Musical comedy has enjoyed a renaissance recently. First it was Paul McDermott fronting Gud, then came the middle class angst of Eddie Perfect, and in the latest batch are ivory-ticklers Sammy J and Tim Minchin. This group has a lot in common with their musical comedian ancestors, performers including Victor Borge and Tom Lehrer. These performers are all highly accomplished musicians, but stand out for their remarkable verbal dexterity and the ability to fit the surprisingly complex requirements of comedy into the rigours of musical convention.
In a short space of time Tim Minchin has established himself as one of the best. Minchin intuitively understands what makes funny funny, so every second line of his brilliant compositions is a laugh-out-loud punchline. The set-up for each song is quite simple, but the ideas are mined sensationally for comic effect. Take Minchin’s song warning of the dangers of fat kids, a set up which then leaves him open to widely and hilariously speculate on the consequences. There are few things funnier in the world than Tim Minchin on a roll.
Minchin is as comfortable in front of the microphone as he is at his beloved piano. The format of this year’s show is just a little looser than his past two outings in Melbourne, which gives him more freedom for spontaneity. When he heard the cry of a newborn from the back of the room, Minchin went with the flow and was wonderfully successful: just what was a newborn expected to get out of the show, anyhow?
Minchin’s stage persona is oddly charming. Though the black trenchcoat, heavy eye makeup and gravity-defying hair might suggest an angry goth, once he opens his mouth Minchin is friendly and engaging. There is a touch of nastiness to some of his material – taking on thalidomide kids, cot-death victims and the morbidly obese (who, incidentally, would make a sensational wrestling team together) – but it’s all said with a smile.
Later this year Minchin is moving to London, so chances to see this musical genius in action might be limited. Catch him while you can.