“He knows that his music lacks depth;
But it just can’t be helped.
He has nothing interesting to say;
So he writes about himself.
But he doesn’t want to seem self-obsessed;
So he writes in third-person.
In an attempt to seem more Rock-N-Roll;
But he suspects it’s not working.’
Tim Minchin. A beautiful musician. A wicked sense of humor. A world view unlike any other. Unafraid to take risks in order to say things. In one show, he tackles prejudice, religion, environmentalism, natural medicine (via a 9 minute beat-poem… no, really…), as well as himself. Minchin makes no apologies for his opinions or his points of views. He will always do his best to justify them, and if somebody gets offended by the justification, then that’s on them, not him.
It’s truly remarkable just how well-known and respected Tim Minchin is in Britain and Australia, where he is from, yet in America the average Joe has no clue who he is. Case in point. April 2011, Tim Minchin sells out the Royal Albert Hall in London. It seats over 5,000 people, he’s backed by his 55-piece orchestra. Not 2 months later, we see him in a venue in Chicago that seats no more than 150.
Tim Minchin, both the man and the persona, were hardly born overnight. It was a culmination of personal and professional rejections. For years, he was playing in bands and not really getting very far as a musician in Melbourne, Australia (having been raised in Perth). Around 2003, Tim decided to start compiling all of the comedic songs he wrote into a cabaret act, just as a way to get them off of his chest and move on with his more serious songs. In doing so, he developed the encouragement to go ahead and take a gamble on himself, renting out a theater as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, where he garnered much attention and acclaim, he even had won an award.
One of those in attendance had been Karen Koren, who was apart of the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival. If you’re a comedian, Edinburgh is the festival of all festivals. It is the go-to place, as far as comedy is concerned. It’s the world-wide version of Just For Laughs. There, Tim Minchin went from being a complete unknown to the talk of the town. It was a story of true success and triumph, only it never happened overnight.
This is something apparent in everything Tim Minchin does. Nothing he does is luck. It’s all based on talent. We live in a world where it’s possible to become renowned just by happenstance of being in the right place at the right time. However, as you watch Tim Minchin, it’s clear there is something much more striking than sheer luck taking the stage. There’s a triumph of hard work, of someone who clearly takes himself and his craft of choice more seriously than one perhaps suspects. At first glance, his songs are charming and amusing, but the more one observes him work, the layers begin to unfold right in front of you.
For instance, his song, “Cont.” Without spoiling the brilliance of the reveal, is a song only Tim Minchin could pull off. Every single layer is required to make a piece like this work. It’s not what Minchin says that’s funny, rather it’s what he makes one think that’s really where the humor is derived from. Expectation is certainly the key.
A big part of Tim Minchin’s act has always been tackling what some consider “taboo.” He considers himself to be a “rationalist,” and a lot of his songs follow suit. However, that isn’t to say that his intention is to isolate anyone, or make anybody feel angry regarding what he says.
“It seems a strange thing to say but I really don’t like upsetting people and the fact I do makes me bury my head,” says Minchin in a 2013 interview with The Guardian. “I don’t deal very well with the hate that gets spat around the internet when it is directed at me. I don’t deal with it well when it is directed at others and I never do it myself unless it is an incredibly carefully thought-out polemic like the Phil Daoust song or the Pope Song, which have carefully constructed points to them.”
But that seems to be the nature of what Tim Minchin likes to do. You get a sense that he’s not saying anything just to say it, or that anything he says is improvised or spur of the moment. Everything is so meticulously crafted and well-thought-out, that you frankly wouldn’t have it any other way. Tim Minchin never attacks religion dead-on, or anybody’s beliefs for that matter. He always does so from a particular angle of religion or said beliefs, and he always makes sure to justify everything it is that he’s saying.
These days, Tim Minchin is quite busy. In 2011, he saw the opening of Matilda, in London’s West End, for which he wrote the words and music for, before subsequently having it transfer to Broadway and tour across America. This last month saw the opening of a new musical adaptation of Groundhog Day, which will make it’s transfer to Broadway from the West End in 2017. Additionally, Minchin is writing a new animated movie for Dreamworks titled Larrikins, which is set in Australia.
He could’ve easily lived the rest of his life being a comedian, but the problem is, he never considered himself a comedian. He was always a musician who just so happened to sing funny songs. So while some fans may not understand why he doesn’t tour as much these days, it’s not because he’s no longer funny, but simply because comedy is merely a chapter in his life, as opposed to overtaking his entire life.
And for anyone interested in learning more about Tim Minchin, we highly recommend checking out the documentary Rock ‘N Roll Nerd. It’s a fascinating look at the rise of his career, and unusually for most documentaries (which are typically done through reflection), we get an inside look, as it’s happening.