Muse and amuse … Tim Minchin says he was a musician before he was a comedian.
Tim Minchin may have played concerts with orchestras around Australia, have created a successful West End musical based on Roald Dahl's story Matilda, and be hobnobbing with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber after playing, to widespread praise, Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar.
He may be a whip-smart comedian who can lance big-name targets the way a doctor lances boils - with similar yowls of pain from his victims - and have the look of a goth rocker gone to seed. And yes, he has several degrees in English, theatre and the performing arts.
Whatever. We all know the height of cultural fame is having done Jesus Christ Superstar opposite Melanie ''Mel C'' Chisholm of the Spice Girls. Cue much laughter, mostly mocking, about a Spice Girl going legit.
Except from Minchin, who, apart from praising Chisholm as a talented and capable professional, got a firsthand look at real tabloid fame while doing press alongside her.
''I realise how different my experience has been,'' he says - gratefully more than regretfully - revealing also that before moving to Melbourne in 2001, his home-town Perth band had only two covers among their originals, one being the Spice Girls' Wannabe.
''And we did it utterly seriously.
''I had a Spice Girls poster in the hallway of my flat in Melbourne until 2005. And I'm not yet gay. There was an irony to that but I loved disco and I loved Bacharach and I loved pop.''
And no, this isn't a bit of luvvie talk by one thesp about another while the tape recorder is still on.
''The other thing I've learnt in the past couple of years, having met amazing people, is their reputation and the weight of their fame lasts about one minute,'' Minchin says. ''I sit there saying, 'Shit, I'm talking to Mel C, I'm talking to Steve Jones, I'm talking to Dave Gilmour or Sir Paul [McCartney].' Within that minute, almost before your eyes, they morph into humans from the legend you've made of them.''
In any case, Minchin says he long ago lost interest in writing about or mocking celebrities, finding it both merely a cheap thrill and a sign of a limited imagination. He is far more interested in writing about someone such as Oprah Winfrey (''because she promotes bad science'') or the Pope (because he's culturally significant and provocative and also because the idea of the Pope having a disco is, well, excellent).
Speaking of excellent, Minchin's mention of Burt Bacharach is a reminder that while comedy is his metier, music is his passion. In an even earlier musical incarnation in Perth he performed in a Bacharach tribute band, discovering that those classic songs are anything but simple.
''They're really hard,'' Minchin says. ''He loved putting in bars of 2/5 in the middle of a song, really cruel. But I got addicted to it and it probably influenced my writing.''
As did Bacharach's lyricist, Hal David.
''It's like Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice,'' Minchin explains. ''I'm doing JC at the moment and I love the music but the lyrics drive it all. The story is the lyrics but it's not a Tim Rice musical, is it?
''What I don't think people understand is the best songs are written when the music is a slave to the lyrics. You notice a song where the lyrics are slaves to the music, the words turn upside down and the em-PHAR-sis is on the wrong syl-LA-ble and that kind of stuff.''
For all the wit and bite, however, it would be a mistake to assume a Tim Minchin song is about the words only.
''I'm relentless in making sure the music is as sophisticated [as the lyrical ideas]. Not sophisticated compared to Philip Glass but sophisticated compared to Kevin Bloody Wilson or someone with a ukulele in a comedy club,'' Minchin says.
''I'm absolutely a musician first - I was a songwriter before I was a comedian - and I am driven to make sure that neither side lets the team down.''
Maybe never more so than when he makes an appearance at the Homebake festival playing with his band and unashamedly turning it up to 11.
''I don't do any stand-up or ranting; it's closer to watching They Might Be Giants or Barenaked Ladies but just the other side of comedy and music,'' Minchin says. ''But I'm also bringing my band from the UK and we rock out.
''I think if I was a kid I'd really be into it because it's like watching really high-octane, very silly, proper loud musos thrashing the f--- out of songs.''
So if it's not funny, at the least it will be damned noisy.
''That's exactly right,'' he says. ''If in doubt, be loud.''
Tim Minchin performs at Homebake in The Domain on December 8.