Words by Kevin Hawkins
As patrons find their seats inside the Lower Town Hall, the first thing they see is a small slip of paper. It invites the bravest of guests to write down their name, their occupation, and a funny story. These people and their stories form the basis of The Tim Vine Chat Show—a hybrid comedy show of pun-based one-liners, musical comedy, and conversations between Vine and his most willing audience members.
There’s a lot of risk involved in Vine’s approach. Thankfully he is not only hilarious, but experienced. He has a backlog of comic material he can retrieve at any moment, ensuring that his show does not fall flat even if his guests have nothing to offer.
On the night I attended, Vine had two types of guests: the straight guests, and the ‘funny’ guests. The guests who attempted to steal the limelight from Vine—in this case a broadcast announcer and an ex-circus performer—highlighted the vast cleavage between people who are funny and professional comedians. It was clear that Vine was not a fan of their over-the-top personalities and efforts to outshine him, and it was in these reactions that these segments found their humour.
In contrast, Vine’s interviews with the straight guests were comedy gold. Vine has an innate ability to find humour in his guests’ responses, or lack thereof, without personally attacking them. This might sound self-evident, but Vine understands humour and has an uncanny ability to force laughs out of his audience, even when the material at hand is weak.
The nature of the show means that every night will be different, and that judging Vine’s tour on the basis of one night is partly unfair. Nevertheless, one suspects that Vine is comfortable regardless of who comes to the stage, and is confident enough in his own ability to improvise. For this reason, I would recommend against seeing one of Vine’s live performances; seeing him at least twice would be far better.
The Tim Vine Chat Show will be performing at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival from 27 March to 20 April.