NEW IN THEATERS! In my mind, singer Tiny Tim was always an incredibly wholesome yet weird personality. I didn’t know much more about his personal life than that until I watched Tiny Tim – King For A Day, a documentary by Johan von Sydow, who has previously directed documentaries for television.
Tiny Tim was born as Herbert Butros Khaury in New York, New York, on April 12, 1932. It wasn’t before too long that young Herbert proved to be different from just about everyone around him (and I’m not just referencing his eclectic musical tastes and talent). He started out playing ukelele on street corners in the Financial District and eventually started performing at Hubert’s Museum and Flea Circus in 1959. From there, it wasn’t long before he shot into international superstardom. He was married on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and performed on Ed Sullivan several times. Yet his parents still didn’t approve of him too much. Underneath the child-like bizarre exterior, Tiny Tim definitely suffered from depression, but when his parents wanted to send him to a psychiatrist, he said, “Jesus Christ is my doctor.”
“…started out playing ukelele…in the Financial District and eventually started performing at Hubert’s Museum and Flea Circus…”
Tiny Tim – A King For A Day is amplified by a good amount of live footage and cool animation, as well as Weird Al Yankovic as the voice behind Tiny Tim’s diaries, which often contain sadness, even when he was at the height of fame. He was ashamed of his “sins” with women, and felt like he was “in hell, crying for help.” However, he still managed to be a world-famous entertainer throughout the years. In later life, he was beset by poverty and went back to performing with the circus. Tiny Tim was a self-identified freak that attracted like-minded people. Bob Dylan and he were great friends in the ’60s. Wavy Gravy tells a story of he, Tiny Tim, and Neal Cassady riding in a car singing Bing Crosby songs. Tiny Tim certainly had an extraordinary life, and he worked hard to get where he was.
His biographer, Justin A. Martell, is also a producer of Tiny Tim – A King For A Day and is one of the talking heads as well. He knows a lot about Mr. Khaury, and the documentary is based on the findings in his book Eternal Troubador: The Improbable Life of Tiny Tim. I’m now interested in reading the book because, honestly, the documentary is pretty short, running less than an hour and a half. It tells the whole course of Tiny Tim’s life, but I’m sure there’s much more to discover by reading the book. They make good companion pieces for anyone interested in knowing more about the legendary weirdo.
Tiny Tim – A King For A Day is worthwhile because of the interviews with Tiny Tim’s daughter, two of his wives, and many of his friends. That, with intercut footage of his seemingly endless repertoire of live performances and the animation, as mentioned earlier, makes this a well-rounded and entertaining documentary. Johan von Sydow and his team covered all the bases, although, as I said before, I do wish it was a little bit longer. Overall, it’s a great place to start if you want to learn more about the American legend who was Tiny Tim.
Tiny Tim – A King For a Day premiered at the 2020 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…In later life, he was beset by poverty and went back to performing with the circus."