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PUN MASTER: Comedian Tim Vine brings his new show Sunset Milk Idiot to Yorkshire in March.
PUN MASTER: Comedian Tim Vine brings his new show Sunset Milk Idiot to Yorkshire in March.
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Master of the well-honed pun, comedian Tim Vine is about to head out on tour with his new show Sunset Milk Idiot. He spoke to Brian Donaldson.

With his new pun-packed show Sunset Milk Idiot, Tim Vine has done something a bit different.

The former star of BBC sitcom Not Going Out and Guinness World Record holder for most jokes told in an hour suggests that you can try as hard as you can, but you won’t find a clever bit of wordplay anywhere in that title.

“Lots of comedy acts have no puns in their shows but a pun in their title while I quite enjoy the fact that I have loads of puns in this show but none in the title,” says the man whose previous shows have had names such as Punslinger, The Joke-Amotive and the amusingly elaborate Tim Timinee Tim Timinee Tim Tim To You. “It’s just describing what’s on the poster: there’s a bit of a sunset colour, and there’s an idiot with some milk bottles on his head. The title made us laugh because the photographer, my tour manager and myself had spent so much time thinking of a pun for it.”

While much of contemporary comedy offers some sort of autobiographical elements, top punmakers such as Tim are quite simply on a perpetual hunt for the finest jokes they can dream up. But once you have a full hour-plus of gags, there are other challenges to putting a show together, such as the order you tell those jokes in.

“There’s a vague science to this but you certainly make sure there are good ones at the beginning and at the end,” says Vine. One thing he is most unlikely to do prior to his tour is pop into his nearest comedy club and check out the latest offerings of similar wordplaying stand-ups.

“Me and Milton Jones have chats about this sort of thing because we hone similar areas, but there’s a slight wariness about seeing each other’s show because sometimes it can be a bit uncomfortable waiting to hear a joke that you might also have. Having said that, I did see his show recently and there weren’t any moments when I screamed ‘no! I’m going to have to chop that’!”

As with most comedians, when a tour approaches there’s a distinct need to put other projects to one side and get on with writing that new show. “Most days I will think of a joke – things will just occur to me as I’m pottering around – but getting ready for a tour, I have to make more of a concerted effort. So when I see a tour looming, I get into that frame of mind that I’m looking for things or I’ll book a room and just write all day. Then I try them out on an audience. If a joke isn’t going down as well as I’d hoped, you try and tinker with it but eventually you just have to admit that you’re wrong about it. Sometimes there are jokes that I’ve done one way round and it turns out it works better in reverse.” While he’d like to do a bit more acting at some point, for now he’s preparing to get in amongst his fans across the country and making them laugh (albeit with the occasional groan thrown in). “Generally, audiences come along because they already know the kind of thing you do and they like it, so when you walk on you’re already in credit a bit,” he says. “Still, that always amazes me. I look through a crack in the curtain and I think ‘who are these people and why have they come to see me?’”

Tim Vine is at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford on March 13.