An Interview with… Tim Key

Questions by Peter McLoughlin @PeterGownArts

Firstly, how does your show, Masterslut (at the MAC Thursday 25th October), differ from the typical comedy stand-up routine?

I utilise a bath. I read poems off pornographic playing cards. I carry a fork. I devour strawberries.

Your style of comedy, and the way in which you behave (for comic effect) on stage is very subtle: how much of what you do is down to the moulding of the craft, and how much of it comes naturally?

50:50. Like all comedians I work hard to make it work but it works best when I stop thinking about it.

Without being a ‘celebrity’, you've managed to earn the esteem of, and work with, some of the best of your peers (Charlie Brooker, Steve Coogan, Simon Amstell to name a few). For example, when , he referred to you as a ‘poet and genius’. How does that kind of praise affect you?

I like it. But Minchin was just reading an autocue. And I knew the girl who fed the script into the autocue. But you're right, comedians always like it when another comedian likes what you're doing.

I first saw you read your poetry in Screenwipe a few years ago, and it seems that your poetic ‘character’ has developed

from that awkward, menacing-so-overly-explanative poet, to a rather brash, thinks-he’s-amazing-so-he-explains-everything poet. Did this ‘character’, for you, develop naturally, or was it more a refining process?

A mixture… I had a moment a few years ago when my friend Megan advised me to be more charming. And I went with that for a bit. There's still a lot of volatility floating about but you're right, when it started I was more menacing. Heavy drinking. Psychopathic. A character. Now I've tipped a lot more of myself in there. It's more enjoyable now.

Does your show have any serious undertones? – Every time I see you, whether it is in interviews or on stage or TV, you seem to be gently mocking everything, and I must say I love it. Do you feel comedy should have a serious message beneath, or indeed running alongside, the humour?

There's space for all kinds of approaches. I've watched and loved shows where you feel the comedian's saying some really smart stuff and I've seen some where the whole thing's apparently irrelevant and I've enjoyed both. Josie Long talks about politics, Paul Foot talks about eff all. Both have their message though. There's always a message. “We're all in a room and you're looking at me and I'm not offering any answers” is also a message.

How have you found your comedy received on the international stage? Have any nationalities in particular 'not got' your sense of humour? Do you have to alter phrases, expressions, etc.?

I think you just have to commit to it and all the nuances will usually come over. Of course in Australia I'll talk about Graham Dott a bit less and Mrs Mangle a bit more, but I don't change it a lot. I watch the Simpsons and there'll be references I don't get but you can usually fill in the gaps. I wasted a lot of Australians' time talking about Henry Blofeld this year. They didn't seem to mind. I said “cunt” in Montreal. That was more of a problem. North Americans don't see it as such a playful word as we do…

I am really looking forward to the show! Thank you for your time.

Thank you.. Pleasure. Thanks.