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Interview: Tim Key


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For some people, comedy is just a case of telling jokes, but for others it can be so much more. Tim Key is both a comedian and poet, and manages to combine these two skills into one fantastic performance. So why has Key chosen to focus on poetry, rather than conventional gags?

Tim Key“I started writing poetry on the bus and on the tube, I had a little notepad and I started writing really small poems that fitted each page. It started filling up a bit so I thought I'd push on through and fill my book up. Shortly after doing that I was asked to do a gig, I still had no skills as a stand up so I thought I'd do poetry and see how that worked. It worked pretty well,” Key said.

“It started there and I carried on writing and doing poetry as a sort of antidote to the pithy kind of brain hurting comedy where you have to think about structure. This was something where I could just flick off a few lines in a café and perform it that night.”

Key is gearing up for his mini UK tour in February of his 2009 Perrier award winning show, The Slutcracker. A show full of poetry, music and more unconventional comedy styles for which Tim Key is becoming synonymous with.

“I tried to keep it as close to the original show in 2009 as possible, because I'm developing a new show but I don't really want to gradually morph the old show into the new one. It's advertised as The Slutcracker so it will be The Slutcracker, although because obviously I've now performed it so many times it develops within itself, but the poems are the same ones I did the first night in Edinburgh.”

Key has been a favourite of Edinburgh Fringe Festival in recent years, it's also the city where he found fame with his anarchic BBC Four gameshow, We Need Answers, which he co-presented with friends and fellow comedians Alex Horne and Mark Watson. The unconventional presenting style and having questions based around the AQA/63336 answer service always provided brilliant yet sometimes confusing television.

“It's a really unnatural thing, which was constantly the problem throughout the process, it's not natural, there's too many of us. There's not many shows where the host says; 'Right here's the first question, by the way I'm not going to be asking the questions', then someone flies in and asks questions then f**ks off back to his little area. Then at the end of the quiz it normally goes back to the host who says 'Hmm, interesting round', but it doesn't it hands back to Alex who's going to talk about it,” Key explained.

“We did it in Edinburgh at late nights live for two years at midnight, so it was a really drunken, really loose affair and it was picked up on by the BBC. Then there was the small task of condensing it down from an hour and a half of completely lashed all over the place behaviour with a lot of swearing to a 28 minute, pseudo-intellectual show on BBC Four.”

Most recently, though, Tim Key was the co-star of the internet version of I'm Alan Partridge, entitled Mid Morning Matters. An experience that Key described as “mind-blowing”.

“It couldn't really have been a bigger job for me, it was completely nuts. I had to meet Steve Coogan who 15 years before was a complete hero of mine, I could quote all of his work, and obviously he remains a hero. It's pretty difficult to overestimate exactly how big a job that was (laughs).”

“The nature of the show is pretty intense because it's shot in a radio studio and there's literally a soundproof door between you and everyone else, there's no cameraman in there, there's just two fixed cameras. The job mainly entails me sitting with Alan Partridge, alone, in a soundproof room so it's slightly surreal and amazing, it's an amazing job.”

Tim Key is on tour with The Slutcracker next month. For details see:

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