Tim Vine Chat Show

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Steve Bennett

His brother Jeremy has interviewed Prime Ministers, Hollywood stars and royalty, but tonight Tim Vine’s guest on his talk show is… an employee relations manager with a facility provisions company. Ooooh.

The simple twist of the punmeister’s chat show is that he draws his guests from the great unwashed in his audience. And the fact that this chosen subject has a job that’s not obvious to define isn’t going to put Vine off. As you would expect, his guests are largely just ciphers for his cheesy vaudevillian gags. He has such an encyclopaedic knowledge that just about every career triggers a small flurry of corny-one-lines.

It’s an interesting way to exploit his immense back catalogue, as well as prompt some apparently spontaneous quips. Many of his more classic lines have become so well-known among his core fans that he has to acknowledge the fact – even going as far as getting the audience to chime in with the punchlines.

That’s not to say there’s no interaction with the guests, which starts off as compere-level banter, but with the time to go into a little more depth. Unlike ‘real’ chat shows, success here is not wholly dependent on the quality of the guests, but on Vine’s wit. But when the interviewees are funny, it’s definitely a bonus, as tonight proved.

It’s not always obvious who will provide the best laughs: discovering a genuine roller-coaster salesman to open the show is amusing enough, with his tale of a ride gone wrong, but the stand-out is the teacher who chastises him with a terrifyingly disciplinarian air that makes Anne Robinson look like Fearne Cotton, forcing Vine’s wordplay to yield to roleplay for just a few moments.

Yet no one can compete with the hilarious story from the teenage lad recalling his decision of a few years back to conduct vital scientific research into how many M&M’s he could stuff up his nostrils. ‘And then I passed out…’ is only the start of his horrors.

Vine keeps things bowling along nicely, with his quick wit and compulsion to keep things cheery. When our employee relations guy turns out to be a hardnosed salary negotiator, who cockily asserts that he knows the union will accept the reduced offer he’s given them, there’s a murmur of disapproval. But Vine moves on quickly before the mood can sour. The real world has no place in his primary-coloured comic-book universe.

His strong streak of self-deprecation feeds into this mood, with catchphrases to celebrate when things go awry, quips about the dodgy quality of the gags, and tongue-in-cheek asides to the audience, threatening them with a long night ahead.

Aside from an opening set by comedy magician John Archer, a similar purveyor of ‘dad jokes’ to accompany his nifty tricks, the chat show section is bookended by Classic Vine. There's an overwhelming onslaught of mixed-ability cornballs batter down the defences to start, and a small selection of wilfully naff songs to end, complete with audience participation. Some of these abandon his usual punchline-driven approach for simply being bizarre, especially the peculiar ladder-based ditty that ends the night on a baffling note.

His fans, most likely, would be happy with an evening of these usual shenanigans undiluted by the interviews, but fair play to Vine for wanting to mix things up a bit. But if this is the future of talk show, Michael Parkinson better prepare to get very dizzy once he’s in the grave.

Review date: 26 Sep 2012
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Beck Theatre

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