Minchin verges on celebrity

5 May
Tim Minchin

Tim Minchin

When I chat to the former Perth, now London-based Tim Minchin on the phone from this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, it coincidently happens to be the event that kick-started his career four years ago. Although his appearance this time around isn’t some last-ditch attempt to break into the comedy scene; instead he is in Melbourne performing a two-week stint of his latest show Ready For This? followed by sold-out dates across the country.

You can chart Minchin’s meteoric rise from obscurity to the verge of celebrity in Rhian Skirving’s self-financed film, Rock N Roll Nerd. This documentary-style film captures crucial moments in his comedy career – from performing in local Melbourne pubs through to his success at the Edinburgh Fringe and London’s West End. The plot is intermixed with Minchin and his wife Sarah’s journey together as a couple.

It’s a thoroughly engaging watch and one that gives you a great deal of insight into Minchin and what makes him tick. After watching the film you feel like you know him and that might have something to do with the fact that Skirving and Minchin are very good friends. Minchin is also an incredibly open character, but credit has to go to the filmmaker for her ability to capture the warts-and-all insights.

“It’s actually a testament to how good Rhian is that it wasn’t thousands of hours of footage, it was that she knew when to turn the camera on. There were times when I’d say, ‘Rhian put the fucking camera down I can’t be bothered or whatever…”

Minchin didn’t ever think the footage would appear in a feature film.

“We just thought it would be a little project that might end up on the ABC at midnight. We certainly didn’t think it was going to be this pseudo-celeb doc about the D-grade celeb I’ve become.”

While Minchin appears to talk freely about the film, this is actually one of the first interviews in which he’s talked about it. He confirms he had nothing to do with its making, citing it would be “against the ethics of documentary-making.” He’s very communicative in his desire to keep his own work separate from Skirving’s work as a filmmaker. And it’s not because he doesn’t like the film, he just finds it “squirm-inducing”.

“The reason why I dissociate myself from the project, it’s not because I don’t think it’s great or that it shouldn’t be up there, it’s simply that it is very uncomfortable for me. I don’t like watching the thing!

“It’s hard to listen to your own voice on your answering machine message… imagine what it’s like watching yourself in your undies? I just sit there thinking, ‘shut up you fucking idiot’. I hate how I behave and I especially don’t like the fact that the film is about my career.

“There’s no footage of me just being a casual, laid-back nice guy, I come across as quite intense and ambitious, more than I am,” he laughs.

Minchin reveals this isn’t a project he would embark on at this point in his career.

“From between the end of filming and now, things have changed by order of magnitude,” he explains. “I’m 20 times more known now and I’m not deluded about my fame or anything.

“It’s become a much more complicated thing than when it started out. I don’t want people to think I financed a doco about myself and that I particularly want the world to know about my life. It makes me feel like I’m saying, ‘look at me; I now have a doco all about me’ which is not what I’m selling. What I’m selling is my ranting, atheist, and swearing, sex-obsessed, piano-playing show.

Rock N Roll Nerd screens on ABC1 on April 30 at 8.30pm. Tim Minchin’s stage show Ready For This is playing at the Perth Concert Hall between April 28 – 30 and May 2.

[An edited version of this article appears in The West Australian newspaper on Thursday, April 30, 2009]

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