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Showbiz Interview

Tim Vine interview: 'I don't mind being called family friendly'

By
Tim Vine
In a world of rambling observational comics and boundary-pushing censor-botherers, it's great that there's still a place on the stage and TV for Tim Vine. A master of the effortless one-liner and a man not afraid to be dubbed "family friendly", Vine is the master of good clean pun.

If you don't laugh at one of his gags, fear not, there'll be another three or four corkers before you've even realised. His latest DVD, The Joke-amotive is released on November 21, so we got on the phone to Tim to talk about jokes, Twitter and being a Pretend Pop Star.

What can you tell us about your new DVD?
"Essentially it's me and it's loads and loads of jokes. I come on, I start doing gags, occasionally I pull things out of a bag - homemade props - and I say something stupid. Then I sing a couple of silly songs, then I pull a couple of more things out of a box, and then I tell a few more jokes. I just keep moving. A moving target!"

Do your quickfire puns stand out in a sea of observational comics?
"I don't know about that. When I started on the circuit I felt like I was a bit more in the minority. About 20 years ago the alternative circuit had lots of observational stuff... but I can't say that I'm doing something new to the world of comedy - silliness has been around for a while."

Are you ever tempted to weave the puns and gags...
"Into some sort of narrative? It might make them easier to remember! If you do weave one-liners into a story, you have to have an overall story as well, otherwise it doesn't really count as narrative.

"I do have some running jokes - I refer back to things, but you wouldn't call it a narrative. It's not really getting anywhere! No-one is any the wiser. If anything people are probably more confused at the end of it."

You're on Twitter but don't seem to use it much for comedy, why not?
"Occasionally I'm hovering over the Tweet button, and then I think 'Hang on a minute, that's a bit too much like a gag that I could use'. If I try out jokes on Twitter then the very people who are following me on Twitter are likely to be the people who would then come and see me live.

"I find it slightly more interesting from my point of view to talk about a mixture of things rather than just simply one-liners. It's amazing how much wit there is out there - it does make me realise that anyone can write my stuff!"

Does the joke theft on Twitter bug you?
"It bugged me in the past. I did have some of my stuff go round on that email ages ago as Tommy Cooper gags - and that kind of bugged me. When I was on the circuit and doing clubs, maybe it was a bit harder then.

"If you're at grass roots level and you're constantly playing to people who don't know who you are, and you do a joke that they think is a Tommy Cooper joke and you tell them afterwards, 'No, I came up with it', they're not going to believe it are they?

"The way to get round it I suppose is to keep being creative. If the only thing I did was write one, 20-minute act, and then did nothing else, then that is going to be a recipe for frustration."

On Twitter the other week Ricky Gervais got in a bit of trouble for using the word "mong" - what was your take on all that?
"I'm not crazy about the use of the word, but I guess if he wants to use it it's up to him. It's a bit like the word 'retard', I'm not crazy about that either."

Your material is, I'd hesitate to say, 'family friendly', but...
"I don't object to the phrase 'family friendly'! One of the things I like about when I tour sometimes is that occasionally you'll see a dad there with his 12-year-old son and they're both enjoying it. I like that type of thing."

What's your stance on material that's a bit more on-the-edge, like Ricky Gervais or Frankie Boyle?
"We don't really know how lucky we are in this country in terms of free speech and we would absolutely not want to be in a situation where people couldn't express themselves however they wanted to.

"Whether or not Frankie Boyle is my cup of tea or not - and sometimes he does make me laugh a lot - some of what he does isn't for me. But on the other hand, he should be allowed to say it. Comedy covers such a wide range of different styles that I'm not really qualified to talk on all of them any more than anyone else is."

What can you tell us about the future of Not Going Out?
"We're just about to start on a fifth series. It's definitely going ahead. We've just done readthroughs. Lee locks himself away somewhere and writes all these scripts, then he emerges from a cave with them in his hands and says 'I've finished!' and we all go, 'Right let's have a look'.

"We had some readthroughs in a pub - we try all the scripts out to a little audience, then Lee films it and goes away and does some rewrites, which he's in the middle of doing now. Then we start filming for the fifth series."



Was there any truth in the tabloid reports that you wanted to quit the show?
"I'm doing another one, let's put it that way. One at a time!"

You release music under the Pretend Pop Star name - do you think all stand-ups are frustrated rock stars?
"Of course we are, we want to be! Yeah, everyone wants to be Elvis at the end of the day - and the beginning as well. I'm not someone who gets to play The O2 and places like that, but that's the kind of rock and roll venue. The popularity of stand-up means that some people are getting to play rock star venues."

Looking at the Christmas DVD shelves, do you see other stand-ups as competition?
"A lot of them I look at and think 'Well I'm not going to sell as many as him!'. Like I was saying, it's great that there are so many different people doing different things. I'm sure there's room for all of us."

You've never appeared on Mock The Week, while a lot of your contemporaries have...
"Someone sort of asked me to do it and I kind of declined, because I'm a bit rubbish at panel games. Some panel games I feel like I'm better at than others. Mock the Week is one of those ones, and there's been a few like it, where you have essentially six comics, seven if you include the host, and whenever a little gap turns up, everyone's jumping for that gap. I'm a bit rubbish at that. The honest truth is I find it a bit safer to be the funny one."

In what way are you rubbish?
"I've done a few of those panel games before where you get a situation where the gap appears and people who are more confident than you jump into the gap. And then you find four or five minutes have passed and you haven't said anything, so you think to yourself 'Flip I need to get involved - so the next time a gap comes I'm jumping for it'.

"So the moment comes and you're in there and you say something and you jump for the gap before you really have anything to say in the gap and it's a bit rubbish, and all that does is erode your confidence even more.

"I'm not good at it as some people. Some panel games like Call My Bluff, they used to say Tim, it's you now. So you're given a moment to speak as opposed to battling for gaps. I'm not competitive enough for it. I'm just not good enough at it."

Tim Vine's new DVD The Joke-amotive is released on November 21. Watch the trailer below:

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