Big Interview - January 09 - Tim Vine

Comedian – and Christian – Tim Vine is bringing the art of the pun and clever wordplay to growing audiences these days. He traded punchlines with editor Russ Bravo ...

He's got a new DVD out – So I Said To This Bloke – a new series of Not Going Out aired on BBC1 in the autumn, and he's popped up everywhere from Richard and Judy to Celebrity Mastermind.

Tim Vine is turning up in all sorts of places on the entertainment radar, and many of those happy to see a return to traditional comedy that's genuinely funny are delighted.

"It's been quite full on this year," the Surrey-based comedian admits. "I enjoy touring - particularly when you've got something new to do."

And given that Tim's material can see him get through 300 jokes in one set, there's a pressure to bring on new content much quicker than many stand-ups, who can tour pretty much the same material for years. How does he test his new jokes?

"There's a pub called the Fighting Cocks in Kingston, which has a comedy club every Monday night. I'd go along and do a different 10 minutes each Monday. It's great fun, I really enjoy it and I do love the atmosphere. I read my new stuff out from postcards and see how it goes. They have quite a regular crowd - the danger is that you build up a bit of a rapport so sometimes they flatter you."

Tim's first DVD in 2004 saw him break the Guinness World Record for the number of jokes told in an hour – each had to get a laugh to count - with 499, shattering the previous record of 362. He held the record until May 2005.

His latest, So I Said To This Bloke, was recorded in July at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London, and is reviewed here. It is likely to cement his reputation as one of the UK's top 'family-friendly' comedy acts, along with Harry Hill, and fellow believers Milton Jones and Jo Enright.

I asked if he felt that the 'comedy pendulum' had started to swing away from offensive, confrontational humour to more family-friendly silliness.

"Maybe there are just more people doing it – on TV there is a market for more straightforward family humour. People ask 'do you make a conscious effort not to swear?' – if you're doing silly stuff you're not tempted to put swearing in. All the comics from my childhood, who were funny without swearing, were the people that influenced me. What I do is quite traditional anyway."

Do you ever feel you have had a real calling to comedy?

"Retrospectively, I can see that yes this is what I'm supposed to be doing. I felt that this job was like coming home. My mum and dad pray for me a lot, and I've got friends who text and check that everything's well. I've never been one of those people who has been taken up the front of church and prayed for.

"There's a Friday group I go to when I can, loosely connected with my church. I really appreciate their support – I like the fact that the group is there. And there are other Christians in comedy who you can get together with from time to time."

For many believers – writers and performers – in comedy, it's often the off-stage time when the difference their faith makes becomes clearer, and through friendships behind the scenes they're able to have an influence.

Tim admits that with greater success, touring can be exhausting and he at times misses the banter and camaraderie of the comedy club circuit.

"You can be knackered getting somewhere in a car but going on stage revitalises you and you want to stay up for four hours. I never spend too much time on my own. It's also important you get on well with your support act!"

This Christmas there's a special episode of Not Going Out to look forward to, featuring Bobby Ball as Lee Mack's dad ("I hear he preaches at his gigs. Sounds extraordinary") and Tim has been in action in Guildford at a special retelling of the Christmas story with fellow Christian comics including Paul Kerensa, Jude Simpson and Miranda Hart.

There's plenty more to come from the Punmeister, you can be sure of that.

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