Tim Vine: Punslinger

Note: This review is from 2008

Review by Steve Bennett

Tim Vine has no shame – and that’s exactly what makes him so funny.

In his apparent desperation for laugh, he will crack the most tenuous puns, sing the cheesiest songs and prance around with the most stupidly elaborate props, immune to any fears he might be abandoning his dignity. Sure, he might be self-deprecating, frequently drawing attention to how ridiculous his whole act is, but embarrassed? Never.

Such unyielding idiocy comes with buckets of eager-to-please puppy-dog charm. He’s putting so much effort into entertaining us – bless – that the effort is endearing in itself. This is why his wordplay, however tortured, rarely gets a groan; we’re all in on the conspiracy of nonsense.

Occasionally he’ll stop proceedings, as the realisation of how foolish he looks suddenly dawns on him. Just what is a grown man doing with a bunch of small breakfast cereal packets gaffer-taped to an umbrella frame? But such self-realisation is only momentary, and the madness quickly resumes.

The more straightforward puns come at such a pace, you don’t have time to sit in judgment. Vine famously held the gag speed record at one point – but even now he’s slowed down a bit, there are more punchlines in one hour than many comics achieve in a lifetime. He must have the memory of an elephant just to remember his set.

It may seem like a triumph of quantity over quality, but that would be to do him a disservice. While a lot of his work does fit a formula, his best gags are more like intricate, ancient puzzles: you’re given the basic information in the set-up, and already know the mechanics of a pun, but you’ll still be stumped as to the solution until he reveals it with a flourish.

These are the audacious jokes that are so offbeat, and so perfectly succinct, that you’ll be aching to tell them yourself later. But don’t try it; there are so many good lines that new ones will perpetually be pushing out the ones you were trying to make a mental note of. In the end, you’ll remember nothing.

In Punslinger, Vine varies the pace a lot, as you need for a gag-packed 60-minute-plus show. He’ll let rip with a machine-gun burst of gags, then maybe commentate on the way the gig’s going for a minute or two, or possibly amble over to his hefty bag of props for a pun in visual form.

There are also lots of snippets of songs here – rather like his spiritual cousin Harry Hill. Vine’s always done them, too, if not quite to this extent, and often these are just pointlessly vacuous, rather than pun-laden. And, of course, they’re all sung in that cornball lounge singe style, the arm pumping in and out like a locomotive’s piston to emphasise every line.

In black and white, it’s hard to describe how all this chintzy old-school gaggery can condense into moments of sublime silliness, but they do. His spoof ventriloquist act, for example, will have you helpless with laughter simply because of the single-minded childishness of it all.

Like so much of his show, it might at first glance seem like cheap end-of-the-pier tat; but the air is so celebratory, so unfashionably uncynical, that you can only be swept along with the spirit of things. Plus, the jokes underpinning this cheery mood are often much better than you’d expect. Resistance to such an onslaught of silliness is futile.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Redhill, May 2008

Review date: 1 Jan 2008
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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