Interview with Tim Key

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LIAM WILLIAMS samples TIM KEY's view of comedy: 'It does make you happy. It doesn’t destroy your personal relationships. That’s what I’ve found.'

Tim Key is one of the most successful and innovate Footlights Alumnus of his generation, and a comedian who has had an unparalleled influence on the current crop of Cambridge Comedians. Local boy Key lied about being a member of the university to get a place in the 2001 Tour Show ‘Far Too Happy’, which also starred Mark Watson and Sophie Winkleman.

It won the Perrier Best New Comedy Award at the Fringe that year – the first time a Footlights show has achieved such recognition since the 1981 show starring Fry, Laurie and Thompson. After Cambridge, key formed the sketch-group Cowards with Tom Basden, Stefan Golaszewski and Lloyd Woolf, enjoying two BBC Radio 4 Series and a BBC 3 series with the group. 

Last year, he won the Edinburgh Comedy Award (formerly the Perrier) for his show ‘The Slutcracker’, which featured his famously sparse poetry, some elegant short films, Kronenburg and one of the most inspired pieces of physical comedy I’ve ever witnessed.  Key has also published two books, been nominated for a BAFTA, and is perhaps best known as ‘the poet off of Screenwipe’.

I interviewed him ahead of his Howler on May 10th, (tomorrow if you’re reading this on the 9th) to find out what he’s been up…



What have you been up to since you spoke to Varsity, in March?

The main thing is I went to Australia. I did “The Slutcracker” (my poetical stageshow) in Melbourne and then took advantage of Iceland’s volcanoes to stay there an extra week largely phoning Qantas and “getting into lawn bowls”.

How did the preparation for the London Marathon go? 

It went tits up. My legs became ragged and I had to stop. I’m going to do the Great North Run instead. That’s more my type of thing. It’s a shorter race and there’s more of a Geordie theme going on.

Have you enjoyed the election?

Yup, got quite into it once I got back. And my polling station was in the same building that I live in. I voted in my slippers.

Did winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year make comedy-life easier?

Better. Not easier particularly. You have to work hard otherwise the whole thing falls apart. But it did make things possible that wouldn’t have been possible before – primarily in terms of doing my own show. I get to go around the world with it a bit. It’s mainly just nice to be on that list of comedians. It’s mind-blowing to be fair.

And what have you got planned for Edinburgh 2010?

I’m just going up for a couple of weeks. My longtime colleague Alex Horne (an affable gap-toothed joker) is doing a show with a live band called The Horne Section. I’m going to do some poems for that. I’m also going to do a short run of The Slutcracker. It will be after midnight so I imagine there’ll be a bit of work needed to get drunkards down with my poems. I’m also going to launch an album and do a lot of running. That’s the current plan.

Do audiences ever not 'get' you?


What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

Writing a film (with Tom Basden) and starting to construct my new stage show. I want to make more Cowards and We Need Answers but currently the BBC aren’t so sure.

Were you delighted with your second book (Instructions, guidelines, tutelage, suggestions, other suggestions and examples etc. An attempted book by Tim Key. (And descriptions/conversations/a piece about a moth))? 

I have no idea what to think about that book. I think it looks beautiful but it’s a pretty specific type of a book really. I just wrote each piece so quickly that it’s quite all over the place. That was deliberate. But I’ll be interested to see what I think of it a few years down the line.

Can you imagine performing and writing as an old man?

Yeah, definitely. I hope at that stage I’ll be writing some quite wise things and everyone will think it’s ideal.

Were you involved with Footlights other than the tour show? As an outsider, what was your impression of Footlights as a society? 

Yeah I did the Pantomime and I did the Spring Revue. As an outsider I got muddled and thought you had to do all of them in order to be eligible to do the tour show. That’s not the case, I learnt. I never saw Footlights as anything other than a positive thing but I guess I had a pretty nice ride through it.  The tour show itself was pretty dreamy. You know straight away that there’s a bit of talent in the room. 

Was directing the Footlights Tour Show rewarding?

It was. It was hard work though. I read Mike Brearley’s book about captaincy before I started it because I had no idea how to lead a group of people. And I’m not sure how well I did it. But it was great working with Mark (Watson) and evidently I loved the cast. Three of them went on to become Cowards with me and I was best man to one of the other ones. 

That said, I preferred the one when I was in it. Just because you can take more responsibility during the performance. It’s not the done thing for a director to shout instructions. 

Does a career in comedy make you happy/destroy your personal relationships?

It does make you happy. It doesn’t destroy your personal relationships. That’s what I’ve found.

Have you been back to Cambridge to perform since Footlights days? 

I went back a few years ago and no one turned up so we cancelled the show… I think we’ll come and bring our shows again sometime soon but this time put up more posters and tweet about it to right that wrong.


Tim Key will be appearing at the Wolfson Howler on Monday 10th May. For more information visit the Facebook page or email

  • Warrior7275

    Fuck you, you cunt…#Nofriends

  • SOSA

    Bang Bang, thats that shit I dont like

  • iloveviper

    preaching the truth about those people man

  • shotsfired

    Surprised we took in rebel trash like you. #rentboy #breachingthepeace

  • Rory

    Was this because you got locked outside naked??

  • SOSA

    Buck, buck… its Macaroni Time
    Buck, (buck)… and it’s Macaroni Time
    Bang, bang…
    She say she love my car… fuck love
    She see me with the stars, now she wanna know me now
    Unh-unh, bitch I told you now, I’m actin’ funny now
    Buck, buck… and we scream “it’s Macaroni Time!”

  • SOSA

    Since that bitch like emojis
    She like to text emojis
    I sent her a emoji like don’t call my phone please
    No I don’t like macaroni
    No you didn’t cook it for me
    That bitch make me wish I never made that song, she get the stalkin trophy

  • Verity

    Heard you got kicked out for stealing a bed. #Pikeycunt

    • William Lim

      Where’s your kids dad? #pikeymum

      • Verity Farrell

        That was actually Pete, Cheers for that you fucking Asshole.

  • Jeremy Kyle

    man you dont know shit about the common room, we got more pussy than you

  • Chesse

    It’s the knobs who run round naked who really ruin it

  • concerned mum

    I am the food thief of B-block.

  • concerned mum

    You’ll never catch me now!

  • MiserableCunt

    The Bulgarians throwing up on the corridor and leaving it for several days was a high point. Oh, and we weren’t as bad as UKIP. We were much much worse.

  • UKIP

    Don’t remember you at all, but you sound like a miserable cunt.

  • Wolfson Warrior

    This made me laugh but the people at Wolfson are the best!

  • ThePotatoPeeler

    Why wouldn’t you live on campus? Life is 1000x easier.

  • PinkJumperAloneAtTheBack

    It is, however, just about acceptable if you are a lazy, anti-social sod who can’t cook without engulfing the draperies and dream of living in hermitage.

    (Myself, then.)

  • wordtoyourmother

    Criminally underknown.

  • miter saw reviews

    Lol at the picture. There is something about "far too happy" that don't fit in that picture, they all look so sad.

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