Timothy David Minchin (born 7 October 1975) is an Australian comedian, actor, writer, musician and director. He was born in Northampton, England, to Australian parents, but raised in Perth, Western Australia.
Minchin is best known for his musical comedy, including six CDs, five DVDs, and live comedy shows that he has performed internationally. He has appeared on television in Australia, Britain, and the United States. After growing up in Perth, he attended the University of Western Australia (UWA) and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), before moving to Melbourne in 2002. His show Darkside launched him into the public eye, achieving critical success at the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2013, Minchin played the role of rock star Atticus Fetch on Showtime's Californication.
Minchin has a background in theatre and has appeared in various stage productions, in addition to some small acting roles on Australian television. A documentary film about Minchin, Rock N Roll Nerd (directed by Rhian Skirving), was released theatrically in 2008 and broadcast by ABC1 in 2009. He is the composer and lyricist of the Olivier Award-winning, Tony Award-winning and Grammy Award-nominated show Matilda the Musical, based on the Roald Dahl book Matilda. His new musical Groundhog Day, based on the 1993 film, is due to open on Broadway in spring 2017, after a sell-out run in London in summer 2016.
In 2013, UWA awarded Minchin the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters for his contribution to the arts, recognising his outstanding achievements and worldwide acclaim as a composer, lyricist, actor, writer, and comedian. In 2015, he was awarded a second Honorary Doctor of Letters from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
Minchin was born in Northampton, England, to Australian parents and raised in Perth, Western Australia. His father David Ellison Minchin and grandfather Max Ellison Minchin were surgeons in Perth, descendants of R. E. Minchin, founding director of Adelaide Zoo.
He was educated at the private Christ Church Grammar School and started learning piano at the age of eight, but gave it up after three years because he did not enjoy the discipline. He redeveloped an interest in the instrument after he started writing music with his brother Dan Minchin—a guitarist—but still describes himself as a "hack pianist . . . a 'more you practise, the better you get' kind of guy." Minchin graduated from UWA in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Theatre, and from WAAPA in 1998 with a Diploma of Music (Commercial Music). In 2013, he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters from UWA. In 2015, he was awarded a second Honorary Doctor of Letters, along with Dennis Kelly, from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Sarah. They have two children: a daughter, Violet, and a son, Caspar. Minchin often refers to his relationships in his songs and stand-up routines.
Minchin describes his act as a "funny cabaret show" and sees himself primarily as a musician and songwriter as opposed to a comedian; he has said that his songs "just happen to be funny." His reasoning for combining the disciplines of music and comedy was revealed in one interview when he said: "I'm a good musician for a comedian and I'm a good comedian for a musician but if I had to do any of them in isolation I dunno."
He draws on his background in theatre for his distinctive onstage appearance and persona. In his performances, he typically goes barefoot with wild hair and heavy eye makeup, which is juxtaposed with a crisp suit and tails, and a grand piano. According to Minchin, he likes going barefoot in his shows because it makes him feel more comfortable. He considers the eye makeup important because while he is playing the piano he is not able to use his arms and relies on his face for expressions and gestures; the eyeliner makes his features more distinguishable for the audience. He has said that much of his look and persona is about "treading that line between mocking yourself and wanting to be an iconic figure. Mocking the ridiculousness and completely unrealistic dream of being an iconic figure."
The shows consist largely of Minchin's comedic songs and poetry, with subjects including social satire, inflatable dolls, sex fetishes, and his own failed rock star ambitions. In between songs, he performs short stand-up routines. Several of his songs deal with religion, a subject with which Minchin—an atheist and a fan of Richard Dawkins—says he is "a bit obsessed". He argues that, as one of the most powerful and influential forces in the world, religion should never be off-limits to satirists. He says that his favourite song to perform is "Peace Anthem for Palestine", which reflects his feelings about religious conflict. In October 2010, he was made a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. His comedy also deals with taboos more broadly. A prime example of this is the song "Prejudice", which parodies the power awarded to something as simple as a word.
Early career (1998–2007)
After graduating from WAAPA in 1998, Minchin started out composing music for documentaries and theatre. In 2000, he wrote and starred in the musical Pop at the Blue Room Theatre in Perth. He released a CD titled Sit with his band Timmy the Dog in 2001 but achieved little success. In 2002, after only one professional acting job, he moved from Perth to Melbourne to pursue work. Minchin struggled initially; he could not get an agent for a year and had been unable to find any acting work. While several record companies gave him positive feedback, they were not sure how his music—a mixture of satirical songs and more serious pop songs—could be marketed. He decided to compile all of his humorous songs into a single live show to "get the comedy stuff off my chest" before going back to more serious music.
Minchin says he entered into comedy "naively", having never even attended a live comedy gig before performing one himself. His break-out show Darkside (co-produced by Laughing Stock Productions) achieved critical success at the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where it won the inaugural Festival Directors' Award and attracted the notice of Karen Koren, the manager of the well-known Gilded Balloon venues. Koren backed the show's run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where Minchin received the Perrier Comedy Award for Best Newcomer. His 2006 show So Rock was nominated for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival's top prize, the Barry Award, and in 2007 he was given the award for Best Alternative Comedian at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival.
Live recordings of his 2005 and 2006 shows, Darkside and So Rock, have been released as CDs. In 2007, he released a DVD titled So Live, featuring a live recording in the Sydney Opera House Studio with material from both of his previous shows. As this DVD was only released in Australia, he released a DVD in 2008 entitled So F**king Rock Live in the UK, containing largely the same material as So Live.
Ready for This? (2008–2010)
In August 2008, Minchin debuted his third solo show, Ready for This?, at the Edinburgh Fringe and subsequently took it on tour across the UK. During the Edinburgh run, he contributed to The Guardian newspaper's podcasts, despite his new show containing a song about a Guardian critic who once gave his show a negative review. Responding to the song, which contains graphic violence, the critic laconically remarked that he had not yet had time to listen to it: "Life's too short and I've already done my bit by sitting through that show in Edinburgh."
A recording of this show, recorded live at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, was released as an album for download via iTunes on 20 July 2009. An Australian recording was released solely in Australia on DVD on 9 September 2009 and a UK release in the second half of 2010.
It was announced at the end of 2009 that one of Minchin's beat poems, "Storm", was to be made into a short animated movie. A blog was launched to accompany the film-making process and a short trailer was released on 8 January 2010. The full movie was launched on YouTube on 7 April 2011.
Minchin was the subject of the winning entry in the 2010 Archibald Prize, Australia's most important portraiture competition. The winning entry was painted by Sam Leach.
Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra (2010–2011)
Minchin embarked on a new arena tour starting with Birmingham on Wednesday 8 December 2010. A departure from the structure of his previous live shows, his act was scaled up to be performed with the Heritage Orchestra. It contained a mixture of material, including new songs on the subject of prayer and of rationality (themes which often appear in his previous work). Minchin stated that the aim of incorporating the orchestra into his act was to create a comedy show that would not be ruined by being performed in arenas, as stated in the special features of the DVD and Blu-ray. The show toured the UK and Australia, and was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall in London for a Blu-ray and DVD that was released in November 2011.
Television and radio
Minchin has made appearances on Australian TV shows, including the ABC's Spicks and Specks and The Sideshow. He has also made appearances on Network Ten's panel shows Good News Week (February 2010) and Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation (March 2010).
Minchin has also appeared on various British radio and television shows, including the BBC's Never Mind the Buzzcocks (four times, once as guest host), BBC Radio 4's Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better, and two specials on BBC Radio 2. He often performs on his TV appearances, such as his spots on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross in October 2009 and July 2010. He performed a specially-written song entitled "Five Poofs and Two Pianos", a parody of the show's house band, 4 Poofs and a Piano. Minchin also appeared as a special guest on the 2009 edition of The Big Fat Quiz of the Year, performing a song written for the show ("It's Like 1984") in reference to a question regarding Google Street View. On Saturday 13 August 2011, Minchin hosted Prom 40, the first BBC Comedy Promenade Concert at the Royal Albert Hall. He appeared on Desert Island Discs on 6 May 2012.
A heavily cut-down version of the show released on DVD as So F**king Rock Live has aired several times on British TV channel E4, first on 23 July 2009. It aired at the start of 2011, forming E4's New Year's coverage.
On 8 May 2010, Minchin's musical sitcom pilot Strings was broadcast on BBC Radio 2. Well received as it was by Radio 2, he decided against creating a full series.
In December 2011, Minchin performed a specially written song called "Woody Allen Jesus" on The Jonathan Ross Show. However, despite the show's producers and ITV's lawyers approving the composition for broadcast, it was removed at the last minute. Responding on his blog, Minchin stated: "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."
In August 2012, Minchin appeared on Chain Reaction, first being interviewed by Derren Brown, and later interviewing Caitlin Moran.
Acting and theatre
Minchin's background is in theatre and he has appeared in various stage productions. He played the title role for the 2006 Perth Theatre Company production of Amadeus, a fictional play about the downfall of Mozart at the hands of the reigning court composer, a character based on and named after Antonio Salieri. His other stage acting roles have included the title role in the 2004 Perth Theatre Company / Hoopla production of Hamlet, and The Writer in the original PTC production of Reg Cribb's The Return. He has also acted for The Australian Shakespeare Company (Twelfth Night), the Black Swan Theatre Company (Così, One Destiny), and in various other plays, short films, and television commercials. Roles from his days in musical theatre include Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha and Pontius Pilate (and understudying Judas Iscariot twice) in Jesus Christ Superstar. He has also appeared playing small parts on the ABC telemovie Loot and on the show Comedy Inc..
Minchin also plays the role of Tom in the contemporary family drama Two Fists, One Heart, released 19 March 2009. He also wrote the song "Drowned" for the film's soundtrack.
He co-wrote Matilda the Musical—an Olivier Award-winning musical version of Roald Dahl's novel Matilda—with Dennis Kelly and the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is produced by the RSC. It showed at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, running from 9 November 2010 to 30 January 2011, and it began its West End run at the Cambridge Theatre on 25 October 2011 to great critical acclaim. In 2013, Matilda opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre, and earned 12 Tony Award nominations.
Minchin was cast in the role of Judas in the 2012 UK and Ireland arena tour of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The tour extended into various other countries due to popular demand, with Minchin reprising the role in the world, with a filmed version being released in Spring 2013. The filmed version, much to Minchin's annoyance, had his voice autotuned. The production toured Australia from May to July 2013.
Minchin made his Sydney Theatre Company debut in 2013 in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead alongside Toby Schmitz.
In 2015, it was announced he had teamed up again with the creative team from Matilda to write the music and lyrics for the new stage musical Groundhog Day. The musical is scheduled to premiere at The Old Vic in 2016, before transferring to Broadway. Groundhog Day The Musical began previews in July 2016, with a scheduled run until 17 September 2016.
Atheism and scepticism
During his 2009 interview for Australian Skeptics' podcast The Skeptic Zone, Minchin addressed his performance style as one that allows bringing up issues that can be upsetting or judgemental to others, such as the "moral hypocrisy about the idea that the Bible is perfect, the only place that you need to go to for your moral guidance...and about, obviously, prejudice in the church, its role in ostracising homosexuals...your defences are down when you're laughing as well and it's couched in music. All I'm doing is making things consumable that are otherwise difficult to consume."
As the son and grandson of medical surgeons, Minchin addressed "alternative medicine" claims by relating that unbiased tests for efficacy are the key:
You're in such a strong position when you understand the scientific process because all you say is, "Do you understand that the great breakthrough of humanity was figuring out how to make decisions about things whilst discarding human foibles? So, anecdotal evidence involves all your subjectivity—if we do it like this we don't have that anymore. Why, surely do you understand how powerful that is?" And if they don't, then that's what you have to explain to them. It's an extremely powerful thing and a very basic thing.
Minchin further explained his skeptical outlook:
I've always been an atheist; I've always been an empiricist really. I've never believed in ghosts or psychics or anything like that 'cause it's quite simple—you don't have to know much to go, "Really?" Or, to just apply Occam's Razor, to go, "Is it more likely that souls do circus tricks, or more likely that they're talking to dead people? And if the latter, by what process? What do you mean talking to dead people? Aren't their voice boxes rotten? So without a voice box, how do they talk, and by what means?" It doesn't take much to be skeptical about that. But really understanding, as I'm still learning, why science is powerful, is a new step towards being boring at dinner parties.
When asked if he thought the universe is full of life, Minchin summarised: "The chances of this happening might be one in infinity. Put it this way: the chance that there being intelligent alien life are, for me, infinitely higher than the chance there being a creator god."
In an interview with Independent Investigations Group member John Rael, Minchin explains that what upsets him most about paranormal beliefs is "special pleading" by people who say vague things such as "there is no harm in it". Minchin states that there is very little harm in something like reiki, but asks "where do you draw the line?" when it comes to needing real evidence if a therapy works or not. He states that he is an atheist as well as a skeptic, and cannot understand how someone can be a skeptic and still be religious. "If you apply doubt to anything...the whole religion thing is obviously a fantasy."
In 2012, Minchin appeared in a video hosted on the homepage of the British Humanist Association, describing Humanism as important "because having a non-superstitious worldview allows you to go about your own business, making ethical decisions based on a general desire to do the most possible good."
Attack on George Pell
In 2016, during the course of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Minchin wrote "Come Home (Cardinal Pell)", which attacked Cardinal George Pell. Launched on Channel Ten's The Project, it received wide publicity from the ABC, but was highly controversial. Liam Viney described it as being a protest song and analysed its mechanics.
The Royal Commission had been called to investigate how institutions like schools, churches, and government organisations have responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse. When the Royal Commissioner granted the 74-year-old George Pell permission to appear as a witness via video link from Rome, rather than attend in person as he had previously done, Minchin wrote the song "Come Home Pell"—which denounced Catholicism, describing Pell as a "coward", "buffoon" and "scum". In response, a statement from Pell's office said the Cardinal had led the battle against child abuse in the Church for 20 years. Attorney General George Brandis told ABC TV that giving evidence by video was "not at all unusual".
The song helped fund journeys to Rome for victims of sex abuse in order that they could watch the Cardinal deliver his evidence. The ABC 7.30 programme noted on 17 February 2016: "the song's going viral with almost 200,000 YouTube views" but "supporters of Cardinal Pell say it's verbal abuse set to music." Jesuit human rights lawyer Frank Brennan said it risked endangering the integrity of the royal commission. Columnist Andrew Bolt described the song as a "hymn of hatred".
- Sit (with band Timmy the Dog) (2001)
- Darkside (2005)
- So Rock (2006)
- Ready for This? (2009)
- Live at the O2 (2010)
- Tim Minchin and The Heritage Orchestra (2011)
- So Fucking Rock (2013) (adapted from the 2008 DVD So Fucking Rock Live)
- "Drowned" (2008)
- "White Wine in the Sun" (2009)
- "The Pope Song" (2010) – As a free download from his website
- "The Fence" (2011)
- "White Wine in the Sun" (2012 version)
- "Come Home (Cardinal Pell)" (February 2016) – (Reached No. 11 on Australian Singles Chart, 20/02/16)
- Laugh-a-poolooza (featured artist) (2005)
- "So Long (As We Are Together)" Californication Season 6 Soundtrack (2013)
- So Live (2007) Australian DVD
- So F**king Rock Live (also known as So Fucking Rock Live) (11 October 2008)
- So F**king Rock Live (Special Edition) (also known as So Fucking Rock Live (Special Edition)) (5 October 2009)
- Ready for This? (29 November 2010)
- Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra (14 November 2011)
- Rock'n'roll Nerd: The Tim Minchin Story
- "Tim Minchin · Holy fuck! FREE Pope Song Download – available now". Timminchin.com. 12 September 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
- "ARIA Charts". ARIA Charts. Retrieved 20 February 2016.
- "ARIA SINGLES CHART WEEK COMMENCING 22 FEBRUARY, 2016" (PDF). 22 February 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
- "FAQ - Can I play your DVDs where I live?". timminchin.com. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
- 2008 – Two Fists, One Heart – Tom
- 2010 – The Lost Thing – The Boy (Voice)
- 2013 – Californication – Atticus Fetch (Guest/Recurring character, 10 episodes)
- 2013 – 88 Keys (Pilot) – Charlie
- 2015 – The Secret River (ABC TV Series) – Smasher Sullivan
- 2015 – No Activity – Jacob (Guest, 2 episodes)
- 2018 – Larrikins (voice, also writing the songs and directing)
- Two Fists, One Heart at the Internet Movie Database
- The Lost Thing at the Internet Movie Database
- "Californication". timminchin. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- "88 Keys". comedy.co.uk. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
- 2014 – Storm
- "Storm by Tim Minchin cover art and synopsis". Upcoming4.me. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
- "Tim Minchin's Storm, a magnificent rant about woo and the miracle of reality (the book)". Boing Boing.
- 2012/13 – Jesus Christ Superstar directed by Laurence Connor – Judas Iscariot - UK and Australian Arena Tours
- 2013 – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead directed by Simon Phillips - Rosencrantz - Sydney Theatre Company
- 2016 – Shakespeare Live! conceived and directed by Gregory Doran – Himself ('To be or not to be' Sketch) – Royal Shakespeare Company (also broadcast on BBC2)
Writer (composer and lyricist)
- 2010 – Matilda the Musical – Book by Dennis Kelly, directed by Matthew Warchus, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company
- 2016 – Groundhog Day – Book by Danny Rubin, directed by Matthew Warchus, produced by the Old Vic
- 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Directors' Choice Award for Dark Side
- 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Perrier Comedy Award, Best Newcomer
- 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, The Groggy Squirrel Critics' Award
- 2007 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, Best Alternative Act
- 2009 Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performer for Tim Minchin - Ready For This?
- 2009 Green Room Awards, Cabaret: Best Original Songs
- 2009 Green Room Awards, Cabaret: Best Artiste
- 2010 Chortle Awards, Best Music or Variety Act
- 2011 Helpmann Award for Best New Australian Work for Tim Minchin Vs Sydney Symphony
- 2012 Olivier Awards: Best New Musical for Matilda The Musical
- 2012 Helpmann Award for Best Comedy Performer for Tim Minchin vs The Orchestras Round II
- 2013 What's On Stage Awards, The W&P Longreach Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Jesus Christ Superstar
- 2016 Logie Award, Most Outstanding Supporting Actor for The Secret River (ABC)
- 2016 Helpmann Award for Best Original Score for Matilda the Musical
- "Comedy Festival Awards". MICF Corporate Site. Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Archived from the original on 2009-01-30. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- Slattery, Annette (29 April 2007). "The Groggy Squirrel Critics' Award". The Groggy Squirrel. The Groggy Squirrel. Retrieved 25 February 2009.
- "Tim Minchin: About – Awards". TimMinchin.com. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
- "Winners of the 2009 Helpmann Awards". The Sydney Morning Herald. 28 July 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
- ^ "2009 Nominations and Recipients". Green Room Awards Association. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
- "Chortle awards: Watch the video". Chortle. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 5 April 2010.
- BBC (15 April 2012). "Matilda musical breaks Olivier awards record". BBC. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- "WhatsOnStage.com Awards". WhatsOnStage.com. 17 February 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2013.
- James Weir (2016-05-09). "Logies 2016: Winners, nominees, results from the award ceremony". News.com.au. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
- "Helpmann Awards 2016: Matilda the Musical wins record 13 awards, Stephen Page honoured". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 25 July 2016. Retrieved 26 July 2016.