An un-guarded Tim Vine tells Derek Walker about his hi-vis career.
Q: It is unusual to get two high-profile siblings from one family. Was your upbringing quite driven or is it coincidence?
A: I have no idea why Jeremy and I ended up doing what we’re doing. We certainly weren’t pushed into it by my Mum and Dad. They were just very supportive of the two of us – and my sister, too. We all knew that whatever we did, they would be our biggest cheerleaders. Jeremy and I really wanted to be popstars when we were teenagers, so perhaps we started with the same dream and then chose slightly separate paths after that. I’m not sure that we’re that competitive with each other. Perhaps we were a little bit when we were younger, but by and large I knew my place as the younger brother.
Q: Having been at Channel Five at its launch and presenting Whittle, does the channel have a special place in your heart?
A: I certainly hold my days on Whittle with great affection. It was a wonderful working experience. I would film five Whittles a day, which I loved, and then the production team would retire to the Stakis hotel in Maidstone, where we would have a meal together, lots of laughs, a few drinks and then bed. The next day, after a leisurely breakfast I’d write gags with my mate John Archer for a couple of hours and then off to the studio to repeat the cycle. Great fun.
Q: How do you remember so many quick-fire jokes? Because they zoom around the internet so easily, do you feel the pressure of constantly producing new material?
A: When I have to write a new show, it has to be new material, so I make it up. I’d love to say that remembering my jokes is some sort of natural gift, but it’s not that interesting. When I have a new show to learn, I just practice a lot.
I try not to get too wound up by my stuff getting nicked, but it is annoying. My attitude is to keep writing and just hope it doesn’t happen too much. I will always stand up for comics who’ve had their stuff nicked, because I know the sense of injustice and how powerless it can make you feel. I don’t feel pressured by the plagiarists, though. I’ll just keep doing my thing.
Q: What else do you do really fast?
I don’t know… I make friends quite quickly.
Q: How did it feel to lose the world record for telling jokes and will you try again?
A: I’m not planning on regaining my world record. I’m keener on being funny than quick. Also I have a certificate on my wall that says I did it. If I went for it again, it would take a lot of work and I’d end up with two certificates. That doesn’t particularly thrill me; one will do.
Q: Some would say that making people laugh is a wonderful way to earn a living, while others might call it a lightweight career. How do you feel about it as something to be remembered for? If you ever wish to be known more for a serious side, what would it be?
A: What kind of dreary bore says making people laugh is a lightweight career? I’d hate to meet him at a party. I remember Bob Monkhouse being asked how he’d like to be remembered and he said that he was happy to be forgotten. I thought that was quite cool, because let’s be honest, none of us will be remembered for long. I’d like to be a better darts player. That’s my serious thought for the day. I love darts.
Q: How does your faith affect your work, apart from its cleanness?
A: I believe that God invented laughter and it obviously has great healing properties, so I feel that making people laugh makes sense as a useful way to spend my time. I think God likes to see people laugh.
Q: How disappointed were you about Not Going Out being axed before it was re-commissioned and has it taken some of the fun out of doing it? What is most satisfying out of that, The Sketch Show and solo work?
A: The great thing about my job is it is very varied. I get enjoyment out of most of the different projects I’ve worked on, because they’re always changing. I couldn’t tell you which was the most satisfying because it’s all better than VDU inputting for a pension firm, which is what I used to do.
I was surprised when Not Going Out was originally axed, because it was popular, but television is a strange thing and it’s nothing if not unpredictable. We start on a fourth series in September. Its hard work but always fun. Remembering the lines is the tough bit.
Q: You can do quick gags and we can do quick questions:
a. Is comedy the new rock & roll?
b. What joke by others do you wish you had composed?
A: The entire act of Milton Jones.
c. Which joke are you most proud of?
A: All of them equally. They’re my children.