and he is also considering writing an album of non-comic songs at the start of next year. But uppermost in his mind for now is the tour. “There are moments in this show that are Wagnerian in their epic stupidity,” he says, adding that playing with an orchestra of “serious musos” has helped him finally to start thinking of himself as a proper musician: “I feel legitimate now.”
So, for all his apparent self-assurance, Minchin – who cheerfully confesses, “My wife is under no illusion that I’m anything special” – has engaging chinks in his armour. His song Rock’n’Roll Nerd is a lament for every nice middle-class boy (such as him him) who might want to be cool. And besides, there has always been more than a dash of irony to Minchin’s entire stage persona.
But when he gets something, or indeed someone, in the crosshairs of his comedy, the results can be as unforgiving and uncomfortable as they are hilarious. The devout, the easily shocked, those averse to robust language – all should tread warily with Minchin, who could accurately be described as musical comedy’s very own militant rationalist.
Little riles him more than what he sees as lazy, dogmatic or wishful thinking, with political black-and-whiteism, inflexible eco-mindedness, and religion taking a particular hammering in his songs. “I don’t think you’ll find anything I’ve written in the past five years that just pans religion,” he says. “It only pans the place where religion intersects with prejudice.” This is illustrated by the time when he was collared by a fan called Sam. Sam claimed that his mother’s cataracts had been healed as a result of prayer, to which Minchin’s response was the lacerating ditty Thank You God for Fixing the Cataracts of Sam’s Mum. Now part of his show, the song attacks Sam’s apparent assumption that God hasn’t got bigger things to worry about.
“The song is incredibly brutal on prayer,” says the 35-year-old father of two, “and I’m willing to accept that that’s pretty mean, because what harm does prayer do anybody? My problem with prayer is that I find it extraordinarily arrogant. I’m open to the idea that prayer is incredibly important to people, and I wouldn’t want them to not have it. But I also think there’s room for someone to point out that when middle-class white people come to God to help their mum’s cataracts, they’re being --wits.”
Journalists have learnt to tread warily with Minchin too. One 2005 review stung so much that, three years later, he responded with a ferocious song. Yet Minchin is the first to acknowledge that this overreaction to a poor notice was conceived partly at his own expense. And his stronger material is often softened by his impish charm as a performer, the perkiness of his tunes, and his refusal to take himself too seriously on stage.
“It’s really just playing the rock star,” he says. “When I started doing it, it was particularly funny, because I’d be there with my hair, my shirt open, and there were barely a hundred people in the room. That’s ridiculous, because it’s so ostentatious – it’s such a clash between the act and the room. And then, as years go on, I’m now in arenas where that stuff belongs, and the joke still works.”
Ah, but can it really work as well as it once did? Now that he surely is a type of rock star, isn’t there a danger of his becoming exactly what he set out to mock, of the joke backfiring, the irony cracking?
“I guess it is a danger,” he says, “but I don’t think it’s manifested itself. I open this show with a massive song about how now I’m doing arenas I don’t have to try, how I’m just doing it for the money and the audience can -‑‑‑ off. And in saying that I’m basically setting myself the challenge to go absolutely the opposite way, to do everything I can to make the show amazing.”
Tim Minchin is having a spot of bother with his US tour after the company who were due to loan him a piano apparently pulled out of the deal because they thought he was a "demon".
Tim tweeted: "Found a piano for Dallas. Then got email saying they'd YouTubed me and wouldn't rent to me, 'Not for one million dollars. Find a better comedian (not a demon)'. "Also said I'm insane and a god-hater. Which is ridiculous. I don't hate God. I hate people who won't hire me pianos." The piano firm even asked him to cancel his entire tour and "go back to Australia".
But the 35-year-old comic - who has already played Detroit and Los Angeles - managed to get hold of a "lovely Steinway B" in time for his Dallas concert. He later tweeted: "Y'know, if I owned a piano and found out a hirer was, say, racist or homophobic, I might retract hire. I admire Norbert's ethical stand."
Tim finishes his US tour in Boulder, Colorado and is taking his tour to Ireland next week.
I don't want to run out of money and tour at 80 like John Cleese Tim Minchin talks to Metro about his part in turning Roald Dahl's Matilda into a musical, why he doesn't read reviews and his desire to release an album of non-comic songs.
November 15th, 2011
What’s it like playing with an orchestra?
A complete headfuck initially. I’m not a trained musician so it was quite scary when it was suggested to me. I had ideas about how I wanted it to sound, so I got arrangers to help me. The first day I sat down with them, everything was fine. It’s been great for my sense of musical self-worth. It’s the best feeling in the world playing your own songs with incredible musicians – especially the silly songs, such as Cheese.
Is it a distraction having all those people behind you?
I can’t improvise and stop songs like I can when I play on my own, but the upside is it’s epic musical comedy on a scale I don’t think has been reached before. For people watching live, there was a sense of: ‘What the fuck is going on.’ I was concerned the complexity would detract from the jokes, but I don’t think it did.
Why did you become a performer?
I did an English degree. I thought I’d teach or be an academic but I was writing music for theatre. That’s why I can do an orchestral show because my music’s very theatrical. I played in piano bars, cover bands, a cabaret act and also acted. The songs started getting a good reaction so I stuck with the silliness. I still see myself as a cabaret artist. I’m just a singer-songwriter talking about stupid things, but my stand-up is getting stronger all the time.
Why did you specialise in the comedy songs?
I’d moved to Melbourne and couldn’t get an agent. I was doing gigs with a band and people would tell me it was hard to pigeonhole us because half the songs were taking the piss and half weren’t. To make myself more pigeonhole-able, I started doing a solo show with the silly songs. I didn’t want to be the sort of cabaret artist who does a silly song then says: ‘And this is about my dead father.’ I started in 2003 and kept getting a good response. If you do lots of different things, you’ll eventually find something that sticks.
Why did you write a song about a critic who gave you a negative review?
I wrote it two years after the review appeared because it had comic potential. It talks about wanting to make his children watch while I force him to eat meat torn off his own face. It’s over the top and hysterical. The review really upset me at the time because it was my first year of doing comedy and this guy really went to town. I’ve since discovered he’s one of those journos who tries to be witty and clever at the cost of people. If you try to be witty and clever by being scathing and mean about a comic, watch out, because I’m better at that job. I’ve stopped playing it. I should stress it’s about how pathetic and hyper-sensitive artists are. The contentious bit is I used his real name. If you call for a comedian to be tarred and feathered in a newspaper in the first year of their career, I don’t feel guilty.
Isn’t the convention that the person who receives a negative review rises above it?
Yes and that’s important. My way of dealing with it is I don’t read anything about me any more. Why would I assume a journalist knows better than one of my director friends, the audience or myself? My solution is not to read anything. People have opinions about me and express them on YouTube or whatever, but humans aren’t emotionally equipped to deal with that level of scrutiny and criticism. Not reading things about me might put me in a bubble, but it’s healthy. Because of that, I can concentrate on writing musicals.
Matilda’s on right now, do you want to do more musicals?
Yes. I’m not doing another comedy show at the moment. I want to expand and write songs for film. I’ve got a deal with an animation company to write songs for a film and maybe do another musical. I’d like to put out an album of non-comic songs. I’m sure it won’t be as popular, but writing those songs is still a big part of my life. I got such a thrill out of contributing to Matilda. It’s not my story or script but it can be tedious to be in one’s own head all the time. I’d like to write a musical from the ground up, but I’m happy taking jobs. I want to perform for the rest of my life, but I don’t want to be out touring at 80, John Cleese-style because I’ve run out of money.
Would you do a biographical musical about a celebrity?
It’s not really my thing. I don’t think I’ve made a single reference to pop culture in my songs. But the nature of celebrity is incredibly interesting, so writing a musical that would address those things would be interesting. I don’t know whose life it would be about, but there are plenty of fucked-up celebrity lives out there to choose from.
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