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timminchin.com is updated by Tim
and the wonderful Shell.

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I really like Jonathan Ross. I think he’s a funny, interesting, kind person, and an excellent interviewer. I also really like his wife… But let’s not get back into that.

Jonathan and his wonderful producer, Suzi, have been incredibly supportive of me and so when they asked me to write a song for their pre-Christmas show, I didn’t hesitate. It was the worst possible time to be writing a new song – I’ve been overworked and ill, was on tour, and was really feeling the stress. But I wasn’t going to say no… it’s Jonathan Ross! And my fellow guests were to be Tom Cruise, the divine actors from Downton Abbey, and the ace Inbetweeners boys.

So I got to writing. Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.

It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…

On Tuesday night last week, we taped the show. I met Tom (he’s nice and quite laid-back off camera, and not very short) and the divine Downton ladies (swoon) and the lovely Inbetweeners chaps (yay) and I did my song and everyone laughed and Tom said it was great and when it was done I ran off set onto the back of a waiting motorbike, got from South Bank to the Hammersmith Apollo in 13 minutes, walked into the building, straight on to stage to sing White Wine in the Sun with Professor Brian Cox. Rock n roll.

Subsequently, Suzi and her team edited the show and everybody was happy. Suzi felt it had a nice balance of big-ticket celeb action, local talent, and a nice bit of that cheeky, iconoclastic spirit for which Jonathan is known and widely loved.

And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.

But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.

It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.

And anger when they’re being bigots.

Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.

Anywaaaaaaaaaay… the fun news is that I already had the footage of the song when they cut it. Yay. And so you can decide for yourself how offensive it is! Yippee.

Oh, and although I can’t think why anyone would have a problem with me posting this (Peter has covered his arse, the protection of which he is rather nervous about) but I suppose you lovely tech-geeks might want to grab a copy or mirror it, just in case I get asked to take it down.

I hope you enjoy my silly, harmless, accurate song of praise, “Woody Allen Jesus”.

And I hope you all have wonderful Christmases.

BONUS MATERIAL IF YOU’RE NOT BORED OF ME BEING OPINIONATED YET

Below is a column I wrote for the latest edition of the New Statesman, which was guest edited by our greatest living evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins. It is about my daughter and Santa and belief. I hope you enjoy.

In the lead-up to last Christmas, when my daughter Violet had just turned four, she looked me in the eye and asked, “Is Father Christmas real?”

This was a problem for me. I had up until this point convinced myself that telling my kid a lie about the origins of her scooter was part and parcel of parenting – that denying a child the idea of Santa would be Scroogian in the extreme.

The trouble is, I have no memory of believing in the physics-defying fatty myself. One of our classic Minchin family tales is of Christmas eve 1978, when I was 3 myself, and my mum asked me in an excited voice, “Who’s coming down the chimney tonight?!” To which I replied, after a brow-creased pause, “Gran?”

(It is also part of Minchin lore that I was a very boring and quite dim kid.)

Regardless, our Violet had seemed quite excited the previous year when we had left a mince pie and a beer by the blocked-up chimney (Violet: But there’s no hole, how will he get down? Me: That’s the least of his worries…), and I’d felt great when she’d squealed with glee at five in the (fucking) morning upon discovering the comestibles had been consumed and that a reindeer had left hoof-prints in the icing sugar by the piano.

But now something in the assertion of the existence of this bearded philanthropist had given her pause, so she’d come to me for clarification. I wasn’t surprised – earlier in the year I’d overheard a conversation she’d had with her friend Alice as they sat by a lake in a playground in Melbourne:

Violet: If you fell in there, you’d die.
Alice: Someone would come and pull you out.
Violet: Yeah, but if the grown-ups weren’t around, you’d die.
Alice: (Pause) When you die, you go somewhere lovely.
Violet: But how would you know it’s lovely? You wouldn’t have your eyes and ears.

… an incomplete but still pretty damning analysis of the infantile idea that we (to quote my editor) survive our own deaths.

She’s always been obsessed by what is “real”. Figuring out what truly exists seems to be the way she deals with her fears. Most of the time when she asks if something is real, she’s hoping it’s not; trolls, dragons, witches have all been happily relegated to the fiction bin, and she sleeps pretty well in the knowledge that they’re not going to crawl back out and attack her in her bed.

And so I face a dilemma: I had sold her the myth of Father Christmas in the spirit of allowing a child her sense of wonderment, but I felt that lying to her face when she asked me point blank about the veracity of my claims was a step too far. I fumbled around a bit before opting for:

“Father Christmas is real… in the imaginary world.”

This didn’t really satisfy her, and nor should it have. Like so much language in theology and philosophy, that sentence has the odour of wisdom, but is a load of old bollocks. Quite nice as a phrase, but pure sophistry, like a lot of the stuff I say on stage, and like nearly everything religious apologists have ever said. It is the stuff of obfuscation – words to divert, like the passive hand of the magician – not the clarification Vi was seeking.

But I think it was the right answer. She went along with the story last year and I reckon she will again this year. By offering her the paradoxical notion of a non-real real, I allowed her the opportunity to just “go with it”, and hopefully she’ll happily do so until her friends find out it’s a myth, at which point she can quietly slip back into knowing what she suspected all along. There’ll be no crushing blow of revelation seven.

Weirdly, I have felt no compulsion to obscure answers to the more serious questions. Vi was very young when she asked what happens when you die, and I told her, “You just stop”. I see no problem at all with that answer. Not only is it demonstrably true, but it also has the wondrous quality of not eliciting a whole lot of further annoying questions.

I was asked recently how I reconcile my reputation for promoting a naturalistic world-view with the fact that I have co-written “Matilda” – a musical based on a Roald Dahl story about a girl who is preternaturally gifted and, eventually, telekinetic.

What an odd question. Do people really think that living a life unencumbered by superstition necessitates the rejection of fiction?

I adore stories. Our version of “Matilda”, even more so than the original Dahl, is a story about stories. About the importance of imagination, and of fiction’s ability not only to educate and enlighten us, but to free us; to set our minds soaring beyond reality.

My daughter will grow up reading stories, and I hope she will have a rich and lifelong relationship with the imaginary. But I will not try to train her out of her clear instinct to define for herself what is real.

I adore Christmas. The fact that I know that Christianity’s origins lie more in Paul of Tarsus’s mental illness and Emperor Constantine’s political savvy than in the existence of the divine has no bearing on my ability to enjoy this age-old festival of giving, family, and feasting.

Our lives would be empty without stories, and the story of this Jesus character is quite a nice one. One that – in theory, and sometimes even in practise – promotes compassion and humility and wisdom and peace.

Jesus is real… in the imaginary world. A five year old could tell you that.

903 Comments

Rich Johnston on 22nd of December 2011

I am a committed practising Christian. And I thought the song was funny, and even rather sweet.

I’m quite pleased that there could have been a song, any song, about Jesus on a national TV chat show.

If this had caused some debate, good. It’s Christmas, I quite like the idea that there could have been people talking about Jesus and what he means to them. Opportunity wasted.

J Dixon on 22nd of December 2011

See… I think its better to let them make up their own mind. What right have I to tell them what happens when you die? I don’t know, I’ve never experienced it.

I will let them know my views if they ask for them specifically, but why not give them a variety of others views and let them choose what makes them happiest? Otherwise, surely that’s similar to religious recruitment or the expectation of religious parents for their children to follow their religion blindly.

Questioning is not atheism. Surely agnosticostic thought stops you becoming so set in your ways that you close your ears?

Naomi Temple on 22nd of December 2011

I’m a Christian and I don’t think it’s offensive at all! Just great comedy!! Definitely should not have been cut from the show. Tim Minchin you are amazing!

Irene on 22nd of December 2011

First, I just want to say there was absolutely nothing grammatically wrong, racist, religiously slandering or mocking about your song. I loved it! But in light of the Jeremy Clarkson debacle, everyone is the broadcasting business is watching their asses. I guess ITV doesn’t need or should I say “can’t handle” 31,000 complaints. God forbid we have a little fun in this day and age!

You’re daughter is a thinker. And always questioning the reality. There’s nothing wrong in letting her think there’s a fat bloke that drives around in a sled with reindeer dropping gifts down the furnace flu. There used to be one, hundreds of years ago, not necessarily manning a sleigh of reindeer and elves, but some guy who handed out gifts to children and all that. As she gets older and experiences more Christmas’ she’ll get the ‘spirit’ idea. As long as she doesn’t think Father Christmas is hiding under her bed because someone said “he sees you when you’re sleeping”. That’s all she needs to hear and they’ll be no convincing her that it’s just a silly tune some masochist made up!

Chin up Tim! Screw the station. If they can’t take a joke…….

David C on 22nd of December 2011

Great song, and I think the New Statesman piece rings a lot of bells too.

I don’t know if this will interest Tim (or anyone else), but that thing about your daughter being fascinated by “Is it real?” is very wide-spread in museums, and I wrote a couple of blog posts about it here:
http://newlightmanchester.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/is-it-real/
http://newlightmanchester.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-reality-of-nature/

These blog posts feature a tiger fighting a python, if that helps sell it!

D Shipman on 22nd of December 2011

So he was offended on my behalf, Such arrogance has not been seen since “The Life of Brian”. So your in good company.

Suzy on 22nd of December 2011

Tim, great mini rant and I’m just as disappointed as you that you won’t be shown. Some people are muppets. Anyhow, all that effort wasn’t a waste – I’ve posted it on facebook for all my mates to enjoy! Keep up the good work. (Oh and perhaps you could sing an extra non PC version at Spank sometime?!) x

Ciaroni on 22nd of December 2011

First ever Complaint sent to ITV. proud of myself. You should be too Tim. Brilliant comedy and musicianship as always.

Merry Christmas

Tim Lebbon on 22nd of December 2011

Pity it’s too late to push this song as a Christmas Number One! Next year, perhaps?

Jordan on 22nd of December 2011

Suggest we get a Twitter campaign going.. suggested tweet to spread far and wide…
@wossy @itv What do we want? #woodyallenjesus When do we want it? ITV1 23-Dec #timminchin

lynda rann on 22nd of December 2011

complaint sent. needless to say i found the song amusing as usual, sorry to hear you have not been well and hope you recover soon. have a wonderful festive season with your family and a happy new year. look forward to you doing a tour of england again !!

Collette on 22nd of December 2011

Simply fantastic x

JulesK on 22nd of December 2011

Only thing you got wrong was using ‘hesitant’ as a rhyme. Was Jesus known for hesitancy?!

Anoop on 22nd of December 2011

If it was the BBC then we could understand them being arses and possibly being chicken sh^t because of @wossy’s past BUT for the bloody ITV to cut this song that sure as hell is #notrudefortv …FFS what is with some ppl today? its the bloody 21st century! Get a life or f-off pls lol

MattW on 22nd of December 2011

Reply from ITV…

Thank you for your recent email regarding The Jonathan Ross Show.

I can confirm that your comments have been noted here at ITV Viewer Services.

We often make changes to programmes before transmission and on this occasion we felt that the song didn’t quite work editorially

May I take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to contact us here at ITV Viewer Services.

If we can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

Kind regards

Mike
ITV Viewer Services

Rich on 22nd of December 2011

Should have done ‘the pope song’.

No re-write required. Same result.

Still, at least I have been able to watch your part without the irritating adverts (which somehow always seem louder than the actual show, like they are also second guessing that you’ve left the room to put on the kettle / relieve yourself).

So I thank you for that and usual seasons greeting guff, etc to all and sundry. even the god botherers (as long as they do it in the privacy of their own home and don’t publicly display any notion of thier dirty little secret).

ps. As an aside, to anyone who lives within vicinity of london, don’t watch JR go out to watch Matilda, I can cast iron guaruntee you’ll be all the better for it. I was lucky enough to see it for it’s opening weekend. And it was a heart warming thing of beauty (something I could never describe any of JR’s guests as).

Mel Watts on 22nd of December 2011

Complaint sent. Thanks for posting the address!

Aran on 22nd of December 2011

“Father Christmas is real… in the imaginary world.”

I think you’re a bit hard on yourself about this – it’s not pure sophistry. It’s an interesting step in the direction of a discussion about the nature of reality, which is far from cut-and-dried. The imaginary exists because we imagine it – and a lot of things that we consider ‘real’ work in a surprisingly similar way, like the stock market, for example…:-)

Morwenna on 22nd of December 2011

I thought it was a brilliant song and my father who was a Methodist minister would have loved it. He’d have liked the comparison to Woody Allen. I can’t believe it was axed – is the Daily Mail running this country now?

humph on 22nd of December 2011

it’s all part and parcel of tv. deal with the rejection like you did with mr doust. and watching it im not sure the audience entirely “got” it. i thought it was funny but as i dont actually watch tv cant see the point in complaining. i’ve seen the best bit and will post on FB if it will let me.
any hoo merry christmas to one and all.

Shaun Reynolds on 22nd of December 2011

Tim,

Many thanks for posting the video.

I probably wouldn’t have seen it had ITV not cut it, as I rarely watch their channel, as it is mostly utter crap. I’m guessing I’m not the only one either!

Shaun

Mike on 22nd of December 2011

Got a reply to my email to ITV:

“Dear Mike

Thank you for your email regarding THE JONATHAN ROSS SHOW

We often make changes to programmes before transmission and on this occasion we felt that the song didn’t quite work editorially,

May I take this opportunity to thank you for taking the time to contact us here at ITV.

Kind regards

Pat
ITV Viewer Services”

convinced?

Sophie Choudhury on 22nd of December 2011

Brilliant! Funny, witty and completely harmless. Glad I got a chance to hear it. Now I’ll share it with the rest of my family. Happy Christmas!

Tina Bailey on 22nd of December 2011

Jesus :-) save us from the conservative men in suits who try to dictate our way of thinking. I hate that they doctor our viewing. Where would we be without people who challenge middle of the road conceptions, say it like it is, and invite controversialism? Thanks Tim for continuing to challenge and excite with your performances. Are you Jesus? Don’t know. But the top man at ITV is clearly God!

Edyth Miles on 22nd of December 2011

Fabulous as ever, Tim. No point in watching Jonathan Ross now.

Shelley Harris on 22nd of December 2011

Bloody madness. Bloody, bloody madness, as if a little bit of the 1950s has got stuck in 2011.

By the way, Tim. I was in Australia for Christmas last year, away from my family. My Mom sent me a copy of White Wine in the Sun, and I cried like a baby.

Murphy on 22nd of December 2011

I agree it should be censored. It is a terrible and unforgivable insult to our Lord Jesus..

Only kidding…. Christian censorship, nothing a few lions wouldn’t sort out. Don’t forget kids, only three more sleeps until Timmas Day.

Santa Morrison on 22nd of December 2011

Dear Peter Fincham, yes Peter, directly at you, looking at YOU in the eyes, don’t flinch away…

It’s precisely because of decisions like this that ITV is such a woeful example of, ahem, “entertainment” in the 21st century. You are supposed to be something that people want to watch and hence attract sponsorship. Not let the sponsors dictate the artistic policy of your stations. This is why TV is on the decline, corporates wielding the artistic license.

Artistry is a sort of benign dictatorship; where the artist seeks to portray a universal truth through a lense of experience, emotion and whatever else to an audience – maybe even an unwilling, unwitting audience (ofttimes the best type of audience). You wear your heart on your sleeve, your pen in one hand and your balls (or ovaries – this is an equal opportunity rant) in the other and then you push your baby out into the world, blinking to be cut to shreds by a baying public. Sometimes the art stands up and fights back, if you’re good it wins.

In this modern day an age we now have a layer, a filter between us an artist. A middleman, a pimp or pusher if you will that doles out that artistry as it sees fit.
In the past there were only 1 or 2 big pushers whom we could go suckle on the electronic teat of. But that has now gone, long gone, and like a shambling 70s pimp you and your supply are an outmoded relic of the past Fincham.

A good editor is prepared to take risks, to go and dance out on the edge and risk a reaction, surely a reaction gets you more publicity, and that gets your advertisers more exposure. But I guess not at the risk of offending the Christian Right, (Christian wrong more like).

Lets face it, ITV has never been the natural home to intellectuals, we were never allowed to watch it when I was growing up; too working class (we were working class) and thus BBC1 was “our” choice, BBC2 being the home of the boffins and Open University.

ITV is clinging on to a faded glory where Eric and Ernie, Tommy Cooper and Jim Davidson (Really?? FFS) bestrode the Independent airwaves (“independent” – what an oxymoron) and could be cheeky un-pc chappies, with a hint of casual racism thrown in for good measure. I remember them well, and some of it is classic TV (not the Davidson stuff, BURN IT!). Like Ms. Haversham in her tattered wedding outfit with tales of love lost, you seek to inspire a new generation of entertainer with – X Factor, I’m a Celeb, and Coronation Street.

Really, that’s the best you got? The best we can do? Don’t think I am preffering the Beeb over you guys, no way, I took the “none of the above” option and have cancelled my TV License, thrown out my Freeview Box and got rid of any undue influence on my psyche.

So now I watch catch up on PS3, chat more with my family and have time to write extended rants about your lack of balls as a maker of TV, and not have to care that I won;t see this on the actually programme I was scheduled to see it on, because thanks to the modern world we now can see everything online within 2 nanoseconds of it occurring.

Thanks Tim, all the best and have a super Happy Xmas, or Festivus as we call it in our house.

And Like Santa; God is also a fictional being, just has less credibility. Toodles.

Ann on 22nd of December 2011

U nailed it ….. well, as much as any of us can nail jelly:-)

Jess Cook on 22nd of December 2011

Being a musician/snger/songwriter and a fully commited Christian I have to say I loved it Tim! Very cleverly done, I don’t think you belittle anything that I believe Jesus did, you don’t disrespect him and you point out some of the cool stuff he was documented as doing…good on you, just a shame we won’t get to see it on TV. God bless ;-)

scott capurro on 22nd of December 2011

Great song Tim, such a shame it won’t be on the show. How tall is tom cruise? Have a lovely holiday. X

Jane Sedgwick on 22nd of December 2011

Brilliant song, loved it. Just keep on doing what you do best. Happy Christmas to you and your family

Mark Penistone on 22nd of December 2011

I love it!!
And now that I have sen your contribution to the program, I no longer need to watch it.
Have a FANTASTIC Christmas drinking white wine in the sun and I will definately be coming to see you on your next UK tour.
Hoorah!!

Jane Sedgwick on 22nd of December 2011

Brilliant song, as ever. Just keep on doing what you do best. We love you. Happy Christmas to you and your family

PaddyB on 22nd of December 2011

Can’t remember the last programme i remotely enjoyed on shITeV anyway. Don’t do anything for that bag of crap channel again Tim, you’re too talented for them. I’m sure they’ll be just fine with endless programmes about Katy Price and the like for the rest of time.

maria on 22nd of December 2011

well done Tim, to get cut from the Jonathan Ross show must mean that you are really offensive, or, the people at ITV once again are pandaring to the sad little people who have nothing better to do than to find things to complain about, So much for freedom of speech and the right to express yourself, Sod ’em all. mind you im a intelligent, rational thinking, hormonal tranny so my views dont count on ITV either, lol. Keep up the good work :)

Tilly on 22nd of December 2011

Never sent a ranty email before, was quite therapeutic to shout at the faceless corporation that is ITV! (In case people haven’t read all the posts, the email address to complain to is [email protected])

My favourite thought is that one of the reasons that ITV was created to provide a more objective viewpoint of reality, so that the BBC wasn’t the sole provider of our knowledge and opinions, and in doing this they have basically done a BBC maneouvre.

Have a good Christmas safe in the knowledge that they were wrong Mr. Tim!

Lee on 22nd of December 2011

Someone ought to tell poor Aunty ABC as they’re still promoting you as being on the show (being aired here on xmas eve).

No desire to watch now that Tim won’t be balancing out the Mind Head member.

Thanks for posting the clip though!

Leonie Smith on 22nd of December 2011

It’s a little like the Bill Hicks / David Letterman thing back in ’93. (You’re not gonna die soon, are you? Please don’t. A lot of people would be very upset. Especially my friend Becky who is a huge fan.) Glad to see you have the footage; maybe in 15 or so years, Fincham will see the error of his ways and allow it to be aired on ITV. I doubt it though. He’s not likely to grow a pair, in the meantime.

Farrah on 22nd of December 2011

My simple thought:
Comedy makes it possible to laugh at everything, that’s the point of it. If we didn’t laugh when shit-hit-the-fan or shit got to serious we’d all be suffering from depression and stress.
An example:
When my mother got breast cancer and successfully went through surgery and reconstruction etc and came out at the other end she said to me, “You have to admit, it’s pretty cool that you can say your 50 year old Mother has had a boob job and a tattoo.”
It’s good to laugh.

Jane Sedgwick on 22nd of December 2011

The song is as brilliant as usual. Keep doing what you do best in spite of this stupid man. Happy Christmas to you and your family.

Jim on 22nd of December 2011

I’m guessing that [email protected] is a reasonable bet for anybody wanting to make their feelings known to Mr No-balls.

I haven’t had an “undeliverable” message anyway…

Lou Mason on 22nd of December 2011

Here you are people:
[email protected]
My complaint has already been sent off!

Eve on 22nd of December 2011

I am highly offended! As a bit of comic book nerd, I know that the quotation you attributed to Superman was really spoken in a Spiderman comic. Have you no shame, using superheroes for you comedy with such a cavalier attitude so as not to even quote their text correctly? One day you may need rescuing from an evil mastermind by Spiderman, and then you might rue your casual misuse of graphic novel heroes. The rest of the song was fine. ;)

Littlepurplegoth on 22nd of December 2011

I suspect that your song isn’t the actual problem, but that ITV are running scared that there will be a repeat of any controversy around JR… But this time on their watch, costing them time, money and their advertisers likewise… It’s an OK song though :-)

Esme Lee on 22nd of December 2011

Hey Tim, I loved it! Not offensive in any way to, I suspect the majority of mature, sensible and reasonable people with a sense of humor. Sad that there are small minded, cowardly and closed minded individuals who are directors of television.

Of course I am biased, being a massive fan of yours but I am sure that certain individuals actions, a larger audience will now be deprived of a really good laugh.

Keep doing what you’re doing xxxx

Shmeedith on 22nd of December 2011

well, we all think it was brilliant as per ususal and i reckon what wassishisface on ITV was really scared about is that everyone would actually find it more interesting than tom cruise.
i know i do

please do something else soon!!! my heritage orchestra dvd has stopped working already cos i’ve seen it so many times!!!

xxx

Happy Winterval Everyone – Irishperson in Exile on 22nd of December 2011

[…] what turned out to be a very gentle ribbing was pulled from tomorrow’s Jonathon Ross show.  Looks like Peter Fincham is afraid to lose another job. […]

Jayne on 22nd of December 2011

Not only is it harmless, it’s hilarious! Oh Tim. What a load of poo.

Tim Minchin “fucking disappointed” as Xmas song is censored | MediaWatchWatch on 22nd of December 2011

[…] states He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small […]