Composer, actor and pianist Tim Minchin lept into the British comedy scene in 2005, with his Perrier-best-newcomer-winning Edinburgh show Dark Side.
It was a show he had debuted at the Sydney Big Laugh Comedy Festival earlier that year, and performed to critical acclaim at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, where it won the Festival Directors' Award.
His follow-up show, So Rock, was nominated for the Barry award for the most outstanding show in his native Melbourne in 2006 before returning to Edinburgh. That year he also appeared at the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal.
He performed his first show, Navel, in Australia in 2003 and was a Victoria state finalist in the Raw competition for new comedians the following year.
As an actor, he has played Amadeus in Peter Schaffer's play, and Hamlet, both for the Perth Theatre Company, and has appeared with the Australian Shakespeare Company.
Winner of the best music and variety act at the Chortle awards in 2009, 2010 and 2011, where his show with a full orchestra was also named best tour.
In 2010, he wrote the music for the Royal Shakespeare Company's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Matilda.
Tim Minchin Videos
Tim Minchin at the Udderbelly
Now he’s famous enough for his shows to match the scale and ambition of his music, Tim Minchin isn’t often to be found in a venue as intimate as the Udderbelly,
‘You’re all right fucking here, aren’t you?’ were his first words direct to the close-up audience, just 400 of them in the purple upside-down cow compared to the 3,000 who braved the rain to see him at Somerset House on Saturday.
Even so, some people had queued all day for a front-row seat – not even a ticket, they sold out long ago - just to see Minchin about five yards closer than the back row.
This was Minchin at his most relaxed. Between the songs he bantered with the band or idly mused on anything from the T-shirt slogans in the front row to contrived puns based on the idea the quantum particle 'boson' sounds quite like 'bison'. Comedy gold, this was not. But it was a man clearly enjoying himself, and audience happy to indulge him. A two-way love-in, in which everyone is left happy.
‘If we could always do gigs like this...' said a clearly gratified Minchin, wistfully at the show's end. 'But we can’t. Because of greed.’
But for those who were in on the party, it was a joyous romp through the greatest hits, namely:
ROCK AND ROLL NERD: The perfect introduction, a mini-autobiography in potted rock-opera form, with just a smattering of the musical showboating that makes these gigs special. And an introduction was clearly needed, as about half the audience, a straw poll revealed, had never seen him live before; while a small smattering had never encountered his work in any form. After the song's over, he teases his guitarist, bass-player and drummer ('You’re a comedy band, you’re not here for your chops') and gets distracted by a picture of toast on a hoodie, just to underline this is not going to be a super-slick concert.
WOODY ALLEN JESUS: The song 'The Man' tried to ban, when ITV got cold feet about airing it, after performing it on the Jonathan Ross Show. It's hard to see how anyone but the most humourless zealot would find offence in this jaunty number – which is stupidly irrelevant, but hermeneutically solid. Now there's a quote for the poster. After the song, someone hands him a bracelet bearing the legend WWMWAZSKDTVQHTJD: What would magic Woody Allen zombie Superman Komodo Dragon telepathic vampire quantum hovercraft Tim Jesus do? As he acknowledges, he gets the audience he asks for.
PREJUDICE: 'How many people didn’t know that was coming?' Minchin says after the song's big reveal failed to get a titter. Comedy songs as good as Minchin's have a longer shelf life than most stand-up routines, as people want to hear them again and again, but a good joke needs an element of surprise, and that's bound to be compromised. After the song, Minchin's peripatetic mind wound up in a place where he was virtually imagining the stations of the cross as a sexual fantasy... and he wonders why the Christians don't like him. Actually, he surely doesn't wonder that at all...
CHEESE: Offending no one but the militant lactose-intolerant, Minchin makes the leap from God to Gouda with this preposterously silly paean to dairy. A feelgood fiesta of a song that really got this Cow laughing...
CONFESSIONS: Perhaps another victim of familiarity, Minchin has to admit that the absence of a reaction on the second of the inevitable rule-of-three choruses which undermine his earnest verses was a little disheartening. Nonetheless, it drove him to get more creative for the third, and add a little extra twist to thing
DROWNED: A lesser-played song, this is a downbeat ballad taking an apparently cynical look at love, though it's more complex than that. Proof, perhaps, that every comedy musician has the urge to be taken seriously. Talking of which...
DARK SIDE: A signature show-stopper that here blossoms into a magnificently sprawling jam, taking in everything from syncopated jazz to spooky mood music as he riffs playfully with the band, building to a typically epic climax that had the audience rise to their feet.
ENCORE: POPE SONG. Sheer, bluntly poetic brilliance, of course, with an angry point made with angry words – and a toe-tappingly catchy melody. Next to me was a mild-mannered middle-class woman in her sixties, probably, who'd previously identified herself as never having heard of Minchin before. Probably not the core audience you'd expect, but her head rolled back in glee at this. Take note timorous ITV executives...
POPE DISCO: A one-joke song, but a chance to party like it's 1979...
WHEN I GROW UP: A warm and witty number from Matilda, not as hard-hitting as the songs that normally find a place in his comedy sets, but a reprise from the cynicism for a feelgod ending.
And with that the show – and indeed the Udderbelly's stint on London's South Bank – ends. Now the Australian tunesmith embarks on a summer of festivals before his starring role in Jesus Christ Superstar in September. Hallelujah.
Tim MinchinTim MInchin: Ready For This? Tim Minchin and Friends Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better
Series one of his radio show