Tim Vine: “It’s totally ridiculous I should be making a living out of this”

The comedian tells RadioTimes.com about Blandings, his stash of unseen sketches and songs and his new role as "silly Uncle Tim"

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Do you always speak in puns? 

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I think I’d be mad if I was doing that. I don’t just talk in one-liners, I communicate much the same way most humans do. If I talk to a traffic warden it doesn’t come out in a one-liner. I’ve always got one eye on making up jokes but the truth is, if I just wait for things to come to me there won’t be very much coming to me. 

Your volume of material on stage is so high – do you ever get writers’ block? 

My view is it doesn’t exist. We can all write something, can’t we? It’s a bit like if you wanted to write a letter to someone, you wouldn’t say, “I can’t think what to write.” Well, you might say that but if you have to write a letter, you write a letter. My view is this: I don’t get hung up on the quality. I’ll do the quantity and the quality can sort itself out. When I have to get ready for a tour, I try to write a bit every day, even if it’s just for an hour. Then you accumulate an enormous amount of stuff over time and hopefully some of that is worth giving a whirl. 

Your comedy has always been clean – have you ever felt pressure to be cruder like many of your contemporaries? 

That would be a good name for a new tour. Tim Vine: The Cruder Route. That would be a really filthy show. I certainly don’t feel a pressure to do it because I’m just being silly so when you’re being silly it doesn’t quite fit. 

You also keep any details of your personal life out of your act – is there a reason behind that? 

Well, only because I’m being silly. I’m actually quite a boring person. Failed romances – maybe that might be interesting – but I’d rather just be silly. Some people I think use it as therapy but I don’t. It makes me feel good to be on stage but I don’t really have an urge to tell people all about my life. 

It must feel great to get paid to be silly on stage – do you ever take a moment and marvel that you’re not doing a regular nine-to-five? 

Quite often I ring my dad in those moments. If I’ve been asked to do a gig and I’m in a posh hotel and I’ve just ordered some room service. My dad always texts back “Wonderful”.  I know that he more than anyone understands that it is totally ridiculous that I should be making a living out of this. Anyone else would think I was showing off but with my dad at that moment we know exactly what I mean by it: “Can you believe I’m being asked to do this?”

Your brother Jeremy is a Radio 2 presenter – can you describe a typical family meal in the Vine household? 

In the past it might have been me and Jeremy being a couple of old bores holding court about something but now I’ve got nieces and nephews and they’re the centre of attention which is much better. I’m silly uncle Tim. One of my nieces has said to me more than once, “You’re weird”. I don’t know if it’s a compliment or not.

What advice would you give a young comedian starting out? 

Enjoying it is the main thing. It’s lots of fun and it should be. If you can’t stand it, it’ll never be the job for you. And write your own stuff, write lots and do loads of gigs. Get up on stage a few times a week. 

Of all the jokes you’ve written, which is your favourite?

“One armed butlers. They can take it but they can’t dish it out.” I quite like that one.  

You joined the cast for the last series of Blandings – have you heard whether it’s returning or not? 

No, nothing. I presume the BBC are having meaningful meetings about it. I’d do it, definitely.

You shot a pilot of The Tim Vine Chat Show recently – what happened to that?

We did try and get it off the ground on telly but sadly I don’t make those decisions. People from TV came and saw it and said they loved it and then we all went our separate ways. Most of us have got thousands of ideas we’d stick straight on telly if only we were given the green light. 

How about putting those ideas out there on YouTube instead? 

I probably should. I’d like do do the Tim Vine Sketch Show because there aren’t many sketch shows on telly at the moment so I did film about forty sketches and I’ve done nothing with them. Are you supposed to put them straight on YouTube? I don’t have the internet at home.

You DON’T have the internet?!

Nope. That’s why none of these things reach the wider public. I record loads and loads of songs and no one ever hears them. 

OK, the campaign for the Tim Vine YouTube channel starts here. Final question: can you put the pen behind your ear whenever you want…? 

Not whenever I want. Sometimes I’ve genuinely got stuck trying to do it. You find yourself not doing it and then you start trying and then you start imagining the scenario of never being able to do it and there are hundreds of people in front of you. And then you think, “Ah, this could be embarrassing.” 


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Tim Vine is this month’s Celebrity Trader for City Index raising money for The Cure Parkinsons Trust. You can follow his progress here.