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March 2006

With his creepy blue contact lenses, Robert Smith-goes-blond bird’s-nest hair and bare feet, wino-trenchcoat ensemble, Tim Minchin looks a little scary – well, scary enough for me to believe it when he says he’ll come around to the house of anyone penning a bad review of his one man show, Darkside, and drop an unpleasant present in their pot plants.
Fortunately, I (and my pot plants) don’t have too much to worry about because the hype that’s been building around Minchin’s blend of stand-up and musical comedy since his knock-’em-dead performances at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival is well deserved. He’s found a comic niche, a quirky persona and a confident routine that has reached the point of polished near-perfection.
There’s nothing too topical or rigorously intellectual about Minchin’s show; for the most part, it’s just silly, bawdy good fun.
He opens with a song praising the fuss-free joys of an inflatable doll, works his way through the plight of the rock’n’roll nerd – the type of guy who’s just too normal to ever taste the delights of the chicks’n’drugs lifestyle – and takes a hefty swipe at the condescending mentality of rich stockbrokers patronising (in both senses of the word) the artist.
If there’s anything linking Minchin’s routines, it’s less the subject matter than his clever lyrical wordsmithery, and the anxiety-laden, emotionally dysfunctional, slightly edgy persona he projects.
He mixes a kind of psychological frailty with a streak of barely suppressed rage against whatever he chooses to poke fun at, from corporate rock posturing to the pop psychology industry.
The weirdest thing about Minchin’s show is that every time a critical niggle enters my head – well it’s funny, but it’s not that deep – he throws out a song that, with the prescience of a mind-reader, sticks two fingers up at my expectations.
Literally seconds after I make a note about the show’s absence of biting political satire, Minchin launches into his ridiculous Middle East Peace Anthem, centred around the profound observation that neither Jews nor Muslims “eat pigs, so why not not eat pigs together?”
OK, OK, so comedians don’t have to make conscience-shattering political statements. But isn’t there some sort of message Minchin wants his audience to take with them when they leave?
Well as it turns out, yes – there is. With the simply lit stage mutating into an eye-popping attack of fluorescent “stadium rock” lights, Minchin adopts his best Bono pose, rips off his shirt and flings out the all-important Message for the Evening: please, please take your environmentally friendly canvas bags with you when you go to the supermarket.
What elevates Minchin’s comedy above the merely enjoyable is the remarkable musicianship that accompanies it. He can take on a range of vocal styles, play the piano with aplomb and pepper his show with references, respectful or otherwise, to everyone from Burt Bacharach, Elton John and Jerry Lee Lewis to Led Zeppelin, Pearl Jam and U2’s aforementioned posturing crusader Bono Vox.
But it’s his spoken-word, expletive-strewn “therapy poem” that is without doubt the show’s highlight, a Tourette syndrome tour de force of brilliant comic timing that, for the first time during the show, had me literally in stitches, with tears of laughter streaming down my face.
This was the clincher: nothing else he could do after it could possibly be as funny, but it didn’t need to be.
By this stage I’d well and truly converted to the Dark side.

A wee update from sunny London.

My album, DARK SIDE LIVE, recorded at the Spiegeltent in Melbourne just before Chrissy is now available online.

Just pop along to Middle Eight Music, and they’ll kindly send it to you wherever you are on this moist planet.

How exciting.

In other news, here’s the only review I’ve got (so far) for my London season of Dark Side, which finishes next Saturday. It’s from the Metro, and is quite charming.

Back in Australia in a couple of weeks, and will be locking myself to my piano to try and get some new bits ready for Melbourne Comedy Festival. Which’ll be a fucking hoot, I’m sure.

Right ho,

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5 Stars

It’s taken some time to get a proper London run out of Melbourne’s Tim Minchin since he left Edinburgh last summer as the highly deserving winner of Perrier’s Best Newcomer award. But it’s been worth the wait. This barefoot Sideshow Bob lookalike has only done stand-up for a couple of years but the marvellous collision of mirth and piano in this shoe places him as Victoria Wood’s darkly cerebral polar opposite.

Minchin has a CV that includes acting, bands, musical directorships and solo music work – and he is super at tinkling the ivories. As a songwriter, his strength lies in inventive detail and witty wordplay. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nerd – about a middle-class lad whose dangerless life robs his songs of depth – playfully hints at autobiography.

He also does a good line in mocking the music biz, religion and moneyed lefties. His delightful upbeat ditty, Anthem for Palestine, has lyrics to make you gasp. The hilariously egocentric Canvas Bags sees a rapping Minchin revel, arms outstretched, among disco lights and pre-recorded harmonies.

Rounding out the package is Minchin’s ability to keep the show tight. His playing is energetic, his between-song patter fun, low-key and brief. He even works a guitar and poetry into the show. Other comics will be writing their next Edinburgh shows now – here’s hoping Minchin has another in the (canvas) bag.