On my radar: Tim Minchin's cultural highlights

The comedian and musician on David Tennant as a camp demon, kayaking in Kangaroo Valley, and why the world is getting better

Writer, comedian and musician Tim Minchin was born in Northampton in 1975, and raised in Perth, Australia. He found fame through standup shows at Melbourne and Edinburgh festivals in 2005, but his work adapting the stories of Matilda in 2010 and Groundhog Day in 2016 into stage musicals brought him international acclaim. This year he released his debut album, Apart Together. His 2019 TV show Upright is out now on DVD and digital.

1. TV

Good Omens, Amazon Prime

Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens.
Michael Sheen and David Tennant in Good Omens. Photograph: Amazon Prime Video/PA

I’m really bad at watching telly, but I’m a lifelong fan of Terry Pratchett and I vividly remember reading this book, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. As someone who’s spent a lot of time adapting works, I also really wanted to see how [the production team] tackled it. I think they really captured it. There’s something so British about their Armageddon. It’s sort of camp, especially David Tennant’s Mick Jaggery demon.

2. Place

Kangaroo Valley

Kangaroo Valley, Australia.
Kangaroo Valley, Australia. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

My family moved to Sydney a couple of years ago and we’ve been taking holidays a two-hour drive from our house ever since. We’ve been to the Blue Mountains, the northern beaches, but in the last six months we’ve discovered the south coast and, in particular, Kangaroo Valley. It has a weird microclimate, so it’s like a rainforest – and the birds, man, the birds! They never shut up, they are relentless little bastards. We’ve been kayaking down the Kangaroo River and bushwalking. Beautiful.

3. Album

I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty

Watch the video for I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty.

I don’t listen to modern music, other than what my kids play. I find it stressful because it’s all tied up with my professional life. American singer-songwriter Father John Misty is the exception. He’s six years younger than me but sings with twice the maturity. When I wanted to record an album I had to really think about who I am and what I wanted to say because I’m used to trying to think like a five-year-old genius or end on a comedy punchline. He is a songwriter using words as tools to create beautiful lyrics. I listened to I Love You, Honeybear so much when I was writing my own album.

4. Nonfiction

Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman

Rutger Bregman.
Rutger Bregman. Photograph: Mirka Laura Severa/The Observer

I try to read about the planet and humanity. This book is kind of bullshit. I mean, if you want something with a thorough dataset that informs the author’s conclusions, you’re barking up the wrong book. But I really believe these positive stories are worth reading. We lefty liberals are so ready to say the world’s a disaster and pile on to anyone who thinks otherwise – such as Dutch historian Rutger Bregman. But humans are a collaborative species and the world is getting better. Books like Humankind are flawed but an important part of the conversation.

5. Documentary

Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (dir Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin)

Tara Robertson, Beau Dean Riley Smith and Kaine Sultan-Babij performing Bennelong, for Bangarra Dance Company, at the Sydney Opera House, June 2017.
Tara Robertson, Beau Dean Riley Smith and Kaine Sultan-Babij performing Bennelong, for Bangarra Dance Company, at the Sydney Opera House, June 2017. Photograph: Vishal Pandey

This was shown at the Byron Bay film festival in October: it’s a documentary to mark 30 years of the Bangarra Dance Theatre company. Bangarra – which is a Wiradjuri word meaning “make fire” – is an iconic Australian institution, it’s an indigenous dance company and the history is full of heartbreak and grief. To try and tell the story respectfully was really hard, but as a piece of documentary film, this is so good.

The Dutch House by Anne Patchett

6. Novel

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

I bought this because I enjoyed Patchett’s book Bel Canto so much 15 years ago. She writes in a way that you think: “Oh this is going to be thoughtful, literary, a meditation on the human condition…” But then it’s just a cracking story. Bel Canto was a heist story and The Dutch House is a novel about how a house becomes an avatar for the soul of this very broken Philadelphia family, the Conroys. I just think she writes so well. I’d love to find her and meet her and ask: “How do you write like that? Seriously, how do you do it?”


Alice Fisher

The GuardianTramp

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