×

Tim Minchin: Clever cleffer sets sites on U.S.

10 Comics to Watch

Sitting backstage at L.A.’s Largo without the mascara and unruly mop of red hair, Tim Minchin doesn’t look like a rock star. But that’s the point.

“I’m a philosophy nerd. I read loads about psychology, and I listen to science podcasts,” says the self-taught musical comic, still bemused that his act — an unusually cerebral mix of dirty jokes and politically conscious ditties — has gotten popular enough to sell out arenas in the U.K.

“I’ve always thought of myself as a musical hack,” admits the Australian funnyman, who studied piano until second grade but never learned to read music. After university, he took a year off to act and write music. He even joined a disco cover group called Jungle Boogie. “We’d wear silver pants and play ‘YMCA’ at the end of the night,” he remembers.

But it was a cabaret gig that formed Minchin’s current persona — mascara and all.

Applying the cabaret style to original songs, he uses witty tunes as a delivery device for big ideas. “I think my show has a proselytizing role to make thinking cool and funny,” he observes. (“Prejudice” finds Minchin embracing his own minority status as a “ginger,” while “The Pope Song” rhymes “papist” with “rapist” as he takes pederast priests to task.)

Unlike other musical comedians, who strum their guitars to fill the space where laughter should go, Minchin is a damn fine composer in his own right. In addition to scoring several small theatrical musicals Down Under, he wrote the music and lyrics for the West End-bound tuner “Matilda.”

Minchin, who had once written the Roald Dahl estate to inquire about the rights to “Matilda,” was delighted to be approached by the Royal Shakespeare Company about adapting the book. “I guess they saw through the politics and profanity to see someone who knows how to write dark, silly songs,” he says.

Though Minchin won an Alternative Comedy award at Aspen in 2007, he resisted the industry offers that followed, holding out out for a live tour before tackling the U.S. “I hope I can be the first person to play the Hollywood Bowl without actually being in a movie.”

LAUGH FACTS
P.O.V.: “I’m a rationalist. I really like good ideas, and science is the best idea we’ve ever had — this idea that we shouldn’t trust ourselves and we have to test shit.”
Influences: “Not comedians, just people who write great lyrics, like the Kinks.”
Reps: WME/Gersh/The Collective

MONTREAL JUST FOR LAUGHS
Biz taps viral evangelists | Brands frown on fair use | Ha-ha-honorees
10 COMICS TO WATCH
Jerrod Carmichael | Chris D’Elia | Josh Fadem | Pete Holmes | Thomas Middleditch | Tim Minchin | Amy Schumer | Rebel Wilson | Harris Wittels | Ali Wong

More Legit

  • The Sound Inside review

    Broadway Review: 'The Sound Inside' Starring Mary-Louise Parker

    Mary-Louise Parker will take your breath away with her deeply felt and sensitively drawn portrait of a tenured Yale professor who treasures great literature, but has made no room in her life for someone to share that love with. The other thesp in this two-hander is Will Hochman, endearing in the supportive role of a [...]

  • Little Shop of Horrors review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Little Shop of Horrors'

    With its strains of kitschy doo-wop and its sci-fi B-movie inspirations, the quaint 1982 musical “Little Shop of Horrors” hardly seems a thing of modern-day revivalism, even despite its touches of S&M. Yet this year alone, not only is there an Off Broadway production of the blackly comic “Little Shop” featuring Jonathan Groff of Netflix’s [...]

  • The Lightning Thief review musical

    Broadway Review: 'The Lightning Thief,' The Musical

    “It’s a lot to take in right now,” says Percy Jackson, the teen hero of “The Lightning Thief,” the kid-centric fantasy musical (based on the popular Y.A. novel) that’s now on Broadway after touring the country and playing an Off Broadway run. You could say that’s a bit of an understatement from contemporary teen Percy [...]

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content