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Pun believer - stand up star Tim Vine gets to the punchline

Joke machine Tim Vine talks faith and funny business with Russ Bravo ...

Joke machine Tim Vine talks faith and funny business with Russ Bravo

When the tall figure of comedian Tim Vine strides into the Surrey coffee shop where we’ve arranged to meet, muffled against the cold in a sheepskin trapper hat, no-one bats an eyelid.

It’s an expression crying out for a Vine pun, the stock in trade killer one-liner the Cheam-born stand-up has made his own in almost two decades in the comedy business. His popularity has grown over the years through a mixture of live performance on the circuit and TV work that has mixed acting and presenting.

Most recently he was a finalist in Let’s Dance for Comic Relief – as a white-suited Justin Timberlake – “I still sometimes put the CD on and do the dance in my kitchen” – and has just left the cast after five successful series of the BBC sitcom Not Going Out (with Lee Mack), the show in which Miranda Hart also came to prominence.

“I just felt like moving on,” he explains. “I’m truly proud of being a part of it, and when I switch on the TV and it’s on it still makes me laugh a lot.”

On Tim’s horizon at the moment are a number of projects, from working on a follow up to his best-selling joke book, to honing his comedy chat show which had its debut at Edinburgh in 2011 and which he’s taking there again this year.

“It’s a different kind of discipline to my usual show. You have to work with the audience’s reaction and there’s that total looseness of not knowing where it’s going to go. You never know who you’re going to get up on stage.”

Watch out for the new book in the autumn – The Tim Vine Bumper Book of Silliness (Orion) – taking its inspiration from the popular annuals of the 1970s.

Tim, younger brother of TV and radio presenter and journalist Jeremy, is also known as a committed Christian, and put in a return appearance at Spring Harvest this Easter, performing with long-time friend and writing partner, comedy magician John Archer.

He’s still part of the congregation at his home church in Cheam – although he doesn’t play the drums there as much as he used to. “It was drowning out the prayers.” So how did he become a Christian?

“I was very influenced by my parents. My Dad would have the same routine every morning: get up, make a cup of coffee and read the Bible. I kind of absorbed faith but if I had to point to a particular moment when I made my commitment, it would have been a Pathfinder camp when I was 12, in the bottom bunk with a copy of Journey Into Life.”

And while his comedy material is primarily good old-fashioned family fun, he firmly believes it ties in very well with his faith.

“Laughter’s a good thing – God invented it. And if my shows can lift people and deliver a positive vibe, then I’m very happy with that.

“I sometimes pray before a gig, but not always for myself – sometimes I pray the audience will get through it! And I ask God to cheer up the people who need it.”

He’s also well aware of the dangers of a profession that heaps huge pressure on struggling comics trying to get their big break.

“If we’re honest, most comedians will admit they got into comedy for their own glory and the buzz of it. So it can play with your ego a bit. And when you do anything for a long time you can have moments when your confidence wobbles, and you wonder whether to try and do something else.

“I’m happily resigned to the fact that this is what I’m meant to be doing. It’s so varied now, anyway, what with acting, stand-up and more.”

Family and friends provide a tight support group for Tim, and he has developed a loyal following over the years.

“I love what I do,” he concludes simply. And so do hundreds of thousands of comedy fans, blessed by the joy of having a good laugh.

See what Tim's up to at www.timvine.com

An answer to prayer

“A little while back our church had a prayer event where everyone was given a stone with a prayer or a Bible verse on it. Mine read: ‘God help me’. I had a few struggles at the time and found it helpful to carry the stone around as a reminder to pray. After a while I’d come through them, and when I looked at the stone saw my fingers had rubbed the lettering. The prayer now read: ‘God held me’. If I ever become a preacher I’m going to open with that!”

Best joke on the fringe

Tim won best joke at the Edinburgh fringe in 2011 with:
"I’ve just been on a once in a lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what – never again."
 

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