In 2011 when I went to see the musical production of Matilda, for me it was a bittersweet moment. Yes, the song where every line goes through A-Z was great, and yes, the child actors were all fantastic, and yes, the set and stage mechanics was what you would expect from a highly rated West End show, but unfortunately this musical obsessed-blogger did not enjoy the show 100%.
This was because I knew it would be a long time before Tim Minchin would do comedy again. I knew the huge success of this musical, whilst much-deserved, would be in the nail in the coffin of his comedy career for a considerable amount of time.
Why did I know that? Well to put it simply, if you’re receiving critical acclaim and Tony Awards left right and centre, why would you return for another 30 day rainy stint at the Edinburgh Fringe? His decision to pursue a different career path from his musical comedy roots was one that this Minchin fan could see coming, thanks to three things.
Firstly, how do you top a UK comedy arena tour with an orchestra? Looking at his 3 DVDs Minchin went from a well-lit room with a piano, to a small band with keytar and break-dancing bears (note: these were people dressed up as bears, not actual bears), to a full bloody orchestra. I’d like to have thought he would have been equally appreciated by audiences if after the orchestra business he decided to go back to a small intimate setting with a piano again, but I can imagine Minchin may have thought that doing so would be a step back and that he had huge shoes to fill (not that he tends to wear them on stage much anyway).
Secondly, Minchin seemingly couldn’t get enough of performing in arenas (despite saying otherwise) and in 2012 he decided to play Judas for a modern revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, where the role of Jesus was decided via a casual entertainment reality TV show on the BBC. With such superficial beginnings it’s no surprise that the arena tour didn’t get great reviews (which upon watching would be the same even if Chris Moyles hadn’t of played King Herod), but it was an indication that Minchin was taking the whole acting thing a tad more seriously than the comedy world expected.
And thirdly, and let’s be honest, his material during the end of his comedy career was getting lack lustre, and I think Minchin knew this. Examples include Pope Disco, Youtube Lament, but let’s just talk about Cheese for a moment. During my intense Minchin-praising phase of roughly 2009-2012, I was willing to let Cheese go by unnoticed. In fact, I rather enjoyed the jazz break after the “cannot Camembert it anymore” line, but I’m now willing to put my hands up and admit that the song is just filler, and not a nice filler like a Double Gloucester, but more of a Dairylea Triangle smushed together between the two ends bits of dry wholemeal bread kind of situation.
After the orchestra tour it was also likely that Minchin was running out of ideas for songs which could work on the accepted next best platform for comedians after live stand-up: television. With panel shows and Live at the Apollo becoming a spotlight for Edinburgh’s annual selection of Best Newcomer nominees, Minchin’s material, which thrives from being unapologetically honest about religion, politics and other hard-hitting subjects, was not a great fit for BBC’s primetime offerings. This was demonstrated when he appeared on the Jonathan Ross show in December 2011, as when he did come up with a song that was true to his own unique and controversial style, the BBC weren’t having none of it. Whilst I admit Woody Allen Jesus will never be in my top 10 Minchin song playlist, the fact that the song was removed from the show must have tempted Minchin to ditch the stand-up after such an obvious rejection of his artistic merits.
So after ditching stand-up comedy, where does that leave Minchin now? Hollywood has swept him up thanks to roles in Californation, an upcoming serious acting role as Friar Tuck in some sort of Robin Hood thing I guess (I saw it on Facebook) and there’s no surprise that Minchin has another sodding successful musical on his horizon thanks to Groundhog Day, which has just received an Olivier Award for Best New Musical.
With this amazing success it’s unlikely that Minchin is thinking of booking a Work In Progress set at Leicester Square Theatre anytime soon, but what if he did? Would it be the right time for his views on Brexit, Trump and the upcoming general election, or would these subjects be seen by Minchin as too cliche and would he instead focus on what he does best by craftfully and thoughtfully attacking fundamentalist religious sects or highlighting the idiocy of those behind the scenes figures who don’t always receive the mainstream news coverage that they should?
Whether he comes back to comedy in 1 year, 5 years, or 10, I would think a comeback tour would go down well for a number of reasons, regardless of what’s on the news during his run or whether we’ll be living in some nuclear apocalyptic setting like in Fallout 3. Not only would both previous and current fans flock to the box office, but I think a comeback of one of comedy’s most intelligent comedians would prompt even the most sceptic observers of Minchin’s own brand of scepticism to get a ticket.
For my own benefit, I’d also like to see Minchin return to comedy as I feel he has a lot of loose ends to tie up. Did he find a girl with neck down alopecia? Does his friends now regret their tattoos? And what ever happened to Phil Daoust?