Tim Vine on life, laughter and trouser-themed pop music

The Punslinger himself talks comedy with Claire Webb

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Comedian Tim Vine has been crowned king of one-liners and set a world record for quickfire delivery. Tonight the one-man joke machine returns to his Surrey roots in Dave’s One Night Stand.

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Where are you from?
I’m from Cheam.

Is that a good place to be from if you’re an aspiring stand-up?
I don’t know any other comedians from Cheam, so maybe it mainly leads to people turning into stockbrokers but something went wrong with me.

Were there any familiar faces in the audience?
There were a lot of familiar faces. There was the old two eyes, one nose and a mouth combo – it’s very popular.

What were you like as a child?
I think I was a sort of carefree dreamer. I used to mess about a lot.

What did you want to be?
I wanted to be a puppet master after watching The Muppets. Then once I’d discovered Elvis Presley – I don’t mean I discovered him, I can’t take the credit for that – but when I discovered him for myself, I wanted to be a pop star.

What was your Presley hip-swivelling like?
It’s not bad. I still do a little bit. Recently I did an episode for Not Going Out when I had to wear a black jumpsuit thing and I was so taken with it, I thought: I’m going to borrow this and do an Elvis tribute act. I’ve got a towering blond wig so I did a couple of gigs as Blond Elvis.

[Silence]

Your response is more or less what the audience did.

So you won’t be switching careers anytime soon?
I still want to be a pop star but my way round that is that I put silly little songs into my act.

Your brother is Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine. Was he always the serious one?
He wanted to be a pop star, too. We were in a band called The Flared Generation that was about bringing flares back into fashion in the 80s when, of course, everyone was wearing drainpipes. So we wore these giant flares and all the songs were about flares: Happiness Is Wearing Flares, The Flared Revolution, Flare World…

Any top ten hits?
Surprisingly, there were no top ten hits whatsoever.

When did the lightning bolt hit? When did you decide to be a stand-up?
I started experimenting in ’91. I started doing open spots in comedy clubs and it went from there. But I didn’t necessarily think I wanted to do it as a job. It was just something that I was doing after work on a Wednesday night because it was a laugh. Then I discovered this whole underworld of comedy clubs and realised I could be on stage on every night if I wanted. And I did.

Do you come up with new jokes every day?
If I’ve got a tour coming up I panic because I look in the diary and see 40 dates where several hundred people will expect me to have a new hour. Then I write 15 jokes a day and every week I try out the jokes I’ve written and cross most of them out.

Who do you try them out on?
You’ve always got to try them out on an audience. You never trust family or friends. Every single comic will have tried his act out somewhere, endlessly. I read jokes off postcards then I walk off stage and literally put ticks and crosses next to them, and it’ll always be mainly crosses.

Eventually, I do a show of all my accumulated tick material and that’s the bit that is hard for the audience, because that might last two and a half hours. Then I go off stage and cross out another 80 of those… What basically happens is that I’m left with one joke. But, my goodness, it’s a good one!

What was your favourite joke as a child?
The bloke in charge of hiring out the boats at a boating lake bellows into his microphone: “Number 91, your time is up.” And the bloke next to him says: “We haven’t got a number 91.” So the first bloke says: “Number 16, are you in trouble?” That’s such a great joke, isn’t it? It’s one of three jokes my dad would tell us regularly and it still makes me laugh now.

My other childhood favourite was from The Piccolo Book of Jokes. I get home and there was a terrible smell in the house so I say to my mum: “What’s that smell?” and she replies: “I’ve just made the chicken soup.” I said: “Thank goodness for that. I thought it was for us.”

 




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Dave’s One Night Stand is on Thursday 24 November at 9pm on Dave.