Tim Vine: Down the barrel of a pun

While Jeremy Vine looks to step into David Frost's shoes, his brother Tim is a record-breaking comedian known as the 'Joke Machine Gun'. Julian Hall dodges the flying wisecracks

When you prepare to meet the man dubbed as the "Joke Machine Gun", the current world-record-holder for the most amount of jokes told in an hour, you brace yourself for an assault of incessant gags. Even with his answerphone message, Tim Vine doesn't miss a track: "This is Tim Vine. I'll keep this answer message very short [click]."

When you prepare to meet the man dubbed as the "Joke Machine Gun", the current world-record-holder for the most amount of jokes told in an hour, you brace yourself for an assault of incessant gags. Even with his answerphone message, Tim Vine doesn't miss a track: "This is Tim Vine. I'll keep this answer message very short [click]."

But on the day I meet him, Vine is rather more subdued and pensive than his eager stage persona. Wearing a baseball cap and unshaven, he apologises for looking like a tramp. Divested of headgear and sitting down in a restaurant, Vine is more at ease but fighting shy of unbridled mirth. "If I wasn't in a public place, I might have been a bit stupid," he admits. "I'm always like that in radio interviews, so I've let you off."

Vine entered the record books last year, beating the previous holder, Estonian Erkki Kolu, with 499 gags such as these: "So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me, 'Can you give me a lift?' I said, 'Sure: you look great; the world's your oyster; go for it.'"

And: "So I went down my local ice-cream shop and said, 'I want to buy an ice cream.' He said, 'Hundreds and thousands?' I said, 'We'll start with one.' He said, 'Knickerbocker glory?' I said, 'I do get a certain amount of freedom in these trousers, yes.'"

Or: "Apparently, one in five people in the world are Chinese. And there are five people in my family, so it must be one of them. It's either my mum or my dad. Or my older brother, Colin. Or my younger brother, Ho-Chan-Chu. But I think it's Colin."

"You're going to ask: 'Is it art?'" Vine says. "It's not something I would fix an audience with. I thought twice about having it on the tour poster and being known for that for ever and a day. My act does seem to have gone that way, though, and I don't really know why. But people did enjoy the record attempt - they laughed." And how important those laughs were, given that the record rules actually require a laugh after every joke for it to count. "I told the audience that we were all in it together," Vine adds, "but the laughter was genuine. There was no way they could have kept that up for longer than five minutes if they weren't enjoying it."

A few years before the record attempt was dreamt up, Vine's output gained notoriety for a different reason when a large number of his jokes were attributed to the late Tommy Cooper in an e-mail that went around the world. "I remember talking to a comedian in Australia who was saying how great Cooper was and then started quoting my jokes back at me." There were plenty of unwelcome reminders back home, too: "It was annoying at the time. Chris Evans would be reading them out on his radio show, or Richard Whiteley on Countdown, all unattributed to me."

Vine is now a little flattered by the episode, but Cooper is not on the highest rung of the comic influences he chooses to name - though there are plenty of nods to the old school, as you would expect from a comic with his traditional feel. Among them are Jackie Mason, Frankie Howerd, Larry Grayson, Norman Collier ("I did a gig with him recently), Basil Brush ("Not so much now, but I still like his attitude") and Jimmy Cricket. "I know Jimmy and his family quite well. He's an absolutely inspirational person; his enthusiasm for the whole thing still is fantastic. You ask him how he is, and he'll reply, 'Happy to be in show business.' I'd love to still have that attitude at his age."

Phil Silvers also figures on Vine's list of favourites. He has fond memories of his dad waking him up late at night so that they could watch Sgt Bilko together. In fact, childhood memories are never far away for the comedian. "I'm still a home boy: I live a few miles from my mum and dad, in Cheam. My house is a bit like a teenager's bedroom. The kind of pictures you have hanging up on your wall say a lot about you. I've got ones of Evel Knievel, Elvis and Starsky and Hutch, signed by David Soul." It's this deliberately prolonged childhood that keeps Vine in the parallel universe where his jokes live: "It's the real world, just spelt differently," he says.

It is a case of parallel Vines when it comes to his relationship with his brother, Jeremy, the broadcaster who took over from Jimmy Young on Radio 2, shared the limelight with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight and is tipped to succeed David Frost on his Sunday-breakfast slot. Although the age difference is less than two years (Tim is 37; Jeremy, 39), the comedian concedes: "He's more grown-up. I'm essentially making a living from mucking about; his is a more sensible route. The other day, I was doing this joke where I was asking: 'Is it possible to change the world?' and I say, 'Yes, I've changed the world', and I take out this cube-shaped world. When I was cutting up the box to make it and sticking the map to the sides of it, I thought, 'This is my job - it's ridiculous, but I love it."

With Jeremy interviewing those who shape the world and Tim using sticky tape to do that, it's not likely that you will see their paths cross on television. Tim's credits so far include Channel 5's quizzes Whittle and Fluke, BBC 1's Housemates and Challenge TV's clip-compilation show Fort Boyard Takes on the World. But the former Perrier Newcomer claims to be happy with his career: "All the things I've done have been great, really. I've been in a few bands [including one called Flare Generation, with Jeremy], done bits of acting, presented game shows, hosted a chat show for a week [ The Jack Doherty Show], appeared in a short film. I just feel like I've done lots and lots of different things. In fact, the only two things left for me to do now are win an Oscar and read the news. Oh, and have a hit single in the chart - that would complete the set."

Tim Vine tours to 28 May ( www.timvine.com)

Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
    Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

    The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

    In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

    How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

    Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
    Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

    How Stephen Mangan got his range

    Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor