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Tim Minchin is a tough act to explain. He's a musician, a satirist and a comedian; a frustrated rocker, an accomplished composer and an outspoken skeptic; a man who loves children as much as he does expletives.
In 2005, the Australian performer won the award for Best Newcomer at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In just a few years, Minchin, born in Perth, has gone from playing small clubs to selling out the Sydney Opera House and the largest arenas in Britain. He tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon that creating his act — which combines elements of music, theater and comedy — took a little trial and error.
"I'd always been an angsty teenage poet and that sort of thing — but I found, when writing lyrics, that I couldn't write like Dylan or any of the rock stars. I couldn't write this sparse, non-didactic, open-to-interpretation stuff," Minchin says. "I've always been drawn to mock my own emotions, and so I write this very lyric-heavy stuff, which suits theater and comedy much more than it suits pop. Which is why I'm here."
Minchin performed two songs at the piano in NPR's studio: "Rock N' Roll Nerd" and "White Wine in the Sun." He says that the first of those is essentially autobiographical, though he gives his character an exaggerated sense of musical ambition.
"The only fiction in 'Rock N' Roll Nerd' is the idea of a kid who always wanted to be a rock star. In fact, it never crossed my mind that I was allowed to even be a musician for a living," Minchin says. "I'm the son of a surgeon and the grandson of a surgeon. It wasn't on my radar until, almost after the fact, I kind of looked behind me and went, 'Oh, I've been a musician for a while. I guess this is what I'm doing.' "