Tim Minchin Talks Gingers, Religion, Ben Folds, Sperm Banks, Flight of the Concords, and More

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Do you feel the piano is one of the most versatile instruments around? I mean, it can be used for epic rock operas, pop, and even classical music.

Yeah, it's certainly dynamically, it's got a really wide range internally. It's called a pianoforte for a reason. Also the reason it's popular in bars it evokes a certain classiness, a certain extravagance. When some of these bars have a shell of a grand piano with a keyboard stuck in it, it still has an aesthetic. That's a big part of it. It's a big part of why I only use real pianos on the stage, because it's a personality, it's a power thing, a status thing. And sitting at a ten foot Steinway playing a song about cheese is very funny. I'm not a multi instrumentalist. I started monkeying around with a piano a long time ago and slowly got better at it and now I can play it a bit.

Have you ever been compared to Ben Folds in any way?

I've been hanging out with Amanda Palmer a bit. She used to be Dresden Dolls and Ben produced her last album, which is her best in my opinion. He's a genius and I'm a huge fan although I stopped listening to him ten years ago. Before I discovered him, he wrote, "Give Me My Money Back You Bitch" [a.k.a. "Song For the Dumped"] and I had a song called "Who's the Fellow This Week Bitch?" and they sounded really, really similar. I'd never heard of him before and got really attracted to his stuff because that was what I wanted to do. I stopped listening to it because I didn't want to get too influenced by him.

Would you like to collaborate with him?

I've thought about it a bit now that I've got a pretty big audience in some parts of the world and I wonder if he'd like to do something because I think it would be really fucking cool. Because I'm a hack pianist, as is Ben, compared to jazz and the classical players in the world. But there's not loads and loads of players who can play like he and I do in terms of being able to trash the shit out of the thing and entertain and look effortless. I mean people like watching people who don't look like they're trying very hard. I think it would be really cool, but I don't think he needs me.

How epic are you performances?

I don't know, I've been touring in the UK with a symphony orchestra. And I've been doing up to 10,000-seaters, so coming here feels like coming home to what my real thing is which is playing by myself in small theaters. But I believe very strongly, it's going to be hard this week because I am sick. I think you should come off stage spent and yeah, I tend to stay on stage for a couple of hours if people let me. And I tend to trash myself a bit. It's epic for cabaret. It's monstrous for cabaret.

I've heard about people in bear suits and breakdancing at your shows. 

As things build up in scale, I do like to make the concerts absurd especially this orchestra tour, it got pretty epic and I tend to big entries because of the nature of my audience over here, the fact that my audiences tend to be already pretty dedicated fans, it's really weird, I've got these pockets of people that are very excited about the shows, so I'm playing them a bit cooler really. I don't have that pressure on me to out do my last show or anything because the first time I've been over I'm little bit more established so I'm not desperate anymore. Which isn't to say the show....I think they're better really because there's less nonsense apart from I really can't afford to do the nonsense over here because I'm not there yet. I don't have the budget.

Who would win in a fight between you and the Flight of the Concords, or even Sammy J for that matter?

Anyone with Sammy J would end in the victory going to the anyone, because he weighs about four kilograms, although it could be pretty angry I reckon. The Concord boys, well, that's an absurd question because they are all such soft pussies you could hardly think of a less aggressive bunch of humans than intimidated musical comedians.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a physical altercation, it could be a rock off.

It would be pretty hard to outdo Bret and Jermaine in a kind of idiot rock off. They're pretty epic. I think I would win any swearing competition or fitting as many words into a short space of time sort of competition. I would win everytime. We've all got our thing. 

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.