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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] He is best known for his stand-up and as Sidekick Simon in Mid Morning Matters and This Time, both with Alan Partridge.

Tim Key
Tim Key Horne Section.jpg
Tim Key in 2010
Born (1976-09-02) 2 September 1976 (age 42)
Cambridgeshire, England
MediumStand-up, television, radio
Years active2001–present


Early lifeEdit

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 FringeEdit

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 radio sitcom 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.

From 2017 to 2018 he toured his show Megadate.[5][6]


Key co-starred in Daniel Kitson's "Tree" when it premiered at the Royal Exchange, Manchester in September 2013.[7] The play then transferred to The Old Vic in 2015.[8]

Key appeared 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.[9]

Radio and televisionEdit

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.[10]

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,[11] 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.[12]

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 Key reading poetry with 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. In 2015 Key wrote and starred in the one-off Tim Key's Christmas Poetry Programme, which also featured Basden, as well as Liam Williams, Katy Wix and Felicity Montagu.[13]

Also in 2012, Key made a short cameo appearance as a hospital doctor in series 6 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,[14][15] with one journalist calling him "an unsung hero of British comedy".[16]

In 2014, Key played a passive-aggressive slave named Mushki in season 2 episode 5 of Plebs (set in ancient Rome).

In 2015, Key starred as himself as a panelist on the first series of Dave's Taskmaster. In latter series he continues to work on the show as a Task Consultant.

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

In 2016 he appeared in the thriller comedy 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 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 comedians Mike Wozniak, John Kearns and Daniel Kitson.

In 2017, Key starred in E4's comedy-drama series Gap Year.[17]

In 2018 he appeared in the final series of acclaimed sitcom Detectorists.

In 2019, Key returned once again as Sidekick Simon in the BBC series This Time With Alan Partridge

Newspaper and magazinesEdit

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.[18]

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

In 2013, he appeared in the Richard Ayoade film The Double.


  • The Incomplete Tim Key. Canongate Books Ltd, 2011. ISBN 978-0-85786-118-4
  • 25 Poems, 3 Recipes and 32 Other Suggestions (An Inventory). The Invisible Dot Ltd, 2011. ISBN 978-0-9553703-6-6
  • Instructions, Guidelines, Tutelage, Suggestions, Other Suggestions and Examples Etc.: An Attempted Book By Tim Key. (And Conversations/ Descriptions/ A Piece About A Moth). The Invisible Dot Ltd, 2009. ISBN 978-0-9553703-3-5


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. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 November 2011. Retrieved 29 November 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ "Tim Key loses the bullying, wins comedy". London Is Funny. 29 August 2009. Archived from the original on 28 April 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  3. ^ "Cowards website". BBC. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006.
  4. ^ "Tim Key wins 2009 Edinburgh Comedy Award". British Comedy Guide. 29 August 2009. Retrieved 29 August 2009.
  5. ^ Logan, Brian (16 October 2017). "Tim Key review – spilt lager, Poohsticks and an agonising quest for romance". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  6. ^ Solutions, Powder Blue Internet Business. "MICF: Tim Key - Megadate : Reviews 2018 : Chortle : The UK Comedy Guide". Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  7. ^ "Royal Exchange Tree". Manchester Royal Exchange.
  8. ^ "Tree". Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Art". Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  10. ^ "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Party". 12 April 2011. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  11. ^ Tim Key (10 May 2013). "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Tim Key's Suspended Sentence". Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  12. ^ "BBC Radio 4 programmes - Tim Key And Gogol's Overcoat". 26 December 2012. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  13. ^
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Lee, Veronica (6 February 2014). "Inside No 9, BBC Two". The Arts Desk. Retrieved 19 February 2014. (subscription required)
  16. ^ Watson, Keith (6 February 2014). "Inside No 9 matched Tales of the Unexpected for entertaining weirdness". Metro. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  17. ^ "Gap Year: Cast". IMDb. 14 April 2017. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  18. ^ British Film Institute. "16 short films greenlit through BFI Shorts 2012". Retrieved 21 August 2013.

External linksEdit