As the crew set up the next shot, he sips a tomato Cup- A-Soup and peers warily in my direction. There's a muted discussion behind a van, I'm ushered over, and Vic Reeves is introduced to me by his real name, Jim Moir.
Jim's top half is hidden inside an enormous quilted jacket, his legs are bare and he's not smiling. When he slips off his coat he reveals that he is dressed for tennis - white polo shirt, white shorts, white jumper knotted around his neck. I kick myself for trying to ingratiate myself by wearing a rather lairy suit, and, as we look around for somewhere to sit, make a mental note not to try to be funny. An aged tree, knotted and swelling around the roots, seems to be our only option. "Let's sit on these nodules," I suggest, trying to be funny, and we park ourselves down. We're huddled together, side by side, like two strange garden ornaments. And, because my nodule is lower than his, I am actually interviewing his naked knees.
He sniffs under his armpits. "I just smelt myself and I smell of the Thames. Last night we were in a hotel by the river, on this jetty looking out, and they said, 'Who'll jump in the Thames for forty quid?' and I said, 'I will' and leapt in. It started off as fifteen hundred quid, but I got them down to forty. That was such a crap bet. I did it because I just wanted to see the expression on their faces." How, I ask, could he see the expression on their faces if he was underwater? "Exactly. I thought of that in mid-air. Just before I entered the dreadful brown depths."
He's called back for the next sequence, in which he has to fall off his bike and spill its basket-load of tennis balls. The stunt requires several takes. "He'll do anything for a fiver, this bloke," shouts one of the crew.
James Roderick Moir was born in Darlington, Co Durham, in 1959. From the age of 14, he worked weekends on a pig farm, where his duties included castrating the unfortunate animals. "I got paid about pounds 2.50 for a weekend, which I immediately spent on loons," he recalls. Leaving school at 15, he did factory jobs before moving to London, where he studied aeronautical engineering and performed on the comedy circuit. According to legend, he met his partner Bob Mortimer in a comedy club in New Cross: Jim was wearing a Bryan Ferry mask and tap dancing with planks of wood sellotaped to his feet.
Just over ten years later, Vic and Bob are the unchallenged heavyweight champions of the BBC2 comedy schedule, a sort of Dadaist Morecambe and Wise with a style that is light entertainment gone mental. Celebrities queued up to be humiliated on Shooting Stars, their madly peculiar and recently deceased quiz show: few comedians could persuade Danny Baker to lie on the floor and let men use sticks to dislodge a fruit pastille from under his beer gut. Plus, if it wasn't for the fact that Hale and Pace have got one, Reeves and Mortimer's Golden Rose of Montreux might also be seen as proof of their world-class status.
As the cameras are shifted to another part of the park, we find another tree on which to perch. "If Bob Mortimer was a lady," I ask, "would you fancy him?" This seems to break a bit of ice. "I don't think he's really my type," he giggles. "He's too squat." Even the thought of sharing a house with his creative other half fills him with disgust. "I could never do it, he's too filthy. He used to live in this flat in Camden and he couldn't be bothered to use the bin so he just threw everything out of the window and there was this triangle of filth in his garden. And, personally, he's quite dirty. He very rarely washes his clothes, he has no laces in his shoes, he has filthy tracksuit bottoms full of holes and a sweater that's covered in... " he pauses, "...fluids." I wonder whether he feels protective towards Bob. "Do you mean would I defend him if he was attacked by a bear? Probably, yes."
Jim Moir has none of the boorishness of his exhibitionist, trouser-rubbing alter ego, and his relationship with fame seems uneasy. "I like to keep myself to myself. I like to stay in my house," he admits. And he doesn't enjoy being recognised in public. "People have quite an odd way of approaching us sometimes. They talk to us in an odd, medieval language. They say, 'Couldst thou possibly paint thy name on my stamp?'" He's banging his fist on his forehead, and I ask what this phrase might mean. "I dunno. I think it's a nervous thing."
The press have been treating him roughly, gloating over the ups and downs of his marriage and speculating about his relationship with Shooting Stars sidekick Ulrika Jonsson. This interview has been granted on condition such subjects are not broached, so I pursue safer territory. "You live on a farm, don't you?" (Flat denial.) "No. Don't believe everything you read in the papers. I've got two pigs, which doesn't constitute a farm. I just keep them in a field. They are very pleasant. I occasionally go and look at them and throw food at them, and that fills up my day. Then I go back to bed."
He confesses irritation with the things that are written about him. "Journalists like to invent a person, and it's not necessarily the person that they're writing about. The image the tabloids try to create of me and Bob is very different from how we really are. They try to make us out to be mad jokers. But I wouldn't want to put journalists down," he insists. "That's their job."
My search of the cuttings reveals that in the past five years he's been described as "zany" 34 times and "wacky" 20 times. "I don't quite know what zany is. I think they should think of some new words." I invite him to choose a few substitutes. "What, like Pythonesque?" He thinks quite hard about this one. "Cuddly," he decides. "Cuddly and Pythonesque. Or rudimentary. The Rudimentary Humour of Reeves and Mortimer."
He's climbing into the car that is waiting to take him back home to Kent and his daughter, Alice May, for whom he reserves his greatest enthusiasm. "She's the best thing ever, she's my best mate," he beams, losing some of his reserve, and I'm suddenly struck by a sense of tremendous kindness. And I remember that in 1988, a school friend of mine saw his act, and went up to talk to him at the end of the night. "I've just split up with my girlfriend and your show really cheered me up," he confessed. Vic Reeves - or maybe Jim Moir - bought him a pint.Reuse content