Tim Key: ‘I listen to a lot of soviet lounge music’

Edinburgh Comedy Award winner Tim Key talks us through his introduction to stand up and festival shows.

As a mere peasant, I’ve often wondered what do stand up’s do with their days? Is it a dream life?

It’s not actually, it’s more angsty, making sure that you feel like you’re working all the time. I think it’s a nightmare life really. Well it’s alright, there’s times when you can do things like watch cricket for a whole afternoon but mainly you have to motivate yourself to get up and start writing.

I guess the routine of daytime TV is always a real danger?

You can’t [get into it] but I watch a lot of that. I can kind of keep away from it until lunch but then I start watching it at lunch and it’s difficult. TV shows are quite clever in that they draw you in, you accidentally watch the first five minutes of Deal or No Deal then you want to see how greedy that piece of shit is going to be. I watch a lot more than I should I think.

How do you see yourself, as a comedian, a poet, or somewhere between the two?

Somewhere juggling between the two basically. Sometimes I describe myself as doing both, but also you could argue it the other way and say I do neither. I’m not a flat out stand up comedian I don’t think in that I lean quote heavily on the poems but then to hold myself as just a poet would seem a little ridiculous as well. I guess I’m kind of a comedian who leans quite heavily on poetry.

I did stand up about ten years ago and that was kind of horse shit so I stopped and then did all the other stuff like sketch comedy and character comedy which I was much moore comfortable doing but I had a real desire to stand up with a microphone and talk.

To be fair i didn’t know exactly what they [poems] were, they weren’t exactly jokey, the first few hundred I wrote, they’re kind of just peculiarities so it’s fair to say I didn’t arrogantly expect them to be laughed at. I kind of decided to do them in front of an audience to see what the reaction would be.

Was poetry always something you enjoyed since being a child?

No, not really. I guess when I was a teenager I really enjoyed John Hegley’s stuff, but that’s also kind of whimsical stuff. I didn’t enjoy carving up a sonnet, it wasn’t a case of ‘finally I’m a poet now’. I actually read and see more poetry than I would have done nowadays because I’m on bills with some quite amazing poets.

You played Latitude last year, how do you find playing festival crowds?

To be honest I’ve always had a kind of fear of doing it because it feels so unmanageable and so kind of sprawling, people going in and going out is obviousy different from what I’m used to when I sell tickets for a show which is just my name. I did Latitude this year and I must say I really enjoyed that, it was one of my favourite gigs I’ve done. It felt exactly as it would be sold to you, as a nice thing to do, some poetry, it’s late afternoon and it’s relaxed, just hipsters drinking cider and moseying around and popping in to watch a bit of  poetry. I really did enjoy it, I think I’ll try and go back.

I often get offered these festivals and I think I’m not so sure, you don’t want to be the guy who people just are treading water watching before they watch their favourite band and not really that interested in what you do.

Are you a big music fan yourself?

No, I’m not really. My music tastes are pretty peculiar. I listen to most of my music with a view to playing it under my poems at my shows, so I listen to a lot of soviet lounge music. I’ve got a friend round at the moment and he’s really fed up because I’m playing Handel and he’s REALLY furious.

I like classical, and I really enjoy Russian rock as well. There’s a band called Lenigrad which is my favourite of the Russian rock bands. I suppose they’re closest in the music they make to Madness, it has the same vibe as Madness. What you need to be googling is ‘Vodka is Wicked’.

The new book, ‘The Incomplete Tim Key’ is out now, what’s missing from it?

This is about it, this represents about a quarter of my poems, so theoretically although they are peculiar, they are still theoretically the cream of what I’ve written. This is the best of, if you don’t like it by all means don’t read anything else because all the other stuff is much worse.

What can people expect from you on the ‘Lyrical’ night of the first direct Dialogue Festival?

I’m doing about 45 minute set so it’ll be some stuff from my new show then some stuff from my old shows, so a compilation of my stuff. The night as a whole, I’ve just been looking at it, and it’s extremely eclectic. My night I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so eclectic, John Cooper Clarke, and in my venue some Hip Hop Shakespare featuring Bashy. Fairly eclectic. I think that’s the feel of the festival. 

It’s the kind of festival I look at and think I will go to it as well as being in it. It’s not the kind of thing where you go, do it and go home. It looks like a genuinely interesting festival.

Tim Key will be performing at the first direct Dialogue Festival 2011 as part of the Lyrical Night on Thursday 4th November. Robin Ince, Adam Buxton, John Hegley, Richard Herring and Perez Hilton appear across the four day festival in Notting Hill. Tickets range from free to £10.

For more details on the first direct Dialogue Festival click here.

Tim Key will be performing ‘Master Slut‘ through December-January at the Soho Theatre. For full details visit his website.