You guys have all been patient enough - so here it is - our long awaited, very long interview, with the one, the only, Timothy Minchin.
This has also been posted on Hannah's blog - I'll fix you up with a link asap - and an article from the interview by Hannah is also in the Comedy Festival Edition of Farrago Magazine (the Melbourne University publication!) See below!
As predicted, there's now an e-mag of edition 3 on the site, and you can read it by clicking the link below:
Farrago Edition 3, 2010 e-mag
Tickets for Matilda the Musical, which is discussed below, are now on on sale. You can find out more here.
The interview was conducted on the 15th of February at the Cambridge Cafe in Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia; and went something like this.
Feb 15th, 2010. Cambridge Café, Collingwood.
An Interview with Tim Minchin
by Hannah Tricker and Jacqui D
Accompanying photos by Lyndsey Brown ( photo 1),
Sarah Williamson (4), and Alex Williamson (2, 3 & 5).
H: How long are you in Australia for this time ‘round?
Tim: It’ll be three months by the time we get back. Which is a pain in the arse, really.
H: Yeah? Does it feel like you’re coming home, or do you feel more at home in the UK now?
Tim: Until this trip I would’ve said it’s sort of everything – Perth and Melbourne, London all feel equally like home, but I’m so desperate to get back to London. Just because I’m… I had a regional tour planned, and the day before it went on sale I rang up and said that I don’t want to do it, I need to write, ‘cause I’m so freaked out about Matilda. And then I thought, we’ll just go – I’ll do my dates, we’ll have Christmas, and a holiday, and we’ll go home to London in mid-January and I’ll come back out in February and do it. And then I thought, “Aw, fuck it, if we’re going to be out there let’s stay,” ‘cause we’ve got loads of friends in Melbourne. So we stayed, and I’ve got this space - I’m in Tripod’s room, ‘cause they’ve been in America – at Madman, and I was meant to get all this writing done, and it just hasn’t really worked out… just not, not getting much done, and I’m craving home… I’ve got two kids, they need to have a bedroom. I think London, home, is where your bed is, really. Where your shit is, and where your kids were born. The kids were born in the flat we lived in, so… if anything’s going to make a place feel like home, it’s bringing your babies to it. Like the place where I bring the kid home in that doco. I suppose you’ve seen the doco?
H: Mmm hmm. Does having those two affect your work at all? Like you said, it affects what you do, but does it affect the content?
Tim: I try not to let it. I mean, I had all that cock sucking stuff, and the dying baby stuff, so I did… but I try to make sure if I was going to talk about my baby, I was going to do the opposite of what you’re meant to talk about, I suppose.
They’re the new experiences that you didn’t realise would happen, and it’s always stuff - (at Hannah) I dunno, you’d probably find this with your creative writing: the stuff that inspires you to write is stuff that is at odds with your understanding of the world. Either at odds with your understanding of the world ‘cause it makes you angry and you think the people who are making that happen are wrong, like all my ranty shit; or its at odds with what your own expectations were, I suppose. I think… you write about… yeah. Maybe that’s a theory: you write about stuff that surprises you or enrages you, or something.
So when Vi was born, I kind of had a few things that surprised me, but… I dunno. There’s not much to say about babies that Jeff Green doesn’t do a good job of, you know what I mean?
Tim: And I don’t think… I dunno. I haven’t written a show for a while. It’s been eighteen months, and I’m not going to write a show in the next year, so...
J: Any show in the future?
Tim: Well I am… I’m going to be touring Australia with a show that will be half old, and half new, in a year.
H: Like a best-of show?
Tim: Sort of, but there’s more to it than that. But you won’t find out what is special about it until June. I’m not allowed to talk about it. But it’s going to be different. There’ll be more than me on stage. There you go. There’s a hint.
J: Like an orchestra?
H: Yeah, we’ve heard rumours about an orchestra.
Tim: Who started rumours about an orchestra?
H: I don’t know. Everyone’s just saying it.
J: It’s been going ‘round. And people want to know.
H: There’s no source.
J: They want to know, Tim. Tell them.
Tim: Hmm. Well… no. (laughs)
H: (laughs) Okay.
Tim: They can think it’s an orchestra. They can keep spreading the orchestra rumour.
H: So you’re doing Matilda… are you starting to move into more serious stuff, do you think? Obviously most of your songs have a comedic edge and Sit kind of did as well, but do you think you’ll ever do another “serious” album, so to speak?
Tim: Serious like Sit is serious? Or seriouser than Sit?
H: More focussed on music than comedy.
Tim: I hope so. I mean, I’m sure I’ve talked about this stuff before, but the thing is from me looking out, the way I see my career is different from the way people who discovered me as a comedian see it, ‘cause they sort of see this comedian who has a past that is other stuff, but for me it’s just, one of my experiments went really well. It’s not that I’m passing through comedy; I’m sure now that I’ve picked up on this comedy thing I’ll do it forever, but… like Matilda, it’s quite recently that I wrote Penrith the Musical and This Blasted Earth and all these things that no-one’s ever heard of. So for me, it’s big leap in who’s doing it.
But I’ve always been writing for theatre. I never stopped. Even while I was doing comedy I was writing… or, you know, writing the music for Rhian’s ‘Kindness’ documentary or whatever. So I suppose it goes without saying for me that I’ll keep doing all of it. But it has been ten years this year since I recorded Timmy the Dog, and I’m intrigued to know what I would write now, knowing what I know. Because in that ten years I learnt that I’m probably better at comedy than anything else, I suppose. But I’ve learnt a lot more about song writing, you know, just ‘cause you do. The more you play, the more you know, and I’m a better player than I used to be, I’m a better singer than I used to be. (chuckles) Which isn’t hard, but… I would really like to in the next two years go into the studio and spend four months writing a record and recording it, but you know, you can find that quote in every interview I’ve done in the last five years.
I’m certainly not going to prioritise that over opportunities like I’ve got coming at me now. The question might end up being do I prioritise that before tele, really… like, after this year, Matilda and all that, I think half-way through next year I’m going to have a new kind of opening, once I get back from my [next] tour.
I think I’ll sort of have a chance to do a bit of a re-invent. And I’m going back to England to record a half-hour radio show version of my TV pilot that I wrote two years ago. To be honest, I’m not that excited by that, even though that’s the first step on the way to tele. You know how all those guys started on radio; pretty much all of them, apart from Ricky [Gervais] and…. But League of Gentlemen and … fucking everything, Flight of the Conchords and Mighty Boosh.
H: What about America? A while ago you were mentioning that HBO TV Pilot.
Tim: The HBO thing was never a thing. That was, someone interviewed me while I was talking to HBO and I said ,”I’ve just been talking to HBO,” but I also that week spoke to every American television company, and I’ve since spoken to every Australian one. People are always saying, “Can we have a meeting with Tim? We think we’d love to work with him,” but… firstly TV takes a long time and secondly you need to – Chris Lilley didn’t get a call one day and have someone say, “Do you wanna do tele?” and he went, “Aw… um, yeah. Alright.” You know, he had an idea, a vision; and I have a vision for Matilda and I have a vision for my elusive next album, and I have a vision for my next tour, but I’ve never had a clear vision for what I’d do on tele. I don’t know what I’d do.
That’s not to say I’m not interested in it, it’s just that there’re a lot of people sitting there going, “So where’s your next tele idea?” and I’m saying, “Eh, I don’t have time.” So I don’t know. I was going to go and spend three months in America this year, and I’ve cancelled everything this year, basically; gigs and tours and everything, because of the writing, because of Matilda, basically. It’s become quite clear to me that I need to not fuck it up.
J: So it’s something pretty huge then, for you, to cancel everything.
Tim: It is huge for me, because two things can happen with Matilda: we can get it on stage in Stratford and it will do twelve weeks, and everyone will like it. Even if we put on what we’ve got so far, it’s pretty cool, you know. It’s really fun, lots of good songs, and emotional, and beautiful. But I think it would be a pity if that was it. We all want it to go from Stratford to the West End to Broadway to Sydney, you know; which isn’t to say that’ll happen, but there’s no point going into something like this, an opportunity – someone’s handing you one of the most famous children’s stories of all time, and a budget, and the Royal Shakespeare Company behind it. It’d be a real pity if we didn’t – if I didn’t take that opportunity.
Of course, unlike most of the stuff I do, it’s not just about me. There’s lots of other creative people involved in it. It’s harder. And you know, for my shows I just write, and if people don’t laugh at them I just change my eyebrows until they do. I very rarely dump ideas. ‘Kittens Waking Up’ I dumped after about a year. But apart from that, I very rarely dump ideas. I just go, “This is my body of work this year,” like a painter putting up his, you know, “That’s my exhibition, buy it or don’t,” until next year, that’s it. And then next year, come up with twelve more paintings. That’s how I treat it.
Whereas with Matilda, it’s about trying to make something that will live for twenty years, and… I don’t want to fuck it up. And writing for theatre’s what I do. It’s what my comedy show’s are. I’m just writing songs for theatre and casting myself in the lead role. Do you think? Is that what I’m doing?
J: Recently a documentary was made and aired about you by your friend Rhian Skirving, called Rock and Roll Nerd, in which it was shown that you started off at smaller Melbourne venues like ‘The Butterfly Club.’ Nowadays when you do a gig, you tend to sell out venues. What’s the difference? The difference of fan’s coming in, and-
H: Between the two periods of time.
Tim: What’s the difference for me, or what have I done differently to make this come true?
J: Performance wise, and everything. Would you prefer to be back then, in some ways and times, or is there a bit of both?
H: ‘Cause fans can get a bit crazy.
J: You’ve got the craziness, then you’ve got the money coming in….
Tim: There’s not much craziness, I mean… you guys might have noticed that in the last year I’ve disappeared a bit, and that’s deliberate. I’m glad I can see you guys today, ‘cause I feel like I’m not engaging, and it would suit me to once a year engage like this, in a really personal face-to-face way, rather than spend all year reading what everyone writes, and worrying that I’m not responding, and feeling guilty that someone writes to me saying their dying sibling would like a message from me. It’s quite heavy, and you want to be able to react to it all, and the only way you get yourself out of that is to get yourself out of that, you know. I can’t ignore certain things once I’ve read them, so I just don’t read them.
It’s fine, you know, my life is fine. I’m aware it could get worse. It gives you a glimpse of what it would be like if, even someone like Hillsy or a news reader, or someone who’s on tele every week. That’s another reason I’m not jumping at tele is ‘cause I like this idea that… I’m probably selling more tickets to live shows than any Australian comedian in the world now. I had that thought the other day and I just went… I could be wrong about that, so I’m not saying… I dunno.
Tim: I just had this thought that I’m selling a lot of tickets to live shows, without ever having a tele show, or a radio show or anything, and I think that is fucking ideal. I think that’s really, really good. However, producing and creating and performing live shows is tiring. It’s heavy, and I’ve got kids and I’m away from them, and all that. So in the long run you want to create something [so] that it works for you. Like you write a good book, or you have DVDs; but I don’t sell many of them. Or you write Matilda, the musical and then another musical, and then one more, and then you go and live in the south-west of WA and never come back.
J: And just sit there earning your royalties.
Tim: Yeah. Mm. So that’s important in the long-run, but in the short-run, I’m in this really great position. Sorry, I’ll get back to what you’re asking.
This is great there’s no way I’d – I was very frustrated… I wasn’t frustrated because I didn’t think I deserved to be doing more than what I was doing. When I was at the butterfly club in that bad hair era, I was also playing at The Elephant [and] Wheelbarrow in St. Kilda with a band called The Sea Monkeys, playing keyboards in a cover band, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before; and doing that every Friday and Saturday night for two and a half years till two-thirty in the morning, that was my job. Three hundred bucks a week. And I thought, “That’s about right. Oh well, if that’s what I’m doing, then that’s what I’m worth.” That’s the sort of difficulty of being an artist or a writer or a painter, or whatever, is that you have to constantly battle this idea that you’re… you don’t want to be a… I’m not the sort of artist who goes, “Oh, people just don’t understand me. My art is so good, it’s just that I’m misunderstood.” I tend to be very pragmatic, as you can imagine. I go, “Oh well, I don’t get any auditions, I can’t get an agent to sign me, I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m not as good as all those people with an agent. I’m not as good as all those people with an album deal. You know, that’s alright. I’m loved, and I can play the piano a bit, but I s’pose it’s my fault for not having lessons.’
So, you’ve got that, and then every now and then your brain goes, “Fuck that, man. I’m more talented than all those cunts,” you know; and you’re always battling between those two things. I think I was reasonably healthy in my attitude; I think I was aspirational because I thought I had something, but I wasn’t megalomaniacal.
And then I started getting lots of people coming to watch me, and now that’s my life.
H: So you think affirmation plays a large part in your motivation?
Tim: Yeah, I think so, but I guess my ‘Second Encore’ song is proposing the idea that it’s about the same as everyone, I think… it’s hard, I don’t know how other people feel. I think we’re all driven like that. Even people who seek wealth are driven more by everyone looking at them and feeling envious than by the actual shit they get, probably, on some base level. They want their school friends to look at them and go, “Fuck, he’s got a yacht.” You know.
Tim: But it becomes blurry, doesn’t it. Any analysis of your motives… you know, you’re just being Doctor Phil on yourself. You don’t actually know, you’re sort of pop psyching yourself. It’s very, very complicated what motivates you.
The fear of stagnation motivates me. Affirmation, you get used to it. You get used to everything, you know; you get used to ten thousand people clapping you if you’re doing arenas, I imagine. I’m certainly used to a thousand people clapping me, and two and three thousand’s starting to get quite, sort of, day-to-day as well; which isn’t to say I don’t absolutely love it, but you take it on board, and you go, “Oh okay, that’s what I do now.” That’s the other reason I like this year, it’s scaring the shit out of me but it’s new. Maybe that’s the most exciting thing about the difference between now and 2004 is that I don’t have to wake up in the morning and figure out how I’m going to excite myself. How I’m going to find something to motivate myself beyond the covers band that day… my options are broad enough so that the stress of choosing what to do is my biggest problem these days. It’s still fucking stressful. I’m really stressed at the moment, but I’m not complaining.
J: Where do you think you would have been if comedy didn’t happen, if the shows hadn’t happened? You probably would have had to back off at some point and say, “Alright-”
Tim: “I need a job…’
J: “I need a job, a ‘real’ job.”
Tim: Certainly the doco sold that idea. Yep. The doco needed to sell that story to make the story good, and there’s absolute truth to it, but I don’t think I would have stopped. I think probably, I was far enough down the track of being a respected sort of Musical Director/Theatre writer, that…I’ve always wanted to perform myself, but over time I would’ve fallen back, or realised that writing for theatre – you know, if I hadn’t have found comedy, I bet I would have done a MaltHouse show, and, you know.
That’s what I was doing, really. I’ve written a lot of music for theatre, and it turns out other people think I’m all right at it too. I think I would’ve made an okay living. I certainly wouldn’t have necessarily made much money. I don’t think I ever would have taught, ‘cause I don’t … know what I’m doing.
Probably there’s infinite parallel universes where I am doing all that stuff, so all we need is a wormhole, and we can go and find out.
Tim: Drink your hot chocolate, you freak. Have you forgotten about it?
J: No, it’s hiding. (retrieves hot chocolate from behind Macbook.)
H: It won’t be hot anymore.
Tim: (with mock-panic) Don’t spill it on your LAPTOP!
What’s your real n- Tricker?
H: Hmm? Tricker. Yeah.
H: You recently performed in a production called An Oak Tree in Perth.
Tim: Oh, yeah. No-one saw that, did they?
J: It doesn’t sounds like anyone saw it.
H: That was sort of like a spontaneous unscripted thing, wasn’t it? How did it work?
Tim: It’s not improvised, it’s totally scripted. It’s just that you have no idea what it is, so it’s a combination – we’ve got an earpiece in; sometimes you’re reading off paper, sometimes you’re being fed lines. That’s it. And the other actor is doing everything, or he’s talking to you directly, sotto voce. So you’re on stage, and he’s in your ear, right, and he might turn around to pick something up and as he turns around, he turns his back to the audience, and he’ll go, “Right, Tim, move to the next chair, please,” and he’ll say, “When I do this, do this,” and it’s an amazing job for the actor, and it’s brilliant. It’s kind of weird, and what’s brilliant about it is – are you an actor?
J: A bit.
Tim: When you first read a script, and you read it through to yourself, or the first reading “round a table; the battle for an actor is trying to replicate what you felt that day, twenty, a hundred, five hundred times on stage. And you never can. All you can do is fake it or get all Stanislavski on their asses, but basically there’s no way you can recapture the first time you read a script. And The Oak Tree is about a guy who’s daughter’s killed in a car accident, and what it gives you the opportunity to do is hear the text for the first time and have your first reaction.
So you’re sitting there in a spotlight, and it’s not really didactic, it’s not like, “My daughter died in a car accident.” It’s much more oblique than that. And you’re sitting there in a spotlight, and the actor who knows what they’re doing is backstage just saying lines to you about how - you’re explaining to the audience line by line how you’re standing at the place where your daughter died and you believe that she’s not dead, but that this tree near the place has taken on her spirit, and that you’re looking at this tree, and it’s really poetic, and you put your arms around the tree. And you’re standing there saying this stuff, and the in-the-moment-ness of that moment as a performer, if you are capable of being in the moment with a whole lot of people looking at you, which I am because I always have lots of people looking at me, is so profound. And as having a daughter and stuff… And so I’m sitting there saying these lines, audience only hearing me talk, and just sobbing.
And that’s why it’s amazing, because you can’t do that. There are very few actors that can do that, and the ones who can do that have just figured out how to fake it. Actually having the experience of being affected by a text with people watching is… it’s a bit self-indulgent, it’s more about the performer than the audience. But audiences, especially audiences who see a lot of theatre, are quite moved by it too, because they realise they’re watching someone have the feelings. Only the best actors ever can make people feel that, and only because they’re good at faking. Because we’re not designed to have the same emotional experience. You need to be an amnesiac, you know. You can store words, but not feelings, to be able to do that.
So it’s really full-on, and profoundly satisfying as a performer, because you get that thing you always wish you could get. When you read a script that has emotional content, you go, “Fuck,” and you’re sitting there and you’re reading it and you’re feeling it and you think, “I wish audiences could be watching now, because this is it. After this it’s all just trickery.” Tricker.
H: How does that differ from on-screen performances, like in Two Fists, One Heart?
T: Well, I don’t know, ‘cause I haven’t done enough. But I imagine if you play your cards right, what’s his name, the guy who makes films that are mostly improvised… Mike… like Secrets and Lies, it’s years – be about the year of your birth. [5 years off – 1996.] Anyway. There must be ways to get- especially these days with digital cameras, you can have five cameras and just film a thousand hours. There must be ways in which you can make film – Mike Leigh. There must be ways in which you can film people while they’re having their first reaction to an idea. One is by improvising, another is maybe by doing exactly that: you feed people their lines, for the first time, and you’ve got a camera on them. Films got a whole lot of other distractions, ‘cause there are cameras and mics, and everyone standing ‘round, booms. So you’re always faking it, again. But I think in a way it’s an easier to have an honest performance on film, because you do three [takes], and one of them you might hit it; whereas in a theatre show, if you’re doing a month’s run, you might really hit it four or fives times in that month, but the other twenty-five audiences got a version of that. Also in theatre, of course, having someone actually feel the emotion’s not always the best way to do it, because the person in the twentieth row can’t see that, so actually, faking it’s more profound for them. It’s why The Oak Tree only really works in tiny rooms.
I’d like to do more film; I think it’s interesting, but no-one’s screaming to cast me, and I’m not particularly worried about it.
J: Did you aspire to be a musician when you were a kid? What were you sort of looking at being?
Tim: I don’t think I had one. I don’t think I was a very good child. I don’t think I did childhood very well. I thought architecture. But I’m hopeless at physics.
Tim: Mmm. No, really. Maybe design or architecture. S’pose I wasn’t really very artistic, either, like, drawy art. After first year arts, I got offered law because I did well. Considered that for about ten minutes. I was never going to do that. But for a minute there… I didn’t get marks to get into law straight after school, so when they came to be at the end of first year art and went, “You can transfer to first-year law because you got As,” it was just, seductive, you know. I could be a lawyer… thank fuck I didn’t do that. If my kids became lawyers I’d be so angry at them.
J: There are a few comedians and performers around here who were originally in law. I mean, the Chaser’s one.
Tim: Yeah. Yeah, nerds.
J: They know how to get around the authorities.
Tim: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Not get sued for libel… slander. Only just.
Yeah, I don’t really know what I wanted to do, and I really didn’t think being a musician was a thing. Or being an actor even. I didn’t really get good roles in school plays. I didn’t do particularly well. I’m an inspiration for all losers.
I did well at school. My parents kicked my fucking ass, and made me do homework, and I did fine. I was a sort of B+ kind of student, As in English, but pretty good at maths and bio. I was just a sort of all-rounder guy who played a lot of hockey, went to the beach loads, middle distance running. I wasn’t a nerd; I wasn’t the nerd in high school that I kind of pretend I was. I was just a good private school boy. I wasn’t a prefect, but I wasn’t in trouble; I never skipped a class. Basically I’ve been bought up by people who didn’t let me get away with shit, which is good.
H: You’ve probably been asked this before but is Rock and Roll Nerd [song] just an exaggeration of you?
Tim: It’s more of an idea. But it is, I mean, obviously. I’ve always thought that I have some music in me, I must be okay at music. I think. But I never thought it was okay to write about… finding a way to write about stuff that evokes emotion has been a very long journey for me, so figuring out how to write White Wine in the Sun has taken me a long time, because I’m a really literal person. And I’ve never been good at writing rock song lyrics because they all just sound like bullshit to me. They sound disingenuous, and especially in the hands of middle class rock-stars going, “Argh argh.” That’s what I’m acknowledging and mocking with Rock and Roll Nerd.
And then post-rock-and-roll-nerd I’ve kind of figured out that if I work hard enough, I can find ways to express things that make people have emotional reactions but aren’t very common. My serious songs are not just particularly like other people’s serious songs, they’re like my version of what a serious song might sound like if you’re as nerdy as I am.
Tim: This is me putting money in the meter of my big ugly hire car.
J: Go for your life.
Tim: And I’ll think about giving a short answer about what I would be when I grew up.
(Tim goes to top up his parking meter)
Tim: I just did so well. I went to put money in my meter and noticed the meter behind me had an hour and fourteen left on it -
H: Oh, lucky!
J: good! Good!
Tim: So I moved my car and topped it up.
Tim: I feel really good about that. I scored… two bucks forty. I can have another coffee.
J: You rebel, you. Too much caffeine.
Alright. So we know a lot about your piano experience and the story behind that, but what about your singing? Lessons wise, or even recently.
Tim: I did some lessons.
J: Because your voice has changed.
Tim: Yeah, has it?
H: Yeah. Amazing falsetto stuff.
Tim: Yeah, right.
J: Yeah, like the ‘Staying Alive’ [line] falsetto.
H: And the bits in Canvas Bags where you go up.
Tim: Yeah. Well, your voice gets better the more you use it. I did some lessons when I was about – I went to a singing teacher. I guess I’ve done 20 hours of singing lessons or something and 150 hours of piano lessons in my life, or something. She was a musical theatre-y woman – I’ve seen her recently. Oh, no, I went to another one. I went to this opera girl. Maybe in year 12, or something. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do with her. This is the weird thing. I don’t remember thinking… All of my friends went and auditioned for acting school and I was like, I can’t, you know. That’s for people who are talented actors and then people went and you know… I’d written a lot of music before I thought I was actually allowed to go on and study. It’s just about being brought up in a family where there’s no precedent, you know.
And also my parents aren’t very… “fawny”. They’re the opposite of show parents, you know, they’re like, “Shut the door, it’s too noisy.” They’re not like, “Wow!’
J: So talented!
Tim: Yeah, yeah. They’re totally… still. And my wife as well; when I got asked to do Matilda, Sarah said, “But, why didn’t they get a proper composer to do it?”
Tim: It’s just incredible, how far I can go down this path and have the people who love me still not really believe me. I mean I don’t believe it either, but that’s their fault.
I had a few lessons with this girl, maybe half a dozen lessons and then um, but Rachel Bradshaw… The people that taught me…The lessons that I reckon lots of people look back at and think were the most significant are not necessarily the lessons that the person was meant to teach you, you know? I look at the two years I spent doing contemporary music [at the Conservatorium of WA, WA Academy of Performing Arts] and realising how much of that made me realise I don’t want to be that type of musician. Or at least over time I realised that, that experience taught me what not to do, more than what to do.
Or like my piano teacher, at the end of Grade Two, and I got a C or a B or something and then I said, “I’m going to quit,” when I was 11, or whatever. And she gave me one lesson where she just showed me how to harmonise a major, and just how to play a few chords. I mean, the three years of lessons before that did nothing. Made no sense to me, compared to that. That was just like, “Oh, oh. It’s just a pattern. Fine. Let me go.’
J: You can write now.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. Three chords. You can go and write ten songs with them and then go, “Oh, ok, I’ll write ten songs with that.” And the singing teacher… I played Don Quixote in a youth theatre version of Man of La Mancha, which is an amazing musical still, and the conductor of that, Prue, said, “You should go and do musical theatre,” and I went, “Really? Fuck,” because West Australian Academy has got a really good musical theatre course, and I was like, “I can’t do that,” you know, again, “I’m not one of those people.” And she said, “You could get in,” and I went, “Bullshit.” And I went to this singing teacher and said to her, “This woman said I might be able to get in,” and Rachel said, “Don’t do that. You can write. Why would you do that?” And just the idea of singing and dancing on a real stage was so amazing to me and so far beyond my dreams that it never crossed my mind to think that maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do.
Now I look back at all the people who are on the West End doing chorus roles and I go, “Thank fuck.” I mean that would miserable sometimes. It’s not, but these are the things you don’t know when you’re young. It seems like the most amazing thing you could possibly do, and yet doing exactly the same thing, night after night, I mean… the things that you think are amazing when you’re little, you don’t take into account how fucking long… Like, my dad’s a surgeon and he does quite a few different operations and he really likes it, but there are surgeons there that are amazing. You might think, “Oh, imagine being that guy,” but they do the same operation. They do one operation day in and day out. They’re like a flesh plumber, except without even getting to meet alive people, you know, conscious people.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly. I’m feeling a bit creative, I’m going to use a pig heart.
Tim: Yeah. So again, my singing teachers, the best thing she did for me, apart from maybe teaching me to breathe and sing ‘I Dreamed A Dream’… No, ‘God On High’, the other one that sounds like it from Les Mis, you know that one?
Tim: (sings a bit) “God on high he …” was to tell me not to pursue it. It’s brilliant. I’m so grateful to her. But I resented it at the time. I didn’t just take her advice, but it sat there.
J: What about your comedic inspirations? What did you watch when you were a kid? What was on TV?
Tim: I watched a lot of Young Ones, but I wouldn’t say I’m very…like that. But I wasn’t a comedy fan, as I’ve sort of said loads of times. I’m not a comedy nerd. But I really like clever people. I like Stoppard and Vonnegut and all these people that I’ve sort of mentioned before, I guess. I don’t know why I think what is funny is funny. I can’t identify it. I’m the worst person to ask. You guys can probably put me in a category.
J: We’ll write in an answer for you
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. who do I sit next to?
H: I don’t know…
J: There’s other people who now get compared to you, really. You just came out of left of field and said “Hey!’
H: You write less silly songs and more sort of ironic, sort of, social commentary songs.
Tim: A bit like Eddie [Perfect]?
H: Yeah, Eddie. Yeah.
Tim: Yeah. I do think Eddie and I are as close as anyone, but that’s because we taught each other how to do it a bit. Or at least, I’d been writing funny songs for as long as I’ve been writing songs. Silly songs, anyway; and Eddie had been too. But we sort of came together at a time that I think made us both go, “Fuck, alright, I’m going to make it. I’m going to write a song more musically complicated and more witty than Eddie’s.” You know.
J: So do you think having someone else doing a similar thing, helps you along?
Tim: Yeah, I think so.
J: So it wasn’t just, “I’m just sitting here’…
Tim: Hard to know, anything that legitimises it, you know. Eddie won best newcomer at 2004 [Melbourne International] Comedy Festival. And a little bit of deleted history is that I was in that comedy festival. I did a show a “Perineum Millennium” at the Butterfly Club, and I just did 10 nights. I didn’t grab it by the balls. I sort of went, “Oh…” Again, I didn’t think I was allowed to be in the comedy festival. Someone said you just have to register, and I went, “It’s not really comedy, but…” Tim Minchin, 10 nights at the Butterfly Club, four dollars fifty, and that’s where that old footage comes from, from that show. And Eddie was in a proper venue and got a manager, and I was like, furious, you know. I wasn’t, I was just envious. I was just like, “Fuck. Right, we have to go harder at this.” So it’s about, you know, Eddie and I have probably had about, I don’t know, a reasonably profound effect on each other.
I think I’m alright at writing funny songs, and as a result I’m not actually very judgmental about stuff and comedy things, because I don’t think I’m in the position to be. I just go, “Wow. Cool.” And when a comedian does their stuff I go right… I’m getting more judgmental about… I can say more about stuff. I can identify why people are fucking up, and it’s usually always about attitude and presentation, and confidence and stuff. Musical comedy wise I can be, if pushed, I can be quite judge-y about it, obviously because it’s my thing. It’s really my thing. If there’s a thing, that’s my thing. But Eddie’s just… the king, man. Eddie’s brilliant.
J: You mentioned confidence – we saw some photos of you wearing some interesting pants
H: Shiny ones.
J: Where did they come from, then?
Tim: I was just so amused by – I was half amused, half a little put out by the reaction because, in my head, there’s no lines. In my head it’s all just about being a dickhead. But what I realise is that a great deal of my fans take a lot of what I do… seriously on a level, you know what I mean. They find it funny, but when I wear skinny jeans and make up and stuff, it’s not me. It is – I’ve always been one to go flamboyant at parties, all my life, and dress like an idiot and all that sort of stuff. But “shame was never my forte”. You know, that old quote. I don’t care. I just do what’s funny.
But I realised when I wore those trousers, that there’s a lot of women who watched me who actually go, “Yeah, yeah he’s hot. He looks great.” And if you cross over it’s like, “What are you doing, you fool?” And I’m like, it’s all clowning, you know. There’s no line, there’s no humiliation or anything; but people were like, “You look terrible in those trousers,” and I’m like “It’s a joke.” It’s all a joke.
J: The forum was split in half – it was pro-lycra and anti-lycra. Frightening.
Tim: Yeah. As if anything’s not a joke
Tim: And that’s the thing. My persona has become so… See, I’m sitting here and obviously you guys know what I’m like, but you don’t really. You know more what my ‘guy’s like. Not that he’s far from me, but I don’t walk round like that. Sometimes I think people think I walk around like that.
J: You’re probably luckier that you don’t. I mean, how many people recognise you, walking down the street?
Tim: Not many. Not enough, damn it! No. Sometimes they do. It’s so funny – “Timminchin!” People yell your whole name. Has anyone…? It’s so funny. People say your whole name.
J: No one’s ever done that to us.
H: Like one whole thing.
Tim: Yeah, like it’s a thing. And then they stop, and then I have to take up the conversation because they’re scared, you know. So funny. It’s really weird, as you can imagine. It’s just the same as someone yelling out your name. I’m not any different from a normal person.
J: You can do it if you like.
Tim: What, yell out your name?
J: If you want, yeah.
(Tim says Jaxx’s full name quickly. Laughter.)
J: I wouldn’t turn around, I wouldn’t know what you were saying.
Tim: “What the fuck? Who’s that? They’re in Sydney!” Yeah.
So that sort of amused me because I think they [the trousers] look great. My legs are my best bit. I was like, “Yeah, sweet tights man. I went and bought them.” But I realised that there’s a level of sexualisation that happens… that is sacred. It’s a sort of virginal... Especially because I’m me. I’m not like, hot; I’m not like one of “those guys”. I’m just like, me, but there’s a level to which they go, “Yeah, Tim’s meant to look like this.’
And I can imagine certain photos disappoint people, because they realise on certain angles I’m not very good looking and stuff and they go, “That’s how he’s meant to be.’
H: You say that, but no one does that, though.
Tim: Don’t they?
Tim: Well, that’s probably me. But yeah, you just go… yeah, yeah, it was weird. Anyway, I didn’t wear them again.
The whole point of doing what I do is that you have to be confident beyond what is logically sensible. You have to assume. That’s why I can do this. That’s why I’m good at what I do, because I get on stage and go, “I’m a fucking…” (Tim raises his arms in the ‘so rock’ gesture)
It’s a joke, but I’m completely in control. I have to make the assumption that everyone thinks that everything I’m saying is brilliant, even though half the audience may think I’m a dickhead or not be enjoying it as much as they thought or thinking about their phone. There’s not point. You can’t do that.
I made the mistake the other night as Ross’ gig, actually. You never apologise for anything you do. You never go, “Oh, that didn’t work very well.” You just won’t see me doing it. A friend of mine taught me that. He just went, “Don’t you ever apologise. I paid to come and see you. Don’t ever let your audience think that maybe they shouldn’t have come and paid to see you.” You don’t give them that. And so, you have to maintain this delusion while you’re on stage. Otherwise you can’t do it. You can’t doubt yourself. Even if you spend the rest of your life doubting yourself. When you cross the line, you can’t carry that in.
H: So does it hinder your work at all when someone you don’t know comes up and says, “I didn’t like this part of the show,” or, “You offended me,” or something?
Tim: I find it difficult when people express dislike for anything I do. Just like we all do. Again, like the people saying your name on the street. People assume you get to a point where you become not human in that regard. If someone… writes about Jaxx on a youtube vid, or whatever, “What a retard,” you know, it offends, it upsets you. It upsets anyone, really. I don’t get upset because I don’t read it – any of it, anymore. I don’t read anything except tweets.
Which is the ultimate self indulgence, because you know no one is going to be mean to you, and if they are my fans come down on them like a tonne of fucking bricks.
J: Hell, yeah.
Tim: Yeah, my army. But the most important thing has been learning not to engage as much, with anyone. Because it just gets too complicated and you can’t deal with it. And you don’t need it, you know. I don’t read reviews, and some journalist has said, “If you don’t read reviews, how do you learn what you can improve?” And I’m like, “Well I ask people I respect.” Not journalists, you know. I don’t need their advice. I have to make the assumption that I’m better at musical comedy than the journalist is.
J: And I don’t think many of them have given it a hand.
Tim: No, no I don’t. Which isn’t to say an outside eye can’t contribute, but I have no way of knowing what’s good advice and what’s not. So I just assume it’s all bullshit, except what I think and what my closest friends think. I’ve got these sort of judgmental, grumpy friends who I go, “Come and be harsh to me,” and they do, and it’s wicked. I have to defend my work to them, and they go, “Oh, alright.’
J: Alright, what about musical influences? (At Hannah) This is more your question, wasn’t it?
H: Yeah, um…
Tim: I’m terrible at answering these, aren’t I, which is why you still have to ask them, because I never answer them.
J: This is to do with jazz!
H: Yeah, jazz influences, because I noticed the new intro to, um – some of your songs are really jazzy and there’s a lot more improvisation going on than there use to be.
Tim: ‘If You Really Loved Me’, and stuff?
H: Yeah, yeah I love that.
Tim: Yeah, it’s nice, huh?
H: It’s amazing.
Tim: I mean…
H: Do you have any artists that inspire you?
Tim: I listened to a bit of jazz, especially when I was at the Con [Conservatorium of WA, WA Academy of Performing Arts] because that’s what the guys that made me feel sick were doing. Sick with… retardedness, you know? Jazz is, those players are… there’s a bit of me that wants to be a good pianist. I don’t think it’s the best idea. I could go away and study for 10 years now and become a good pianist, probably. I think I’ve got the mechanics, basically. I mean, I’ve done so little training, but played so many hours that I have to assume that if I did another 10 or 20 hours of lessons, that I could take a big jump. But jazz is a distraction from intent, you know. It’s very hard to… say anything… I’m a lyricist, and jazz doesn’t necessarily enhance lyrics.
I’d love to be a great player in my life, but I have really got to a point now, more than when I started doing comedy, because I’m playing all these beautiful pianos all over the world. And I have one now. I bought one. I really like playing, and I don’t hate my own playing anymore. It’s partly because I’ve stopped worrying what other people are doing, but I like my level, it’s fine and it’s different.
I write very free of influence, which might be bad, but the Royal Shakespeare – this Matilda project, it was kind of Sondheim or me, and Sondheim has heard that I’m doing it and he’s a bit jealous. Like, do you realise how insane that would be for me? But that’s the story I’ve been told, anyway, and they’re probably just… but this director has worked with “Stephen”, as we call him, Steve. And he’s worked with me, and as far as he’s concerned, we’re in the same echelon. He doesn’t come to me and go, “Oh, if only I was working with someone better,” he goes, “Fuck, this is great stuff.” I think that’s because I’m very unfettered by… I just don’t listen to much music. I did listen to a bit of jazz, and finding those sounds is really exciting, you know, getting better. But it’s all… it’s all just aping. I mean all music’s just aping, but I mean… Do you play piano? (To Hannah) You do, don’t you?
H: Yeah, I’m learning. Getting there.
Tim: I’d like to know more about it, but it’s not the tool I need at the moment.
In fact, a great deal of my musical journey has been unlearning; like I said about that course, that desire to be a great jazz musician, I had to get rid of that, and get back trying to write ‘Drowned’ or ‘White Wine In the Sun’, which is four chords and a bit of nice movement. But basically, relearning how to write simply. Took me fucking five years to stop playing the eleventh in every minor chord.
But having it there’s great having it there because it’s funnier to write about videoing someone while they wee when you’ve also got a really nice minor ninth underneath.
J: Okay, short questions. We’re almost at the end!
Tim: I’m so sorry, I always talk too much. It’s fun, huh? It’s nice.
J: No, no, these are from the forum. We asked on the forum, and people had questions.
Tim: Oh. I’ll try to be short in my answers.
J: We got thrown a whole lot. You can be long if you want, but…
Tim: Can you please say that I said thank you for that photo made up of all the different photos?
J: We were going to ask you that, yes.
Tim: And the card, it was lovely. I went to thank people, but I’ve forgotten my login and shit, so I thought I’d get you guys to do it. It was really cool.
J: So you can’t log in? We’ll have to fix that.
Tim: Cool, it’s cool. I like getting cards and shit. I think I’ve run out of ways to react. I mean, I’m always grateful, but, it’s weird getting stuff from people you don’t know. I get huge presents from people for my kids with their names of it and shit. It’s really lovely, but it’s hard to know how to react appropriately because it’s sort of not an appropriate gift, you know? Whereas this thing was good.
It’s a hard lesson to learn, to ignore people, but it’s very, very important. I really, really like Angry (Feet) [Official Fan Forum], and I love… Linz and Shell are so… What’s so amazing about my fans is that they kind of… I don’t know, they just get it. Mostly, they just get it. And I really love it, but it’s the wrong thing to do to get involved in it. It’s not really about me. Angry (Feet)’s not really about me. It’s about me, but it’s not about me, if you know what I mean. It’s about my stuff…
J: Yeah… it’s made a shift over the years, from an appreciation of, I suppose you could say, the intellect, to the image…
Tim: Mmm. Yeah, and a place to discuss stuff that…
Tim: It’s really nice and one regrets the passing of that, but eventually you have to accept that the icon, the avatar of you - avatar in the traditional sense of the word, the embodiment of you in the minds of people – has to take over from you, and that embodiment is a combination of people’s placing what they want to on the blank canvas of that, to mix a million metaphors. Some people want it to be about being able to see my balls in tight jeans, and some people want it to be about my opinions on religion; and you have to let that become it’s own shape and step back, because I can’t control what people think of me anymore. I used to be able to go, “Oh no, no, I didn’t mean that,” and, “This is where I got the data for that,” and, “No, it’s not a belief, it’s fact, you fucker,” and all that stuff.
J: And just jump on and say something.
Tim: Yeah, but I can’t do that anymore. Famous people get weird because they let themselves get involved. They start thinking they’re that thing; that clump of other people’s ideas. It’s very hard not to. Even sitting in a café, where you know ten people are looking at you, you start seeing yourself from the outside. It’s very, very damaging to your psychology, and I’m trying to be my kids’ dad, and my wife’s husband, and my mum’s son, and a show-off. And that’s my understanding of myself. And a good artist, to the extent that I have the capability of being. How people see me, whether they hate me or think I should burn in hell, or whether they love me a little too much, none of it is good for me. None of it’s healthy for me to take on board too much. It’s very exciting that people care, and that’s all I see it as. People caring about my work. Great, you know. And it’s my living; it’s great. The more people who care about me, the more I get to make great choices, and resist doing television, and all those cool things.
J: Television, the ultimate evil.
Tim: Yeah, I’d love to be… it’s not, but it’s the ultimate vacuum, it sucks you in and makes you something you’re not. Unless you’re Chris Lilley, and go, “This is what it’s going to be.” How do I go on tele and talk about God and use the word cunt? You just can’t.
Tim: Yeah, that’s right. It’s not good, you know, is it. I mean, what do I look like on Good News Week? I look at best a vaguely amusing freak. People who saw me on Good News Week first would be getting a really… that’s not how I want to impress people. I want the first time people see me to be under fucking lights going, (sings, arms up) “Are you ready for this?” And then go, “What?” That’s how I want them to see me.
H: They did air one of your shows on E4 in the UK.
Tim: Yeah, lots, yeah. That’s right. I’d rather that. It’s weird, no-one’s done it down here. But they don’t do it, do they?
H: Not really. They’re kind of doing it with Ross Noble.
H: Okay, short answers to short questions.
J: Because they [café staff] look like they want to pack up.
Tim: Yeah, they do, but they’re lovely, they’ll be fine.
J: Alright. What are your thoughts on hypnosis?
Tim: My thoughts are the thoughts of most main-stream science, I think; which is that we don’t understand it. And that there seems to be a mechanism where something’s happening, but it’s hard to discern between that and placebo. Basically…. The question is whether or not it’s just an extreme level of relaxation, or whether it’s some other mechanism, and I don’t know. But I’m not a hypnosis denier. I don’t think it’s all bullshit. It’s about suggestibility.
J: What’s your favourite key to play or sing in?
Tim: It changes. You know, I like having a jazz solo in E flat. But D minor. The saddest of keys.
J: What brand/shade of coloured contacts do you use?
Tim: Um… it’s called ‘Aquaview’… no, that’s not right. Aqua’s the colour…. It’s a secret.
H: Does that mean you can’t remember?
I just got some new ones that are blue instead of the green-y ones. They’re not as striking.
J: If you could be a superhero, what would your superhero powers be?
Tim: Sounds like I’m answering a Q&A for the Herald Sun now.
J: Yeah, sorry. This is what the forum gave us.
Tim: Everyone wants me to go – what that is, like lots of journo questions, it’s like, “Can you be funny now?” Not really. Yeah.
If I was a superhero, I’d be a super musical comedian and my power would be writing brilliant songs.
H: That works.
Tim: I’d be a lycra-wearing hero, and my power would be getting away with it.
J: Kinder eggs?
Tim: Yeah. Do I hate ‘em?
H: They’re everywhere now. People are giving them to Sammy J… I think it’s Kirsty.
Tim: Yeah, they’re from Kirsty.
J: Do you like Kinder Eggs?
Tim: I love Kirsty. I hate Kinder Eggs. I mean, I don’t mind them, but I don’t want them, ‘cause the toys are a waste of plastic, and the chocolate’s a bit yuck.
If you want to buy me a present, bring me a book that you think I’d find interesting. I get fat very, very easily.
J: I think that might be all of them. Did we ask about Rosencrantz?
Tim: (sings) ‘Let’s Shag with the Stereo On…’ I want to re-record that, for my radio show in England. I love that song. I reckon that song would be huge. It’s so awful, but… (laughter) Surely that song would be huge.
Rosencrantz was the name of the band I had when I was in Melbourne. It never really took off because I got distracted by this. And Rosencrantz basically was my band project when I moved to Melbourne. It had a sort of moving – a drummer that was consistent, and no guitarist, we couldn’t find a guitarist, and a bass player who shifted a couple of times.
But my cover band gigs started getting in the way of invites to do other gigs. It was a bit of a catch 22. I needed to keep earning money and I didn’t want a day job. It’s so annoying. And then I started doing this and I went, “Fuck you! Bye band.” I mean, this is wicked. I love doing this. I’d rather be doing this than be in a band, but I’d like to do some band gigs again.
H: Any last words? Any advice you want to give to people who want to be like you?
J: Stay in school?
Tim: Stay in school, yeah. People who want to be like me? Nah.
J: Oh, another thing. Are you ever going to go back to curly hair?
Tim: I don’t think so. Well, who knows? It’ll fall out. But I like the way I look now, and I’ve never liked the way I look in my life, so… I think I’m aging alright. Yeah, it’s fine. The way you consider yourself has a lot to do with how you’re feeling about all the other stuff.
(Tim looks at his salad)
Chick peas look like bums. (laughter)