Tim Vine is a jester with a joke for every occasion. After his last show, Plastic Elvis, in which he paid tribute to the king of rock and roll, hold onto your headgear, the king of the sidesplitting one-liner is touring with Breeeep! Expect quips and quickfire punchlines to rain down from The Cresset stage as he fills the room with funnies on 9 May.
Vine has won Dave’s Joke of the Fringe twice. In 2010 with ‘I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.’ And in 2014 with ‘I’ve decided to sell my Hoover… well, it was just collecting dust.’ It is no surprise that The Times asked: ‘Is there a more ludicrous comedian in Britain than Tim Vine?’
Tell us about your new show Breeeep!
Can I say it’s nonsense? Hopefully funny nonsense. I do silly one-liners and silly songs with silly props. I have a table with a black bag full of bits and pieces. And I have another table with some other stuff on it. I end with a song called These Are Some of My Things. I’m surrounded by all this detritus at the end of the show. It does sort of sum up my life a bit.
You’ve got an intriguing tour poster image, with antlers on your head and hanging around your neck?
I shall give away a trade secret. Those antlers make no appearance on the show. I was doing the photoshoot and I brought along some antlers to make me look more interesting. That may not be everyone’s approach. I’m not sure Colin Firth does it.
Can you give me a flavour of any of the jokes in Breeeep!?
This one was in Dave’s Joke of the Fringe top ten this year: ‘I used to live hand to mouth. I’ll tell you what changed my life. Cutlery.’
People seem to want to laugh right now so Breeeep! sounds perfect.
I’m just trying to make people laugh as stupidly as possible. I’m not breaking into satire at this point in my career. I think there is an appetite for comedy without any message. There’s quite a few of us doing that. I like being in that little gang. I really am not making any point whatsoever.
You were one of the pioneers who revived the art of the Tommy Cooper-style one-liner in the 1990s.
Well, me and Milton Jones and, of course, Harry Hill. It was fun to be on a circuit where people were laughing. You did feel like you weren’t quite doing what everyone else was doing at the time. I was very aware that I was just trying to get laughs.
Did you start off with this style from your very first gig?
I attempted different things. I remember doing a chatty thing about how I sort of inadvertently affected world events, a bit like in Forrest Gump. I had this thing where JFK was going to Dallas and wanted to borrow one of my cars and the choice was the convertible or the bulletproof Bentley, and I said, ‘It’s going to be lovely weather in Dallas, take the convertible…’
Was there a pivotal moment when you saw the one-liner light?
I remember seeing (Welsh stand-up) Noel James when he said ‘I saw a man going bald. He was going “Bald! Bald!”’ I was at the back of the room thinking, ‘You can’t be doing such a silly joke’. But the audience was so into what Noel was doing. That was a big moment for me thinking to myself, ‘Okay, maybe let’s go a bit more in that direction.’
Can you teach someone to write a funny joke?
If I knew how to write a funny joke I’d only ever write funny jokes. Everything I wrote would go straight into the show. But part of the joy of the whole thing is that I know how to structure a joke. There are rules and things that will help it feel like a joke by the time you finish writing. So I know about that, but the whole thing about what makes it funny, you dig around and throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. It’s a gradual purifying process. Whittling. That’s the fun of it. It’s always an audience that decides.
Are there ever wisecracks that you keep in even though they don’t get a big laugh, but you like them?
I don’t think I ever verbalise it like that, but if my jokes were all my employees, I’m sure that some that I got rid of would come into my office and have a little bit of a rant about, ‘Well if you’re getting rid of me how come you are keeping them?’
Your performances can look slightly haphazard, but they are actually very structured.
It does have a look of a bloke just chucking out absolute rubbish. But if people like to be tickled by this nonsense, then I’ll keep doing it.
What are you like off duty? Are you more serious?
I’m a light-hearted person. I think I get that from my dad. One time, as he walked to work across this football field and it had been snowing, he thought, ‘If I close my eyes and try and walk in a straight line for 200 paces, I’ll be able to look back and see how successful I was by how straight the footprints are.’ He came home with a massive bump on his head. He’d hit the goalpost at the far end. I love the fact that he decided to do that and wasn’t worrying about work.
Laughter is important…
I want to be the sort of person who is interested in the crazy stuff in life. I think laughter is needed. I also think more and more as I get older, that being a comedian is actually quite a good thing to do with your life. What we do is silly and it looks inconsequential, but it’s definitely an underrated profession.
I think people really need to laugh. I believe in God and I think that laughter is one of God’s best inventions.
Tim Vine’s BREEEEP! comes to The Cresset, Peterborough on Tuesday 9 May at 7:30pm.
Tickets cost £27.50.
Call 01733 265705 or visit www.cresset.co.uk