We never expected to see Aussie comic Tim Minchin packing out the O2 Arena – Adam Hills or Jim Jeffries maybe, but not the scarecrow-haired, eyeliner-wearing, “piano hack” whose taboo-busting tunes include The Pope Song and Inflatable You. There’s hope that the mainstream isn’t such a bland place after all …

One of your songs is called The Palestine Peace Song which goes: ”We don’t eat pigs, you don’t eat pigs, why not not eat pigs together?” There aren’t many comics who could get away with that.

And it’s also about, lyrically, structuring ideas in a way that people find intriguing or interesting and that song is funny cos it takes such a complicated issue and distills it into such a ridiculously simple proposition. A lot of what I do is also about religion and belief, and this makes the point that Islam and Judaism have the sames myths wrapped up in a different bunch of crap and that it’s ridiculous that they don’t like each other.

You’ve always been obsessed with religion in your comedy. Why is that?

If you’ve been brought up to think your version of god is special it can hamper your ability to think clearly about religion. I’m pretty obsessed with rationalism. It’s an intellectual obsession … it’s not just me bashing god. And it’s fun!

Do some people react badly to some of your material?

The Pope Song gets a couple of walkouts. People are so offended by language [the song repeatedly calls the Pope ‘a motherfucker’] but if people keep their ears open then they’ll hear the point. My song’s saying the Pope’s not special – he needs to be as accountable as everyone else.

People have walked out on stuff I do about babies dying – I also do darkly comic material about stuff I fear [Minchin has two kids] – it’s obviously too close to some terrible experience they’ve had. But it’s OK – if you don’t have a few people walking out then you’re probably not doing your job properly.

Do you still go barefoot onstage?

I come from Freemantle in the 90s, everyone was a hippie so I spent most of my days wandering around in barefeet and playing music like a dickhead. Then I decided to roll that dickhead-ness over into my thirties. It’s a bit like imagining the audience naked – you usually take your shoes off at home so it’s kinda like saying ‘you’re in my space now’.

Do you feel pressure to tone down your material now that you’re more famous?

People come to my shows because of what I do, as opposed to a lot of comedians who get their audience by being on a regular TV show where they’re not allowed to swear. I got my audience from word-of- mouth and they want to see me debunking irrational ideas. In fact, playing with an 55-piece orchestra on these shows I feel the obligation to make sure I don’t get cleaned-up. An orchestra is seen as a sacred thing to be treated with reverence and respect so I’ve got them yelling out ‘motherfucker!’ in the middle of songs.

Your supposedly ‘anti-Christian’ song White Wine In The Sun, missed out on becoming Christmas number one last year – are you going to re-release it?

The Herald Sun have just written a beat-up story about that. Singer Kate Miller-Heidke has just covered it on the Myer Xmas album. They asked my permission and I said ‘yes’. It turns out the money’s going to the Salvation Army who are proselytizing missionaries, so a journalist has interviewed the spokesperson for the Christian Association for Fuckwits and got quotes from them: “We think it’s a sick joke that this heathen song is on the album.”

Fuckin’ hilarious! It’s just a song about love for my family and makes grown men cry.

Ever been told you look like Kurt Cobain?

There’s one photo of me I call my ‘Kurt photo’ with my hair over my face, it’s in black and white. Though, to be fair, looking like Kurt Cobain now would be looking like a dead man with no face.

» Tim Minchin and his orchestra performs at the O2, SE10 0DX  North Greenwich (0844 856 0202, theo2.co.uk). Tue, Dec 14. £40. DVD Ready For This? out now.

– Alison Grinter