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My Mentor: Tim Key

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The poet, stand-up and Alan Partridge sidekick salutes his endlessly patient and supportive father

My dad first opened my eyes (well, ears) to comedy.

There was always comedy in our house. On car journeys, my dad wasn’t wigging out to music, he was playing Tony Hancock and Just A Minute, that sort of stuff. We’d listen to a lot of Hancock, and I loved him. Dad also used to record things like Hi-de-Hi! off the TV, while we were watching, and then play the audio cassette back during car journeys. You’d hear the whole family laughing.

He had a very gung-ho philosophy.

He was always giving us opportunities, showing us things we could see if we were interested. He took us to some absolute dog sh*t, but I suppose that’s all part of it [laughs]. That philosophy of thinking it’s a good thing just to get out of the house and go to a museum, or up a mountain, even if it’s raining and horrible.

His sheer patience was outstanding.

My dad was very forgiving about me basically drifting through my twenties, having no discernible idea what was going on. Both my parents were constantly patient, supportive and encouraging. Dad would come to my plays and comedy – and he was always extra effusive about the stuff that wasn’t good.

He never put me in a position where I had to defend myself.

When I was 30 and making no money, it would have been exhausting to have to constantly tell him ‘I’m sure it’ll all be OK’, because I was saying that to myself enough already. He’d occasionally mutter things under his breath, or give me a look that said ‘Law Conversion’, but that was it, really. I don’t know how I’d feel if I had a son who was trying to get into a world I didn’t know. It’d be a lot to take in, I think.

He had a taste for entertaining, too.

He did amateur dramatics, and took me to an Alan Ayckbourn play when I was about 10. I remember liking the idea of being on stage, and people in the audience laughing. On my 30th birthday, my friends decked out a farmhouse and put on a gig, and Cowards – the sketch group I was in – was the closing act. The other three members started doing a sketch, and when it came to my line, they said, “Let’s get the special guest on”, and my dad stood up, wearing my costume, and performed the entire sketch in my role. So, it was full circle – my dad, in the bosom of my comedy friends, nailing this sketch. That was pretty full on.

Sign up to mentor young men in need here

‘Tim Key: Single White Slut’ tours the UK from 23 September

(Images: Rex)

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