Tim Vine: Current Puns
Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2005
Fresh from breaking the Guinness World Record for Most Jokes Told In One Hour and a hugely successful national tour, Tim Vine returns to Edinburgh with lots of new stupidity. Gag follows gag follows gag.
Tim Vine walks out carrying a brain on a fishing rod - and promptly does six one-line puns about this one silly prop in under 30 seconds. Britain’s most industrious, efficient joke-machine is clearly back.
His show is all about the numbers, just how many gags can he pack into an hour-long show? He holds the world record for it - 499 - and this cannot fall far short of that impressive tally.
It is a relentless barrage of wordplay, each one pared down to its bare essentials. ‘Velcro. What a rip-off.’ A four-word gag, you can’t get much tighter than that. I won’t quote any more, even though the temptation is overwhelming. If you manage to remember just half a dozen, you could be the office wit for a week.
It is the most environmentally friendly of shows – not only will many of the gags be recycled in this way, but there’s absolutely no waste in their production, so lean is the writing.
Some of them are simply words crushed awkwardly together to make a pun; others have quite complicated and subtle ideas behind them, but again written so simply; the bad joke masking some clever thinking.
The format is unashamedly old-fashioned, Vine doesn’t want to let any unnecessary complexity get in the way of the punchline. So many jokes start ‘So I went to the doctor’s/estate agents’ or even ‘squirrel nightclub’ or ‘shop that sells foreheads’ just for speed of set-up.
While Vine’s strength is in the simplicity of the presentation he has, before now, struggled to give enough variation in pace and style to maintain a full-length show, and so been forced into using some fairly desperate gimmicks. No such measures are needed here. There are some prop-based one-liners, and occasionally a burst of song will herald yet another joke, but it’s still servicing the conveyor-belt approach. Vine’s act is a blitz, and there’s no hope of let-up.
Tellingly, the only time when the show slumps is in an extended song montage at the end, with Vine wearing a giant rubber thumb. The puns are his weakest and the gimmick gets in the way – even Vine’s winning self-deprecation cannot rescue this. But it’s only three or four minutes out of 60.
For the rest of the time, the quality is remarkably consistent, the obvious product of a very hard-working comedian. Vine would have no truck with such flattery, of course, preferring to mock himself and the supposed corniness of the lines to highlight the sheer ridiculousness of what he’s doing. ‘I’ve been to every one of my gigs,’ he says at one point. ‘So have some sympathy.’
It’s all-round family entertainer stuff, giving the audience what they want: jokes, songs, props and a giant dancing hippo. Apparently uncomplicated and unsophisticated, he is, in fact, very, very clever. And hilariously funny, too.