Vine and dandy

Liz Nicholls

Liz Nicholls talks to comedian Tim Vine

Q. Are you getting into character as Idle Jack for the pantomime?
“Yes! I always play the idiot friend of the female lead in panto and, being a bit of a moron, I just turn up in character. I’m not a Dame so it doesn’t take me long to get dolled up – I just put on some colourful corduroy and I’m good to go. I’ve never seen Matthew [Kelly, who plays Sarah the Cook] when he isn’t dressed up. It was the same when I did panto with him a couple of years ago. I think it’s such a palaver to put all that make-up on he’s decided to whack it all on once and leave it on until January 16th.”

Q. Are you all having fun?
“We’re getting on… but it’s very early days. Pretty soon they’ll be asking ‘who’s the idiot with all the jokes?’ But, Arlene [Phillips], Matthew, they’re all great and everyone loves everyone… they haven’t told me they don’t like me, anyway. Panto is a happy, silly show for families – we’re not doing King Lear. Although it can be hard work, no one takes it seriously.”

Q. Did you love pantomimes as a child?
“I went to a couple as a kid but I think my parents took us to those very highbrow ones where there wasn’t much audience participation. I do remember seeing Treasure Island with Bernard Miles but I think it was quite serious. My parents are much more into yelling at the stage now that they have grandchildren to take to pantos.”

Q. What are your New Year resolutions?
“I’m planning on marching on parliament… Oh no, sorry I thought you said New Year’s Revolution! I keep thinking maybe I should do more exercise but the sweet trolley always looks too tempting [bites into a cake].”

Q. You’re renowned for your quick wit – were you always into one-liners?
“Thanks and I’m flattered, but I don’t think I am mentally agile! I can’t even say it easily. I’ve always liked short jokes; as a child I loved The Muppets, Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper, people being silly.”

Q. Were you the class joker at school?
“No, I was the class trapeze artist. I was always messing about quite a lot. But I think you should be more worried if you have a child who works incredibly hard and the teachers never have a bad word to say about them. I was always the one looking out of the classroom window dreaming, being silly or showing off. My mum used to say ‘Stop showing off, Timmy…’ I didn’t listen did I?!”

Q. What was your favourite aspect of school?
“I used to write little plays based on Greek mythology – Odysseus, Jason and the Argonauts – and had an amazing English teacher called Mr Moss who used to let me stage them with my mates. The whole school gathered in the gym to watch my Minotaur and I thought I’d written some kind of sweeping epic… and it was all over in seven minutes. But to be encouraged by an adult in something you enjoy is something you’ll always remember.”

Q. You’re turning 50 in March, aren’t you?
“Yes, I suppose I should have a party shouldn’t I? A huge one with 1,000 people I don’t know? I feel very lucky to have got to 50 relatively unscathed. I’ve been very fortunate to have the friends I’ve got, and family – sorry, I went off on one there – I was mentally practising my party speech!”

Q. Do you still love playing darts?
“Yes, I’m part of a pub team in Epsom. They’re all much better than me and it’s quite nerve-wracking stepping up to the oche. My hand shakes and I’m telling myself ‘please don’t all land in the number 1’! It’s a drinking game – well, more drinking goes on in darts than, say, badminton… Or Formula One.”