If you’re a real Staten Islander, you probably know of Terrible Tim.
From the open mics on Bay Street. From his CTV show. From word of mouth.
His most popular track has over four million views on Google’s video platform. That’s not insignificant.
While it was brutally hot outside, we managed to find seats next to a concrete table with an inlaid chess board. Thankfully, there was a constant spray of mist pumped into the surrounding air from above, making the meeting more comfortable than we could have imagined. That was a nice touch, something that transformed a spot with a great view into a paradisaical refuge from the heat.
Talking with Terrible Tim was exciting; we’ve been fans for decades. While the interview was underway, other fans walking by and recognized Tim and struck up conversations with him.
He’s that popular.
Even the crows stopped by to listen; you can hear them (and see them if you look carefully!) throughout the videos. Maybe the didn’t know exactly what Tim was talking about, but they found him interesting, nevertheless.
They hung on his every word. There were people of all backgrounds listening: religious Muslim folks, couples speaking Russian, and lifelong islanders, identifiable by their thick Staten Island accent.
At one point, we paused so that Terrible Tim could give a cigarette to an elder woman demurely asking for a smoke. And a light.
Twice, Terrible Tim put the interview on short hiatus as he gave his fellow islanders money.
So is Terrible Tim a musician or a saint? A foul-mouthed folk hero or a philosopher? You decide. Perhaps, it’s all of the above.
His songs, what he describes as folk rock, are often shockingly puerile, his lyrics sometimes about as scatological as it gets.
While born in Brooklyn, Terrible Tim moved to Staten Island when he was very young. He lives by the beach these days, and has for decades.
Tim survived Superstorm Sandy back in 2012, but his beach home, and most of his belongings, including his electric guitar, were trashed.
His home’s since been restored, but now he plays his trusty acoustic, exclusively.
Terrible Tim even gifted us with a poster, dating back to his one and only album, put out back in the ’90s. In fact, unbeknownst to Tim, one of our interview questions focused on that very image!
He’s created too many tracks to remember. But his devoted following remember, and tribute videos can even be found on YouTube.
He explained that many of his songs were inspired by the colorful characters that peopled the CTV studio back in the 90s.
But that’s not all. There are also songs about our local “feedback learning community” GANAS in Stapleton, which Tim calls a cult.
Remember, as Terrible Tim says, there are no conspiracy theories, there are only conspiracy researchers.
Terrible Tim is an imposing figure, and could have slipped in easily as a club bouncer. In fact, he once worked security, a job that allowed him to save up for his first home.
He’s is a sharp-minded thinker, a hulking philosopher-poet with a ready laugh and sensitive, bright eyes. Terrible Tim does not miss a beat.
During our interview, the time flew by. Everyone sitting nearby had fun. Terrible Tim is not shy, and reality engaged in friendly discussion with anyone willing to converse.
Tim is all about community. He brings people together. Tim is funny, but his style of humor is actually rather sophisticated, and sophomoric, at the same time.
He’s for real, and whether you like him or hate him, you’ve got to admit at least that much. His act is so polarizing, that he always gets a reaction. That’s the point.
It’s difficult not to get the impression that he’s purposefully testing our limits, of both free speech, in the tradition of Lenny Bruce, and like George Carlin, in that he challenges everything, all the presuppositions we take for granted.
When it comes to matters of faith, Tim admits that he has no clue what or why the universe is, but acknowledges that philosophically, there must have been a first mover, that there must be some meaning, otherwise there would be eternal nothingness, and not all that we see. “Life is ephemeral,” said Tim, a truth none of us can deny, regardless of our personal philosophy or belief system. His conception of life after death?
As TerribleTim explains it, something like Saint Peter going through the new charges, cataloguing each: “idiot, idiot, sheep, idiot, ah….Terrible Tim! Welcome home!”
TODAY’S THE DAY! Videos of our interview will be uploaded shortly! Thanks for your patience, Islanders! 🙂