Tim Minchin at the 2011 Montreal Just For Laughs festival

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

Hollywood’s Variety magazine last week named Tim Minchin as one of the top ten comics to watch – but this Montreal audience were clearly well ahead of that advice. Given the reception something like his awesome Pope Song gets, they’ve clearly been hitting YouTube. O nce there was a self-irony when he drolly announced he was about to embark on a ten-minute beat poem – now the audience know what it entails, the excitement’s genuine.

Both these pieces eloquently vocalise Minchin’s overarching theme; the folly of blind faith that leads to every wrong-headedness from the vacuous frippery of aura-reading to the serious evil of covering up child abuse. Although his rationalism scores instant points with like-minded audiences, it’s also comedy’s de facto stance – so empirical comedians need more than simply an urge to pillory the church or mock the feeble-minded beliefs of hippies to stand out.

This is where Minchin shines. Not only does he have a grand piano, rock-star charisma and considerable musical talent to make his point, but he approaches his writing with an intellectual vigour that makes all the difference between yelling ‘Fuck the Pope’ and telling us in precise, unarguable detail, why the pontiff should be violated and in which holy orifice…

In a similar vein to that witty, tricksy beat poem, Storm, is Thank You God, which effectively dismisses the belief in the power of prayer with a jaunty chorus. But not everything is so declamatory, he mocks his own rock-and-roll pretensions in his show-stopper Dark Side, and also plays with ideas that are just plain stupid. Conversely, he’s prepared to venture into areas that are decidedly uncomfortable, such as his frustrations with his baby, which have a real sense of edge and catharsis about them.

The stand-up between the songs is in similarly daring vein, and even seems to share the tempo of his epic musical compositions, with long, detailed build-ups evoking a certain felling before - bam! – the reveal, showing you’d been misdirected all along. It’s not laugh-a-minute but a complex, exciting emotional journey towards the safety of the punchline.

Master showman Minchin also knows it doesn’t always have to be laughs, and that’s never better demonstrated than in his well-deserved encore, the heartfelt Christmas song White Wine In The Sun. The soul might be a difficult concept for Minchin’s beloved science, but one thing’s for sure, if you’re not moved by this, you don’t have one.

Review date: 31 Jul 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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