Tim Key

Tim Key

Tim Key in 2010
Born (1976-09-02) 2 September 1976
Cambridgeshire, England
Medium Stand-up, Television, Radio
Nationality British
Years active 2001present
Genres Poetry
Website http://www.timkey.co.uk/

Tim Key (born 2 September 1976 in Cambridgeshire[1]) is an English actor, writer, and performance poet. In 2009, he was the winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award and was also nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality.[2]

Early life

Tim Key attended secondary school at Histon and Impington Village College; Hills Road Sixth Form College and subsequently the University of Sheffield, where he studied Russian. Following graduation he returned to his native Cambridge where he eventually joined the Cambridge Footlights. Through The Footlights, Key met future colleagues Tom Basden, Stefan Golaszewski and Lloyd Woolf; with whom he formed sketch group Cowards.

Edinburgh Fringe

Key was first noticed in the stage production Far Too Happy with the Cambridge Footlights (although not attending Cambridge University itself) which was at the Edinburgh Fringe and was nominated for a Perrier Award for Best Newcomer. This show also featured comedian Mark Watson and actress Sophie Winkleman.

In 2003, Key returned to Edinburgh directing (with Mark Watson) a sketch show - "Non-Sexual Kissing"; and performing in Alex Horne's "Making Fish Laugh". The latter was nominated for a Perrier Best Newcomer Award.

In 2004, Key took "Luke & Stella" to Edinburgh. This was a tragic one-man comedy play about a div-boy called Luke who has all sorts of problems one evening. He also performed in Alex Horne's Every Body Talks and Mark Watson's 24-hour show.

In 2005, Key took the four-man sketch group Cowards to Edinburgh.[3] Key also performed in Alex Horne's When In Rome and Mark Watson's 2005 minute show.

In 2006, Cowards returned to Edinburgh and Key performed in Mark Watson's 36-hour show.

In 2007, Key took his first solo poetry show to Edinburgh. It was called The Slut in the Hut and sold out. In this year We Need Answers also debuted. Key was question master in a debauched quiz to find the smartest comedian. Mark Watson and Alex Horne made up a trio of hosts who ultimately crowned Paul Sinha the first winner of this show. Guests on We Need Answers included Germaine Greer, Sharon Horgan and Miranda Hart. Key also starred in Mark Watson's 24-hour jamboree.

In 2008, Key performed Freeze in Edinburgh. Freeze is a two-hander with Tom Basden. There was also a run of We Need Answers. Josie Long defeated Kristen Schaal to lift the title.

In 2009, Key took his second solo poetry show to Edinburgh, entitled The Slutcracker. It featured what some have described as "deliberately bad poetry", some of which is about zebras. Key has subsequently stated that his poetry is "deliberately" bad. The show also incorporated subtle references to cooking, and several short films in which Key variously appears as a bearded woman, a bearded man, and an office worker overseeing the slaughter of an eel. The show won the 2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award.[4] He additionally starred in a comic play Party, written by Tom Basden, also featuring Jonny Sweet, Anna Crilly, Katy Wix and Nick Mohammed. He also featured in Mark Watson's final 24-hour show.

In 2010, Key brought The Slutcracker to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

In 2011, Key returned to Edinburgh with Masterslut, at the Pleasance Dome. He was also one of the contestants in Taskmaster II, in which Alex Horne challenged comedians to complete numerous tasks for points. Key placed third.

In 2014, Key did another show following the "slutty" theme, entitled "Single White Slut", in the Pleasance Grand.


Key co-starred in Daniel Kitson's "Tree" when it premiered at the Royal Exchange, Manchester in September 2013.[5] The play then transferred to The Old Vic in 2015.[6]

Key is due to appear alongside Paul Ritter and Rufus Sewell in Yasmina Reza's 'Art' at The Old Vic directed by Matthew Warchus from December 2016 to February 2017.[7]

Radio & television

In 2005, Key was commissioned to write a radio show for BBC Radio 4 based on his stage show Luke & Stella. The show's name changed to All Bar Luke and was produced by Seb Barwell for Angel Eye. Series 1 aired in 2006, series 2 aired in 2007. The third series aired for the first time in Summer 2008. A Christmas special was broadcast in Christmas 2009.

In 2006, Key worked on Time Trumpet, Armando Iannucci's inventive sketch show set in thirty years time and reflecting on the present and the future. Key took the part of an EastEnders special effects supervisor. He worked with Iannucci again on a pilot, Shush, by Rebecca Front, Morwenna Banks and Arthur Mathews.

There have also been two series of Cowards on BBC Radio 4, produced by Victoria Lloyd. The first series aired in April 2007, and series two was broadcast in 2008. Both have since been released on CD by BBC Worldwide. In 2009 Cowards transferred to BBC Four. directed by Steve Bendelack, and produced by Seb Barwell.

Key was also resident poet on Out To Lunch on BBC Radio 2 in 2007.

In 2007, Key appeared on Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, reading a poem about Deal Or No Deal and again in November 2008, reading other poems about the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross media spectacle, and children's TV advertising.

In 2008 and 2009, Key was resident poet on the radio show Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better hosted by Mark Watson, on BBC Radio 4, each week reading a poem about human virtues. In series one of the show, Tim Minchin provided music and songs, with Tom Basden taking the role in series two.

In 2009, Key also co-created We Need Answers, a panel show pitting two celebrities against each other, for BBC Four. Mark Watson and Alex Horne made the show with Key and celebrities answering questions included Germaine Greer, Neil Innes and Robert Llewellyn.

In 2009, Key appeared on the spin-off television series Charlie Brooker's Newswipe, reading poems in a section named "The Topical Poetry of Tim Key". He returned with his poetry in the second series of Newswipe in 2010.

In 2010, Key appeared as Duncan in Tom Basden's BBC Radio 4 sitcom Party.[8]

In November 2010, Key appeared as "Sidekick Simon" alongside Steve Coogan on Mid Morning Matters, a new online series based on Coogan's Alan Partridge character. The series was also broadcast on Sky Atlantic in 2012.

In 2010, he appeared on the music panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks.

In 2011, he appeared as a TV interviewer in episode 2 of the sitcom Life's Too Short.

Also in 2011, he returned to BBC Radio 4 with Mark Watson and Tom Basden, for a six-week, live variation on Mark Watson Makes the World Substantially Better entitled Mark Watson's Live Address To The Nation. Key and Basden again contributed poetry, music and general interjections, and assisted Watson in carrying out various challenges at the end of the show as decided by the listeners.

In July 2011, he presented his first documentary for BBC Radio 4, Tim Key's Suspended Sentence,[9] about famous first lines in literary history, including A Tale of Two Cities, Moby Dick, and Tristram Shandy, under the pretence of writing his own first novel. The programme also featured examples from the Bulwer–Lytton Fiction Contest. His second documentary for Radio 4, Tim Key and Gogol's Overcoat, aired in November 2012.[10]

In 2012, he reunited with Tom Basden for Tim Key's Late Night Poetry Programme on BBC Radio 4; a six-week run of 15 minute segments featuring Tim Key reading poetry with Tom Basden providing musical accompaniment, intercut with banter between the two comedians. The programme started on 22 February and ran until 28 March 2012. Topics included Family, Death, Chance, Superstition, Egypt, and Work.

Also in 2012, he made a short cameo appearance as a hospital doctor in the Series Six of the E4 show Skins.

In 2013, Key appeared as a care worker in Richard Ayoade's The Double.

In 2014, Key played Ian in the Inside No. 9 episode "Sardines". His performance was particularly praised,[11][12] with one journalist calling him "an unsung hero of British comedy".[13]

In 2014, Key played a passive-aggressive slave named Mushki In season two, episode five of Plebs (set in ancient Rome).

In 2015, Key starred as himself as a panellist on the TV Series Taskmaster.

In November 2015, Key appeared as Jerry, Mark's flatmate in the final series of Peep Show.

In 2016 he appeared in the miniseries Stag.

In March 2016 Key presented another documentary for BBC Radio 4 entitled 'Tim Key Delves Into Daniil Kharms And That's All'. A show all about Daniil Kharms, the early 20th Century Russian author of short stories and a large influence on Key's own work. The show also featured the comedians Mike Wozniak, John Kearns (comedian) and Daniel Kitson.

Newspaper and Magazines

Tim Key wrote a weekly column for 'The Independent Magazine', a magazine supplement issued with the Saturday edition of The Independent.


Key's short film The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Wallis Island, which he wrote and performed in with Tom Basden, won Best UK Short at the 2007 Edinburgh Film Festival. It was nominated for a 2008 BAFTA in the category of Best Short Film, but lost to Dog Altogether by Diarmid Scrimshaw, and one of Tim's biggest heroes, Paddy Considine.

Key has made two other short films with Tom Basden, Piano For Beginners in 2004, and The Amazing Hedge Puzzle in 2005, both of which were directed by Alex Winckler and produced by J Van Tulleken.

Key and J Van Tulleken are currently filming some of his poetry, in the form of 1 to 2 minute ostentatiously arty black and white films with the poems narrated over. Rebecca Hall, Kristen Schaal, Tom Basden, and Khalid Abdalla, among others, have appeared alongside Key in these films.

Key will also collaborate with J Van Tulleken on one of 16 short films to have won production funding through BFI Shorts 2012. The film will be a black comedy entitled Anthony, outlined as follows: "Christmas Eve. An enormous explosion tears through Lapland. Santa and his Elf, Anthony, have crash-landed in the middle of nowhere on their busiest night." It is due to be completed in 2013.[14]

Key reprised his role as Sidekick Simon for the Alan Partridge film Alpha Papa. It was released in August 2013.

More recently he has appeared in the Richard Ayoade film The Double.



Key's first album, entitled Tim Key. With a String Quartet. On a Boat. is released by The Invisible Dot Ltd/ Angular Records, November 2010.


  1. http://thehumourdor.co.uk/post/7726696568/an-interview-with-tim-key
  2. "Tim Key loses the bullying, wins comedy". London Is Funny. 29 August 2009. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  3. "Cowards website". BBC.
  4. "Tim Key wins 2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award". British Comedy Guide. 29 August 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  5. "Royal Exchange Tree". Manchester Royal Exchange.
  6. http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2015/tree/
  7. http://www.oldvictheatre.com/whats-on/2016/art/
  8. "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Party". Bbc.co.uk. 2011-04-12. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  9. Tim Key (2013-05-10). "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Tim Key's Suspended Sentence". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  10. "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Tim Key And Gogol's Overcoat". Bbc.co.uk. 2012-12-26. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
  11. Dean, Will (5 February 2014). "Inside No 9, TV review: A top-drawer cast puts these twisted tales in a league of their own". The Independent. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  12. Lee, Veronica (6 February 2014). "Inside No 9, BBC Two". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 19 February 2014. (subscription required)
  13. Watson, Keith (6 February 2014). "Inside No 9 matched Tales of the Unexpected for entertaining weirdness". Metro. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  14. British Film Institute. "16 short films greenlit through BFI Shorts 2012". Bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 2013-08-21.
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