Tim Minchin | The Wilshire Ebell Theatre (Los Angeles, CA) | May 29, 2014
When asked to describe Tim Minchin to the uninitiated, the words “mad musical comedic genius” come to mind. He certainly looked the part- strolling on stage in black garb, bare feet, black-rimmed eyes and electrified mane. Though there were a few lyrical hiccups, punctuated by increasingly frustrated expletives, the Australian minstrel’s deft turn of phrase, irreverent wit, humble charm and mad piano skills easily won over the sold out crowd.
A good chunk of them didn’t need wooing however, which quickly became apparent the moment Tim sat behind the piano. “This song is about… prejudice,” he began. It was a seemingly humorless subject, yet the statement provoked instant hoots and laughter from those who knew the song, prompting Tim to break character and grin. “I can’t get you to take me seriously!” Indeed, it was difficult as the man was hell-bent on inducing laughter to the point of choking on tears as he went along.
His standup routines cleverly navigate through potentially offensive waters. His first brought up the Holocaust. “I’m trying to find out where the boundaries are.” He quipped as the audience laughed through the joke. “Apparently we’re boundary-less.” Others touched on threatening adopted children, questioning one’s faith and something about “shoving a shoehorn up a hoo hoo.” No matter how outlandish the story, Tim’s delivery was consistently up to a hair’s breadth just inside the funny line, resulting in a roller coaster-like reaction- complete with that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of one’s stomach during the lead in and the subsequent adrenaline rush of delirium after the drop.
The musical numbers, however, are where Tim shines the brightest. Highlights included a tongue-in-cheek ode to his wife, a lullaby in which he croons “Papa’s gonna buy you a mocking bird / In the hope you’ll get Avian Flu” to get a moment’s peace from his baby crying and his everlasting insistence on having a “dark side” (complete with the Eddie Vedder impression). The one that takes the cake is his “epiphany” regarding the existence of God, based on a story he’s told in a bar by someone whose mum was healed by prayer:
“Fuck me Sam, what are the odds
That of history’s endless parade of gods
That the God you just happened to be taught to believe in
Is the actual one and he digs on healing,
But not the AIDS-ridden African nations
Nor the victims of the plague, nor the flood-addled Asians,
But healthy, privately-insured Australians
With common and curable corneal degeneration.”
With lyrics like these, for songs that average a duration of 6-9 minutes, it’s entirely forgivable if he misses a word or two and equally impressive when he jumps right back in. Consider as well that much of the accompaniment is just him on a grand piano, owning every inch of that keyboard. There were moments when the cheers after a particular solo were louder than that of the entire song. Once the last note had been seemingly played, Tim received a standing ovation. The fans stayed and he obliged them with an encore. The final song was a rare treat- a glimpse of the new musical he’s writing based on the movie Groundhog Day. It was a gorgeous, uplifting tune that brought a tear to the eye, a drastic change from the rest of the setlist. For all its relative simplicity, it cemented Tim’s brilliance not just as a wordsmith but, and maybe even more, as a composer and musician.
If you ever get the chance to see this master of satire and the ivory keys, do so. It will be an enlightening, hilarious and entirely unforgettable experience.