×

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 Prince of Egypt review

    'The Prince of Egypt': Theater Review

    In “The Prince of Egypt,” a swords-and-sandals epic minus the swords, no one speaks, they declaim; no one questions, they implore to the heavens. In a musical re-telling of the Exodus story that is bigger on plagues than on developed characterization, subtlety was always going to be in short supply. But did everything have to [...]

  • Katori Hall

    Listen: Katori Hall's 'Quiet Revolution'

    Playwright Katori Hall’s latest, “The Hot Wing King,” centers on a group of black gay men — a community so rarely depicted onstage in the theater that she can’t think of another example. Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below: Which means there’s real power just to see them represented. “Because there aren’t a ton of images [...]

  • Cirque Du Soleil Volta

    Volta: Cirque Du Soleil’s Latest Blends Themes of Self-Discovery with Street Sports

    Blending themes of loneliness, isolation and self-discovery with the magnetic culture of street sports, Cirque du Soleil’s latest iteration, “Volta,” is an eye-popping and psychically soothing spiritual journey experienced through a prism of jaw-dropping acrobatics and aerodynamics that leave one gasping for breath. The Montreal-based entertainment company has produced a steady string of awe-inspiring shows [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band review

    'Cambodian Rock Band': Theater Review

    Is there anything less politically threatening than a rock band jamming to its own vibrant music? Tell that to the Khmer Rouge, which descended on Cambodia in 1975 and killed off some three million people, including many musicians. In Lauren Yee’s play “Cambodian Rock Band,” the doomed, fictional band Cyclo is represented by actor-musicians with [...]

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content