There was a time when Tim Minchin regularly worked with speaker agencies. A time before the sell-out arena tours, Olivier award winning musicals and armies of obsessional fans, when he was a barely heard of jobbing comedian, happy to go out and do a corporate for £1500. JLA, a speaker bureau always ahead of the game, booked him at this time to appear at their Real Variety Show annual showcase. Sharing a bill with fresher faced Simon Amstell and Adam Hills, Tim opened with the now classic “Inflatable You” before playing a track he had penned especially for the occasion, “The JLA Song”. It now seems incredible that Minchin would write and rehearse a piece of such complexity and brilliance for a speaker bureau, knowing that he could only ever perform it once. However, as he spells out during the song, he had recently moved to the UK, was hard-up, expecting his first child and thus desperate to impress speaker agencies by proving he could effectively tailor a tune to the event.
The song affectionately mocked the conference speakers, motivational speakers and after dinner speakers who appear on this very website. At the time JLA were a little uneasy, considering some of the material borderline inappropriate. Of particular worry was the line about one of our then motivational speakers: “so why not hire me and get a nice song, rather than paying Lance Armstrong fifty thousand quid to ramble on about cancer”. It’s funny how attitudes to that particular speaker have now changed!
Tim’s premise is that after examining JLA’s pricing system and the heavyweight nature of conference speakers on offer, he feels inadequate by comparison. He complains that he hasn’t “reached a double A rating yet”, our top pricing bracket which 8 years later (testament to JLA’s foresight and talent spotting abilities) he firmly occupies. Similarly the lyric, “I can guarantee that if you hire me I won’t cost you thirty thousand pounds” has not stood the test of time – you can expect to pay significantly more than that for Tim’s services these days (and it’s unlikely you’d get a bespoke song for the occasion.)
“The JLA Song” has been copied, transcribed and debated on countless web sites by his league of followers. The chords have even been worked out and printed should someone want to play along. Bootlegged YouTube videos of the track have been watched hundreds of thousands of times, however, they are third and fourth generation copies with poor sound and blocky visuals. There is also some confusion in the comment boxes regarding the song’s meaning and it needs to be explained to American viewers that JLA is a speaker bureau. It is because of these issues that we have decided to upload a high-quality version of the song, with Tim’s previously unseen preamble that places it in context. Enjoy the video and keep an eye on forthcoming Real Variety Show line-ups for additional comedy megastars of the future.