Tim Minchin


Written by Alex Marx
14 Monday 14th November 2011

You may know Australian Tim Minchin for his unkempt ginger mop, wild eyes and mad-cap and hilarious song writing, but what you may not know is that he is a committed family man, a keen jogger and a total Shakespeare geek. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that his new musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda is being co-produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company. Note: the following interview has been heavily edited -- mostly because Tim spent half of our time together questioning me and my answers weren’t as funny as his.

I’ve written down some questions.

Alright, well ask me one and I bet we run out of time before you get to the second.

You played Hamlet?

Okay, well. It was in a semi-professional experimental version that went for ninety minutes and had a cast of four. So, you know, it looks good but... I absolutely love the text. If I was in charge I’d still cut it in half… I love that you can do both. This is the piece written by the greatest writer of all time but that doesn’t mean that we always have to do the four hours.

So, what did you cut? The other characters?

Yeah. It was just the soliloquies! No… We made cuts that removed any reference to his feigned madness, which has always been a bit esoteric and Elizabethan for me. His Dad’s been killed by his uncle and he wants to kill him - but he can’t. I like the idea of him not pretending to be mad. More like, “No, no! He’s just gone fuckin’ nuts!”

Would you do it again?

I’d love to but that would be incredibly self indulgent and I’m not the person to do it. I am probably going to do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (the Hamlet spin-off by Tom Stoppard) in a couple of years. I did it at Uni but I was the player - I didn’t do R or G.

Tell me about Edinburgh…

It’s up there. Pretty much ten hours due North. Let’s meet there for a coffee tomorrow.

You’re not busy?

Naaah. Nothing much going on.

But it was up there that people discovered what you were up to?

Yeah, look, I had the kind of Edinburgh that is legendary, but that doesn’t usually happen - and I say that with modesty. But if you go up there and you’re ready – I didn’t know I was ready -- but I was. I had a 350-seater and I didn’t think anybody would come but by the end I was mostly filling the room.

So how did you get ready?

By that stage I’d been playing music and being on stage for ten years. I had some craft, I was confident and I had some songs that it turns out were reasonably unique. I also had a world view and I had a “look”. There are much better comics than me, out there doing the clubs, but they’re just good comics -- and that’s hard to grab onto.

Whereas you’re also a great musician.

No, I’m not.

You’re hardly shit.

I go and see a real musician. I watched Lang Lang the other night, or a jazzer, and I’ve got to the point where I can understand what they’re doing but…

But Lang Lang is the greatest pianist in the world...

Yeah… I know. I have no left hand because I never had any training. I mean, it can walk and it can do the equivalent of a bass and kick. My right hand is lead guitar basically. Maybe I’m better now… The orchestra thing gave me confidence because some of the guys said that the structure of the songs is good. And Matilda has really raised my self-worth.

Tell me about that?

It’s the best thing I’ve ever done but it has taken a lot of work. At Uni I wrote musical versions of five or six Shakespeare plays, and I re-wrote the songs for Brecht’s Mother Courage and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. I played in pub bands, cover bands, and then I was an MC for a Cabaret band which I was alright at considering I can’t read. Then original bands, and trying to act, trying to act, trying to act. Getting rejected… But I was never very focused on any of those things. Until I found comedy I was being different things for different people. By the time I came to putting it all together I was quite handy at it.

A jack of all trades?

Yeah. It’s like someone who is good with nails and fiberglass and roofing and then starts making sculptures out of nails, fiberglass and roof tiles. Yeah... Let’s go with that.

You did the Comedy Prom this year. I saw you rocking out on that big organ.

Haven’t seen it... I used to listen to people go, “Oh, I don’t watch myself’, and think, “Yeah right. Wanker!” But I am surprised by how unbearable it is. I mean, I’ve got an awful singing voice and I don’t look very good on camera. I look better than in the mirror or now, because of the makeup and shit… l mean, I back my comedy. Sometimes it’s good. I like that it muddles towards something ironic rather than going gag, gag, gag. I can defend it against critics but I fuckin’ can’t handle watching it. I just want to say, “Shut the fuck up and get on with it.” The DVDs go on the shelves without me really seeing them.

It sounds like you give yourself a hard time.

Nah… It’s normal. I mean, I probably don’t like the way I look or sound more than… It’s not a complex thing… Whatever… It’s just a little chink in my armour. I’m fine. I’m quite a stable person – a few drinks in the evening, no drugs. I love jogging. I love my kids. Everyone’s allowed a couple of insecurities.

I was watching your Ginger song on YouTube…

Yeah. There is an article doing the rounds about how in Denmark they’ve had to call a stop to donations from gingers because they’ve got a seventy litre backlog of sperm. No one wants the stuff. Whereas in Ireland it sells like hot cakes. “Get yer sperm here. Three pound a bucket!” Picture that. Seventy litres of sperm.

It’s very gooey… A big bucket…

More than a bucket. A vat! Or a drum?

A barrel of oil is 100 litres.

The best part of a barrel. I wonder how much that would sell for. Expensive, hard to generate…Wouldn’t want to run a car off it.

Although environmentally friendly.



They’d be ethical difficulties. Inevitably they’d have Chinese teenagers in a factory - just jerking off all day.

They’d have pumps.

Yeah. Like cows. Mind you, it wouldn’t have to be human sperm. That way we could get back to being cruel to animals. Perfect!

Are you a big animal lover?

I’d fuck an animal, yeah. I’d fuck anything. I’m not a petophile. I’m allergic to shit. I thought the reaction to cat bin lady was absurd. You know what was happening in that period? Haiti! Just some human disaster involving black people - who clearly deserve less sympathy than a cat.

It was a black cat too.

Not ginger? Yeah, I like animals. In fact, I am a vegetarian in everything but action. I could argue for hours about why being a vegetarian is right, whatever our nature is, it doesn’t fucking matter!

It would be fucking great if we could not eat meat - but I fucking love it. So in that sense I love animals. I love steak! And that is just one of the ethical dilemmas faced by wealthy middle class white people. It’s tough. People laugh at Bono and Geldoff screaming into the void of their own ethical uncertainty but they’re doing a fuckload more than most people.

You do quite a lot of charity stuff.

I pay my morality tax. Free shows… I’m trying to work out where to place that stuff. You don’t want to be a charity whore. It devalues your voice. I’ve got a connection to the Princes Trust and all their youth theatre. I don’t agree with Charlie on much - but that’s fine. And I’ve got the National Autistic Society because I have an autistic family member. But I also have to accept that the stuff that I make brings value to people; happiness and shit. I think that art plays an important social role but mostly it’s about the claps. Maybe I should have been a teacher. But then, where would the world be without my voice?

It would be a disaster.

The Pope would still be fucking children. Not that he ever did…

Just his mates…

Some of my mates have fucked children... But then they were kids at the time.

Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra is out on DVD on 14 November. Matilda the Musical opens on 24 November, matildathemusical.com. Tim will be performing in London on 18 November (Hammersmith Apollo) and 23 November (Royal Albert Hall).

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