How Tim Minchin Brings Wit, Wisdom and Humanity to the Arts

Tim Minchin
Courtesy of ABC

In Partnership with JMC Academy

Usually when we introduce a guest on the Variety Australia Podcast, they’re described with one, maybe two, titles. Actor, singer, instrumentalist, comedian, creative, writer, composer. In the case of Tim Minchin – he’s all of the above. 

It’s impossible to fit Minchin into one box. So he’s simply never bothered to try. Instead, he’s become a master of all disciplines, adapting his focus and skill depending on where the creative opportunity takes him. “I always had the benefit, or the luck, of being multifaceted,” he shares, chatting with Luke Girgis on episode three of the Variety Australia Podcast series produced and recorded by Audio Engineering, Film and Entertainment Management students on JMC Academy’s Sydney campus

“I could go and write a little score for a youth theatre thing, and I could play in a cover band, or I could do a jazz gig at a thing, or I could do Shakespeare in the Park. And so I don’t think I was going to end up unemployable.” 

Minchin’s career trajectory is proof that there’s no one way ticket to success as a creative. He’s done it all – from composing the incredible musical “Matilda” to writing songs to headlining comedy shows to starring in hit series “The Artful Dodger”. In whatever project he takes on, he’s all about the craft. 

This unique hybrid of talent, humour and honesty has gained Minchin a band of loyal followers over the decades. “Tim may be the least well-known person to have millions of dedicated, passionate followers,” one fan commented on a YouTube interview of Minchin in 2023. “You either adore Tim or you’ve never heard of him. If you fall into the second group, you are missing out on a remarkable experience.” 

This successful career didn’t happen overnight. Speaking on the podcast episode, Minchin explains how at 29, he’d made peace with being an artist without fame or money. He was writing, performing, playing jazz bars and working for free, but ultimately – he was happy.

“Yes there was a bit of me that thought, ‘What am I doing? I could be a really good teacher or there must be other things.’ But I think, actually, the opposite is true. I think that year I had got to the point of like, you know what, I think this is what I’d do. I think I’ll just be poor and do this,” he says. 

That said, he emphasises the courage it does take for artists to pivot and take on more traditional career paths. “This idea that it’s art or bust I think is poisonous, actually, because it leaves a lot of people feeling like failures,” he tells Girgis.

“What is art? What is being an artist? You will start being a muso and then realise your gift is in sound design and you might end up in advertising or a really great music teacher and all that is as valid and probably will lead to a happier life than becoming a massive star.” 

Today, the 48-year-old is at a point in his career where he can follow his creativity and work on projects that challenge and inspire him. Sometimes, that’s a musical on Broadway, sometimes it’s an animated film in LA, a comedy stage, or a studio album. 

Throughout the episode, he thoughtfully explores the essence of creativity, the importance of questioning established beliefs, and the significance of empathy and diverse storytelling in art. 

Addressing the live student audience, he shares the importance of avoiding black and white thinking when it comes to art – even when it feels uncomfortable. “We can talk to [young people] as future artists, right? If they create art that is going to challenge the current culture in whatever way, this is the shit you’re gonna have to deal with,” he says, speaking to the social media backlash he’s faced sharing political views through his own art. 

According to Minchin, the antidote to narrow thinking is empathy. “We go to the theatre, we read books, we go to the cinema, not because we like seeing our experience reflected on screen, but I think more because we get a buzz out of empathy,” he says.

“We get a buzz out of not seeing our experience reflected on screen. We love a story of like, oh my god, I’ve never really thought about what it might be like to be that person that this wonderful artist has represented on screen.” 

Minchin’s own work, known for its wit, wisdom, and a deep sense of humanity, serves as a source of inspiration for up and coming artists everywhere. “That is what art is for,” he says. “We tell stories to engender empathy in one another and we love it. Humans are fucking gorgeous, man.”

Listen to the full conversation with Tim Minchin on the Variety Australia Podcast anywhere you get your podcasts. This is the third exclusive episode presented by JMC Academy

Explore JMC Academy’s range of creative courses here, including the unique Masters of Creative Industries Post Graduate program where undergraduates can learn how to turn their original idea into a commercially viable project. Applications are now open for 2024.