The Tim Minchin Song That Peter Fincham of ITV Doesn’t Want You to Hear

Tim Minchin recently recorded a song comparing Jesus to Woody Allen (“short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant”) for the Jonathan Ross Show on ITV.

It’s hilarious and worth a watch:

The problem is that after that song was taped, the director of television for ITV, Peter Fincham, stopped it from going on the air. He didn’t want to offend anyone, you know, what with the song being humorous and all…

So Minchin put the song online along with the following breakdown of what happened:

I really like Jonathan Ross. I think he’s a funny, interesting, kind person, and an excellent interviewer. I also really like his wife… But let’s not get back into that.

Jonathan and his wonderful producer, Suzi, have been incredibly supportive of me and so when they asked me to write a song for their pre-Christmas show, I didn’t hesitate. It was the worst possible time to be writing a new song — I’ve been overworked and ill, was on tour, and was really feeling the stress. But I wasn’t going to say no… it’s Jonathan Ross! And my fellow guests were to be Tom Cruise, the divine actors from Downton Abbey, and the ace In-Betweeners boys.

So I got to writing. Being Christmas, I thought it would be fun to do a song about Jesus, but being TV, I knew it would have to be gentle. The idea was to compare him to Woody Allen (short, Jewish, philosophical, a bit hesitant), and expand into redefining his other alleged attributes using modern, popular-culture terminology.

It’s not a particularly original idea, I admit, but it’s quite cute. It’s certainly not very contentious, but even so, compliance people and producers and lawyers all checked my lyrics long before the cameras rolled. As always with these bespoke writing jobs, I was really stressed for about 3 days, and almost chucked it in the bin 5 times, and freaked out that it wasn’t funny and all that boring shit that people like me go through when we’re lucky enough to have with a big audience with high expectations. And if I’m honest, it ain’t a world-changing bit of comedy. Regardless…

On Tuesday night last week, we taped the show. I met Tom (he’s nice and quite laid-back off camera, and not very short) and the divine Downton ladies (swoon) and the lovely In-Betweeners chaps (yay) and I did my song and everyone laughed and Tom said it was great and when it was done I ran off set onto the back of a waiting motorbike, got from South Bank to the Hammersmith Apollo in 13 minutes, walked into the building, straight on to stage to sing White Wine in the Sun with Professor Brian Cox. Rock n roll.

Subsequently, Suzi and her team edited the show and everybody was happy. Suzi felt it had a nice balance of big-ticket celeb action, local talent, and a nice bit of that cheeky, iconoclastic spirit for which Jonathan is known and widely loved.

And then someone got nervous and sent the tape to ITV’s director of television, Peter Fincham.

And Peter Fincham demanded that I be cut from the show.

He did this because he’s scared of the ranty, shit-stirring, right-wing press, and of the small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.

Yesterday I wrote a big rant about comedy and risk and conservatism; about the fact that my joke has no victim; about sacredness (oh God, not again!) and about the importance of laughing at dumb but pervasive ideas. But I trashed it because it’s boring and takes it all too seriously. It’s hardly the end of the world.

But I have to admit I’m really fucking disappointed.

It’s 2011. The appropriate reaction to people who think Jesus is a supernatural being is mild embarrassment, sighing tolerance and patient education.

And anger when they’re being bigots.

Oh, and satire. There’s always satire.

Anywaaaaaaaaaay… the fun news is that I already had the footage of the song when they cut it. Yay. And so you can decide for yourself how offensive it is! Yippee.

I hope you enjoy my silly, harmless, accurate song of praise, “Woody Allen Jesus”.

And I hope you all have wonderful Christmases.

What can you do? Stick it to Fincham. Spread the song far and wide and give it a far greater viewership than it would’ve had by only appearing on television. If you’re Christian, realize that this is all in good fun and send it to your pastor.

Just FYI, Jonathan Ross says he had nothing to do with this:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Jim

    Maybe it is because Minchin sucks as a singer and musician ?  His topics are good, but it reminds me too much Christian Contemporary.

    I know all the other atheists are all over it, but it is pretty boring for me.

    • Ádám Morva

      “All the other atheists” aren’t “all over it”, actually.
      I really like some Tim Minchin songs. White Vine In The Sun is grand, Storm is grand, I like what the man stands for, but even if you don’t fancy Tim or his music (fair enough) you shouldn’t go 8yearold on us and say that he sucks, because that’s rather infantile.

    • Sue

      What on earth is Christian Contemporary?

      • Anonymous

        It’s an oxymoron, like Christian Science.

    • Anonymous

      I hadn’t even heard about the guy before seeing a link to “White Whine in the Sun” a couple of days ago. Great song, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of his work in general

  • http://twitter.com/JentheHumanist Jennifer Hancock

    Just played it for my 6 yr old son. He was laughing hysterically at the song.  Will share.

  • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

    The komodo dragon line is what sold me on this song.

  • Liz Heywood

    Just discovered Tim Minchin a day or 2 ago…I say, Hallelujah! the second coming of Tom Lehrer!!

    • Tom

      I do see some similarities.  Lehrer, however, got his start in the days before the internet.  He went viral the hard way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    If it were North American TV I wouldn’t be surprised. The ” small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through life protected from anything that challenges them in any way” seems to be the majority over here when it comes to religion.

    Odd that this got cut from Wossy’s show but 5 Poofs and 2 Pianos, which is much more offensive to the religious right wing, didn’t get cut. Maybe he should have stayed on BBC?

    • Michael

      Staying with the BBC wasn’t really an option.

    • Mairianna

      “he’s scared of the …. small minority of Brits who believe they have a right to go through
      life protected from anything that challenges them in any way.” – That’s a fantastic quote.

  • Kerozene

    Disclaimer: I admit I am an optimistic Atheist, which can at times make me seek out positive spin, so bear with me for the following comment.

    Tim Minchin is a very vocal atheist celeb who is gaining popularity at a rapid pace. He managed to get airtime during the holiday season instead of refused.  His song was cut, but it was a positive thing that he was allowed a presence at all during the Christians most sacred and vocal time. (In other words, it could have easily been a couple of juggling dogs wearing Santa hats belting out “Joy to the World” in barks, but I am quite glad it was not.) 

    While his song may have been cut on TV, it has been spreading online and the fact that it was cut may have given it extra popularity and exposure for what could have otherwise been just another so-so song poking fun (albeit good natured) at Jesus.

    I do wish he would have played his White Wine song instead though… oh well.

  • oambitiousone

    I’ve been singing the chorus in my  head ever since we played it several hours ago.

  • Anonymous

    “With great power comes great responsibility…Superman Jesus”. Well, that line right was what prompted me to stop listening to the song. 

    • Philip Elliott

      Why? Is it because it should be “Spiderman Jesus”?

      • Greg

        It shouldn’t though, Spiderman can’t fly. That would just have been stupid for Tim to sing that. ;)

    • Tom

      Knowing Minchin, is it possible the conflation was a deliberate wind-up for people such as yourself?

  • Anonymous

    I just about fell out of my chair when he got to parthenogenesis. If Mr. Fincham is such a sensitive soul, maybe we should just spam him with this.

  • Rob Grikmeer

    I think part of the reason that this got pulled and ’5 Poofs and 2 Pianos’ didn’t is because ITV is a commercial channel and much more dependent on financial aid which Daily Mail/Express/Telegraph readers could jeopardise if the aforementioned ‘news’papers took it into their heads to lambaste the song.

    The Beeb is more secure and can usually push the envelope a little bit further.

    (To clarify, I’m definitely Proud of the BBC http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3q2iZuU5WM )

  • Michael

    If anyone does doubt Jonathan Ross’ claim that he had nothing to do with this censorship, consider that he allowed this Tim Minchin number to go out unedited:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt-lotqZQsc

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Loved it just as I have loved many of his songs. He also has a wonderful voice and his piano playing is wonderful to listen to all on its own.

    It is nice to listen to a human sing without the assistance of auto tune.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    Tim Minchin is awesome in terms of comedy and lyrics that don’t dumb down to the audience. This song is great in the way that it builds more and more layers of comparisons to the silly story that is Jesus Christ.

  • G Mc

    The song is wonderful and I’m very excited it is being shown on YouTube, but please, in the name of His Noodly Appendage, someone post Brian Cox singing “White Wine in the Sun”!