Tim Key is the weird and wonderful comedian whose shows incorporate everything from poetry, film to borderline performance art.
His latest masterpiece, ‘Masterslut’, has transferred from Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival to London’s Soho Theatre for a much-anticipated, month-long run. A man of many talents, Key has also co-created radio series, starred in BAFTA nominated short films, released an album, performed his poetry on Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe and appeared alongside Alan Partridge in the YouTube sensation Mid Morning Matters. For his current moment in the spotlight, Masterslut incorporates typically fun and surreal amalgamations of poetry, film and pure showmanship that break from the current forms of egotistical, solo stand-up. But, as he tells i-D online, Key wouldn’t mind the idea of being a tortured comedy genius.
Some say you’re an acquired taste. Would you agree? Haha yeah… Er I guess I am… Who described me as that? I guess I’m not for everyone!
If you had one word to describe a Tim Key show what would it be? You’re going to need a lot of hyphens here, but I think ‘all-over-the-place’ isn’t bad.
How was the rehearsal process for Masterslut – did you do rehearsals? Yeah they went well – it’s not really a rehearsal situation. I did the show in the summer at Edinburgh so it’s more a case of laminating nudie playing cards.
You made your mark at Edinburgh Fringe – how important is the event to showcase radical and creative styles of comedy? Edinburgh is amazing – there’s so much opportunity to be a little bit more experimental. There’s room to – not fail per se – but there’s definitely a spirit of experimentation. I know if ever I’m watching someone and they’ve been creatively ambitious you just think “good on you” – that’s when Edinburgh’s at its best – when people take risks.
You snuck yourself into Cambridge Footlights even though you didn’t go to Cambridge… How did you manage that? I managed it by concealing some key information about my current status. Not lying – I never said I’m not a Cambridge Student, but I never said I was. I kept it a secret for around six months and by then I was in the clear. I had to exhibit a certain amount of behaviour consistent with a student. The director said he knew and it was fine but that I better not mention it to anyone else – he was my guardian angel. If I hadn’t done that there’s absolutely no way I would be in a job now. Lying… I need to do more of it think.
Tell us about Masterslut – does it follow on form the other ‘slut’ shows? Haha… Yeah it does follow on from the other ‘slut’ shows – the building blocks are the same as ‘The Slutcracker’ – there’s poetry, talking and beautifully shot little films on a screen behind me. The real big innovation is that finally I’ve got a bath on stage.
Lots of reviews talk about you as a genius but also melancholic – people seem to like the idea of comedians as tortured geniuses – do you see yourself this way? Oh yeah. That is definitely something I’d like to consummate – talk about that in your intro! There’s your headline. Maybe have fun with the second word but tortured has got to be in there!
You recently performed opposite Steve Coogan in ‘Mid Morning Matters’ – how was working with such an established comedy ‘institution’? Yeah it was pretty amazing – it did hit that sweet spot; I used to watch his shows when I was 18. Being trapped in a room with him was very surreal – he is a comedy genius. It was intimidating but being with this monstrous creation is also just unnerving. Very weird experience; you’re at work doing your job and every time you look across its Alan Partridge.
Comedy competition ‘No More Women’ also became an internet sensation and you also write Twitter poems – do you think the internet is the way forward for comedy… Or poetry? Well I hope not. There’s a lot of good stuff – its instant, you can get it out there to more people. But I think I do prefer doing more substantial stuff – I guess what I’m saying is I prefer doing live shows. I mean my poems on Twitter – they’re just ridiculous. I write a poem and look at the word count and then I go through it literally cutting adjectives. Sometimes it helps bring out the idea, and sometimes you just think…well it’s no way near as good but I can allow that!
Tim Key’s Masterslut is at Soho Theatre 8th Dec – 7th Jan.
Text: William Severs