Vic Reeves

Vic Reeves

Date of birth: 24-01-1959

Born in Leeds and raisied in Darlington, Jim Moir undertook an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering after leaving school, eventually moving to London and becoming a factory inspector.There he formed a band and began a part-time course at art college, as well as performing on the comedy circuit as various characters - including the 'North-East’s Top Light Entertainer', Vic Reeves.

His stage show Vic Reeves Big Night Out began life as a regular Thursday night gig at Goldsmith’s Tavern, New Cross. Here he met Bob Mortimer, a solicitor who jumped up on stage one night and ended up becoming a regular, starting an enduring comic partnership.

The pair were championed by Jonathan Ross, who gave them a break on his TV show, and Big Night Out was made into a Channel 4 show in 1990, where it became an instant cult hit.

The pair followed it up with the sketch shows The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer, and Bang Bang, It's Reeves aAnd Mortimer, quirky sitcom Catterick and he game show Shooting Stars.

They moved to prime-time Saturday night with the BBC One show Families At War, which ran from 1998 to 1999, and starred in a remake of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) the following year, but they never quite made the transition to mainstream entertainers.

He also had a No 1 hit with a cover version of Dizzy, recorded with The Wonder Stuff, and released hit versions of Born Free and I'm A Believer, a collaboration with EMF.

In 2004 he and was a contestant in the fourth series of I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! with his wife Nancy Sorrell.

His other credit include the Discovery Channel's history series Rogues Gallery, Sky's Brainiac: Science Abuse and Radio 2 panel game Does the Team Think... - and he continues to work on his art, occasionally hosting exhibitions of his work.

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A Brush With Comedy

Review of the Sky Arts documentary featuring Vic Reeves and others

Simon Munnery has a great stand-up routine taking issue with a well-meaning critic who described his comedy as ‘the closest thing to art’, as if the two forms are mutually exclusive. It’s retold in this interesting – if over-long – documentary about when those two worlds overlap.

A Brush With Comedy is written and directed by Louis Moir, who has first-hand experience of both camps as the son of Vic Reeves creator Jim (whose new programme Painting Birds precedes the debut of this film on Sky Arts tonight).

‘My dad has always said there is great humour in art,’ the film-maker says. ‘And I’ve always thought comedy and art coming together is often overlooked – and often looked down on.’

Indeed, Jim rejects the label of comedian altogether, insisting, ‘I’m just an artist’. With that ‘just’ something of an understatement for a man who can knock out six paintings in a morning.

He became Vic Reeves as a way of putting on a low-cost comedy night in the 1980s, having had no experience of stand-up at all. He says he simply adopted the punk rock mentality: ‘Invent something and do it constantly. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad as a long as it’s new…. I didn’t want to do a comedy act and hone it and tell jokes.’

Vic, we learn, could just as easily have ended up being called Craig Wildfowl, a nod to the performer-artist’s love of wildlife, especially birds. But now he’s as good as retired the alter-ego, Jim is clearly happy with his new career as the artist he always thought of himself as. However not all the comedians featured in this film are so at ease with the description.

Bec Hill says that she had never even considered what she did as art before being asked to take part in this project, even though her stage work requires a flipchart to display her elaborate, animated, illustrations. ‘I don’t think I should be in this film,’ she confesses at one point.

The film also reveals wider  insecurities, not just about being defined as ‘artists’. Spencer Jones seems nervously uncomfortable showing the world any of his work, even the comedy for which he’s won awards. And when it comes to art he feels like an ‘imposter’, a trivial  dilettante compared to the real deal.

Even Munnery, who we meet pottering about in his shed and pouring concrete into a pair of Wellington boots, demurs when asked if he’s an artist. Other than Moir, only satirist Miriam Ella, creator of a spoof Ladybird book long before the publisher did the same, accepts the categorisation.

All the comedians are filmed with their families to see how their home life interacts with their work. But the main project is to create pieces  for an exhibition in a London which will place their output indisputably in the world of fine art – and leave it open to feedback. ‘You can’t control how people react,’ says Hill, trepidatiously.

Though the family dynamic is clearly of direct interest to Moir Jr, he is rightly more keen to explore the boundary between art and entertainment, although the film – which runs two hours including adverts – starts repeating itself by the end.

His other question is whether art can be funny.  The conclusion from those attending the exhibition of the comedians’ work is – despite their fears – a resounding ‘yes’. Though surely you wouldn’t have expected any other conclusion.

• Painting Birds With Jim And Nancy Moir is on Sky Arts at 9pm, followed by A Brush With Comedy at 10pm

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Published: 19 Apr 2023


DVD (2012)


Claire Nightingale
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