Tim Minchin is one of my favorite comedians, let alone one of my favorite comedians who is equally brilliant as a musical comedian and a musician.
Minchin was supposed to be on the telly Friday night in the UK on ITV’s broadcast of The Jonathan Ross Show. Ross and the producers had asked him to write a special Christmas song just for the show. The song Minchin wrote and performed, “Woody Allen Jesus,” compares Christ to the living comedian, and even jokingly suggests that a comparison can be made between Christ and Minchin himself.
But Minchin told fans today that he learned the song wouldn’t make it to air tonight. He goes on further, but first, let’s take a look at the footage. Roll it!
This song was meant to air on the Jonathan Ross Show tomorrow night (23rd December 2011), but at the last minute ITV cut it. Here’s my whiney blog about it (originally published at www.timminchin.com):
I really like Jonathan Ross. I think he’s a funny, interesting, kind person, and an excellent interviewer. I also really like his wife… But let’s not get back into that.
Jonathan and his wonderful producer, Suzi, have been incredibly supportive of me and so when they asked me to write a song for their pre-Christmas show, I didn’t hesitate. It was the worst possible time to be writing a new song — I’ve been overworked and ill, was on tour, and was really feeling the stress. But I wasn’t going to say no… it’s Jonathan Ross! And my fellow guests were to be Tom Cruise, the divine actors from Downton Abbey, and the ace In-Betweeners boys.
So I got to writing. Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.
It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…
On Tuesday night last week, we taped the show. I met Tom (he’s nice and quite laid-back off camera, and not very short) and the divine Downton ladies (swoon) and the lovely In-Betweeners chaps (yay) and I did my song and everyone laughed and Tom said it was great and when it was done I ran off set onto the back of a waiting motorbike, got from South Bank to the Hammersmith Apollo in 13 minutes, walked into the building, straight on to stage to sing White Wine in the Sun with Professor Brian Cox. Rock n roll.
Subsequently, Suzi and her team edited the show and everybody was happy. Suzi felt it had a nice balance of big-ticket celeb action, local talent, and a nice bit of that cheeky, iconoclastic spirit for which Jonathan is known and widely loved.
And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.
And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.
He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.
Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.
But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.
It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.
And anger when they’re being bigots.
Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.
Anywaaaaaaaaaay… the fun news is that I already had the footage of the song when they cut it. Yay. And so you can decide for yourself how offensive it is! Yippee.
I hope you enjoy my silly, harmless, accurate song of praise, “Woody Allen Jesus”.
And I hope you all have wonderful Christmases.
An ITV spokesperson told UK comedy site Chortle that Minchin’s song didn’t fit the broadcast tonally: “It’s not unusual for there to be changes to the show in the edit, as we shoot more than goes out, and we felt the tone wasn’t quite right for the Christmas show. But we do think Tim’s very talented and would love him to work with him on ITV shows again in the future.”
Here is a safer Christmas song Minchin debuted two years ago. You’re all sure to love it. It’s the other one Minchin references in his blog post today, and it’s called “White Wine in the Sun.” Roll that and enjoy your holiday without getting too political or crazy religious. Just love one another.