Another Tim Vine Interview

Just before he sets off on his Joke-amotive tour we caught up with Tim Vine to discuss Countdown, darts and the only thing that could derail his comedy choo-choo.

Tim Vine

You're about to set off on your Joke-amotive tour – are you worried anything could derail it? (sorry, sorry...)

Well, there are all sorts of things that could derail it, but I guess the main one would be if I forget everything, but hopefully that won't happen. I did it 80 times last year so I think it should be in there. I think the key to it is repetition. It must be harder to remember Hamlet though, than a load of gags. People often think that my act's not linked but it is, in my head at least anyway, the jokes flow into each other.

One of your gags is 'I'm a very private and secretive person......that's it really.' You don't tell personal stories like some comics, is there a deep and troubled reason for that?

Not really no, the main reason's because my day to day life's a bit boring. I tend to just potter about and play some darts, then have meetings about things that are never going to happen. I think if I was to base a routine on that there'd be an ovation of yawning.

A few years back Tommy Cooper once got the credit for a load of your jokes which became a huge email hit - was that hard to take?

Yeah initially, but it was a while ago so I'm over it now. I guess it's a professional hazard, especially with the sort of jokes I write, they're very verbal so they work written down. You couldn't really do that with the observational humour someone like John Bishop does, say, they're not the same without the context. I guess there are so many outlets these days too. It's not so bad, I mean at least there's someone out there laughing, and I tend to finish a show these days and then put it on a DVD. Plus I put out a joke book, so I can step away from the gags when they're done knowing I've put them down somewhere.

You've won Dave's funniest joke at the Edinburgh fringe - can you tell straight away when a gag you've written is a bit special?

I didn't think the one that won it was to be honest, I liked it but you can never tell really. There are some times I get a gut feeling that something's good, because when I write it, that's the first time I see it and I find myself laughing out loud. The only way to really find out is to try it with an audience, I've been caught out before by a joke I've laughed at getting no reaction, and the other way round too.

You're not averse to a bit of panto, you've used puppets and your comedy heroes are the old-school gagsmiths – would you say you're part of a fightback against dark, cynical comedy?

Maybe, but I don't think the sort of thing I do ever really went away, jokes are always around, there's always silly stuff. I think when I started there was less of the sort of thing I do, and much more observational and edgy stuff. In terms of heroes I think when you start out doing five minute sets on the comedy circuit your heroes are the guys who are doing 20 minutes, and you're learning by sitting in the wings and watching these great people. When I was first starting out I wasn't watching hours of Les Dawson, much as I love him, it was the other people I was working with who I learned from. Tim Vine trumpet

In Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand Ups poll you jumped from 100 to 36 in four years – next time you'll top it, with that trajectory. Do you take any heed of that kind of thing?

Exactly, for the next one I'll be off the scale! I think with those kinds of polls if there was one person deciding it'd be a more accurate reflection, but you can't really take them seriously. Especially when you look at who they leave out, people like Larry Grayson weren't on there, so that really highlights their flaws. I think generally it seems to be the more people are seeing you the higher up you go, it's nice to know people like you, but you can't take it seriously.

You've become a fairly regular guest on Countdown – is playing with words one of your hobbies even aside from joke writing?

No, only in the context of comedy – I'm really rubbish at the game. Everytime when I've been faced with the letters and that music is playing, all the contestants have their heads down, I'm just trying to find a word I recognise, like cow, and working out if I've got a joke about it. Susie Dent's really good at it and she'll push words over to me on a scrap of paper, I never get any. I'll sometimes say things like "you'd have asparagus if there was an extra s", but that's about the best I get. The only slight downside is that I've been on a few times and forget what I've said, so the audience are probably groaning when they see the word Velcro come up on the board...

Not Going Out's going from strength to strength - any plans to muscle Lee out of the way and star in your own sitcom?

I couldn't muscle Lee out of anything! Sure, if someone said "Tim do you fancy doing your own show?" I'd have a whirl at it. As it is I've got the best end, Lee's writing for the new series at the minute so while he's hard at work in his shed I'm just mucking about in the sunshine.

You're a one-time record breaking gag merchant, the fastest pun-slinger in the west - is there anyone who you've got your eye on who might nab your gag-telling crown?

The more the merrier I reckon, I'm not desperately trying to be the best quick gag-teller of anything, I mean Ken Dodd's still around for one thing. There's a good few people about, Milton Jones is going from strength to strength, Gary Delaney's very funny, Jimmy Carr of course. There's room for all of us.

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