The moment Tim Vine utters the joke that won him the award for the Funniest Joke of the Fringe – "I've just been on a once in a lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what. Never again." – there's a huge roar of appreciation from the audience. Embarrassed, Vine observes that the award has killed the joke.
Jokes can suffer worse fates, of course, and perhaps Vine should be more embarrassed about how utterly cheesy his armoury of gags is. The cheese is, though, part of the charm of this long-legged and disarming comic, who isn't so far behind his brother Jeremy in the public consciousness thanks partly to the persistence of the sitcom Not Going Out and partly to his hard work on the comedy circuit for the best part of 20 years.
The only problem with Vine's relentless pun parade is that it can feel like being bludgeoned into submission. The order of jokes is key to build crescendos and rhythms and while a certain scenario can yield three jokes, most of the time Vine lurches from one premise to another – from the terrific – his poem "Ode to my girlfriend's mother – £10,000" – to the twee.
The vast majority of his audience are willing participants in this near-hostage situation; some have even brought banners hailing their hero, which is pretty impressive at a comedy gig. Not even Michael McIntyre could lay claim to that.
Though I have seen better shows from Vine, where the mix of his mixed bag has grabbed me more, his role in the comedy landscape is unique, ploughing furrows in territory that others would neither dare nor deign to tread. It's uncertain terrain, but Vine creeps over it stealthily.
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