Can an orchestra stand the test of Tim?

Tim Minchin - credit Rich Hardcastle
Tim Minchin - credit Rich Hardcastle
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ALL in all it’s not bad for someone who didn’t enjoy the discipline of learning to play as a kid.

“I just did piano as a kid and gave up like a million kids did,” recalls Tim.

Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin

“The difference is my brother played guitar and wanted to jam and I had an all right ear so I could figure out the chords and just played around a bit.

“Maybe the reason I’ve ended up doing what I do is because the writing has always pulled me along. When I first learned three chords I went away and wrote a song with three chords. Then I stumbled on a fourth chord and somewhere along the line I thought ‘I want to write something that sounds a bit like that’ so taught myself. That’s still how I learn.

“There’s stuff in Matilda and this orchestra show that I couldn’t do last year but I heard it in my head and thought I’d better teach myself. I’m a songwriter really and the instrument has been dragged behind me.”

Where Tim took it next, however, followed in the tradition of piano-bothering bearded satirist Richard Stilgoe, who used to perform on British shows including BBC news magazine Nationwide. Throw in bohemian Irish muso Duke Special and you have a unique artist.

“I didn’t come to comedy through listening to other comic musicians,” says Tim, often compared to Tom Lehrer or Bill Bailey. “I was playing music and was compelled to not take myself very seriously and I like silly words.

“I stumbled into it from a position of extreme naivety which has been very good for me. Now I’ve looked back there’s no doubt you can draw a straight line between old time music hall and what I do.

“It’s just I’ve been influenced by a culture that has moved forward in terms of where the edge is, but I don’t do gratuitous shock.”

Even so, early on in his career Tim says he’d rub unwitting folk up the wrong way.

“I’d play at an arts centre in an English town and I’d get email saying ‘We came to see your show and Tom Lehrer didn’t have to swear’. Tom wrote in the 1960s - and got banned from going to Australia.”