Edinburgh Fringe 2011
One-liner machine Tim Vine has created a chat show at which you are a potential guest. A novel idea for audience participation, placing so much trust in unknowns proves detrimental to the comedy aspect of this comedy show.
Tim Vine is well known as a joke-monger extraordinaire. His puns are legend, his one-liners come in torrents. An acquired taste perhaps, but an important body in the firmament of British comedy. His last show, The Joke-Amotive, played to packed houses in Pleasance One at the precise time of 8.43pm. Moving to Cabaret Bar – a far smaller venue – for his 2011 Edinburgh offering, he introduces a potentially hazardous chat show format: his guests are made up entirely of audience members. We all fill out little slips with our name, job and a ridiculous story of something that’s happened to us as we file in, and Vine takes five of us onto the stage throughout the show as guests.
This is a lovely idea, and I went in really wanting it to work. Vine is great as ever, singing ludicrous songs, doing prop-based puns and poking gentle fun at his guests, most of whom seemed to mistake the idea of “a ridiculous story” for “something slightly unusual that once happened to me”. One woman had a hazy memory of getting in the way of a former circus elephant as a child (but couldn’t remember it except to say that it had happened), and another gent’s luggage was lost by an airline while he was on holiday. The only redeeming guest was the final one, a young actuary who also happened to be a former Scottish Champion at Rock Paper Scissors. Vine knows that his guests are less likely to be polished public speakers than he is (one watches his lap the entire time he’s on stage), and is more than ready to save the stories that peter out without punchlines, and punctuates the guests spots with good hosting, but unfortunately it didn’t really make for truly compelling comedy.
Perhaps having audience members submit their stories by email a day before the show would allow potential guests to really think of a good story, and Vine to sort out those that are likeliest to be funny on stage. This would take away a little of the ramshackle spontaneity, but could lend the show some polish. However, it could also be that I saw a particularly lacklustre group of participants. You still get plenty of Tim Vine to go around, and the crowd did have an enjoyable time. A word of warning: get there early because there were a fair few audience members forced to stand the entire hour. Vine should be applauded for going with a risky choice, but his fans will want him to stick to what they love him for.