Tim Minchin on his busiest year yet

By Fiona Bailey
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Image caption, Minchin says he cannot wait for Matilda to open

If you don't know the name you will recognise his face.

Tim Minchin is the back-combed, bare-footed comedian with an Australian accent and trademark heavy eyeliner.

The 35-year-old has been experiencing one of the busiest years of his career so far.

He is about to see the songs he has been writing come to life on stage in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Roald Dahl's Matilda.

The songwriter is also busy promoting his new live DVD and trying to write new material for his arena tour next year.

Hello Tim, you have a lot of things on your plate at the moment, has it been hard?

It's been pretty stressful at times, yes.

In the past year you have been touring and writing music for Matilda, how have you managed?

I've absolutely loved it but there have been times where I've been in Australia and I've been staying in some hotel with my two kids and trying to write some Matilda songs and I totally failed, so it's been quite stressful.

But Matilda's been the best and one of the greatest joys I've ever had. It's been really hard work, but it's so thorough and I've been held so accountable by the text and by the director and my own expectations as to how good it should be.

I've really enjoyed that thoroughness of it. With comedy it's hard to second guess what you think is funny and put it on stage.

But with this, you know where the goal is and you have to chip away at it like you're making a sculpture.

It opens next week, how are you feeling about it?

I'm so excited. I think it's really really good. You would never have heard me say that about anything else, as there's always a bit of fear, and you're always hoping it's going to be good, but you never know.

But I heard the 11-piece band and the kids and the adults all singing my songs the other day in Stratford in the first proper music rehearsal and it was amazing.

You had the idea about turning Matilda into a musical a few years ago didn't you?

Around 10 years ago I wrote to the Dahl estate to ask about rights because I thought it would be a good idea, but this show has no connection to that, it's just a complete coincidence.

It's not like I've spent the last 10 years sitting around wishing I could do it, it's just one of those weird things that happen in life.

What made you so eager to become part of the project?

Matilda is quite a full-on story and it's a great family show and has a lot of laughs and a lot of beautiful moments.

It's such a famous, well loved story. There's nothing like an underdog finding special powers.

I just can't believe it's almost here and I've spent the last two years thinking one day it will actually be on.

Do you want to continue working in musical theatre?

Well it's who I am. It's where I come from. In a way for me it goes without saying that I'll keep doing this because even in my comedy I'm writing theatrical songs and I just happen to be the performer.

But in a way it's all the same job as far as I'm concerned. And yes doing Matilda has given me real hope that I'll be able to write musicals on that sort of level in the future.

Image caption, Minchin says his comedy show is all about questioning hypocrisy

You are also releasing your live show DVD Ready For This? What can people expect to see on it?

It's a bigger show than my last and stupider. It's not really offensive, it sort of challenges lots of beliefs and stuff and I think it manages to tread the line that I like to tread which is between being really silly and quite judgemental.

Are there any subjects you won't go near?

If there's something to be said, I tend to make sure that I know why I'm talking about stuff, although I don't worry about it too much.

If I think something is funny I'll say it, there's a joke about 50 midgets which doesn't have much political subtext but basically I don't make jokes out of things that I take seriously.

I'm not going to make a joke at the expense of someone that I think is a victim.

My new show is trying to point out the hypocrisy of what we think is sacred in the face of the other things we don't seem to give moral kudos to.

Tim Minchin's DVD Ready For This? is available to buy on 29 November

Matilda: A Musical runs at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon from 9 November to 30 January

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