When Tim Minchin – actor, comedian, confirmed atheist – decided to take his comedy to America's Bible belt, we were concerned he might be burnt at the stake. Here, he describes what happened next…
Tim Minchin in The Observer:
Whenever a friend or fan finds out I've started touring the States, there is an inevitable raising of the eyebrows (or eyebrow, if they are blessed with that most enviable of talents). There are two reasons behind such browular elevations, the first of which is born of comedy snobbery: Brits and Aussies are very fond of saying that Americans “don't get irony”. This is absurd; if anything, they don't get absurdity, which the Brits and the Irish probably “get” better than anyone else. Apart from that, I have observed a surprising consistency in what makes people laugh, notwithstanding geography-specific subject matter, which I avoid. (The only other cultural-comic quirks I have observed are that the English really like camp men making thinly veiled bum-sex double entendres, and Australians love swearing. We think it's fucking hilarious.)
The second thing that concerns people about me touring the US is that they fear my penchant for jaunty-but-vehement criticism of religion will at best result in empty auditoriums, and at worst get me shot. But the perception that the country is packed wall-to-wall with Christian fundies is as specious as the irony myth. There is no doubt that many Americans have what seems to be a near-erotic relationship with the two-millennium-dead Middle-Eastern Jewish magician-preacher we call Jesus. But there are frickin' loads of people in America, and even if the percentage of the population that is not religious is only 10% (it's a much greater number, surely), then there are still 33 million potential ticket-buyers.