10 questions with... Tim Vine
In our new regular interview series, comedian Tim Vine – famed for his quickfire one-liners – takes the Tes hot seat
Comedian Tim Vine is famous for his rapid-fire one-liners and has won numerous awards for his comedy, including twice penning the funniest joke at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He also broke the Guinness World Record in 2004 for the most jokes told in an hour – a whopping 499 – and has hosted numerous TV and radio shows. But how did the king of wordplay fare with Tes’ 10 questions? He talks to Dan Worth about his favourite teacher, what he enjoyed during his school days and why he owns cast-off furniture from his alma mater.
You can read excerpts from the interview below or listen to the full interview on the new Tes My Best Teacher podcast embedded below or on your podcast platform of choice via the following links: Apple, Spotify, Amazon, and Google Podcasts.
1. Who was your most memorable teacher and why?
His name was Mr Moss and he was an English teacher at Aberdour School in Burgh Heath, which I attended between the ages of 5 and 13. What I remember about him particularly is that, when I was about 12, I had written this silly play and I cast all my classmates in it, and then I put it on at the school – it was an ego out of control, to be honest! And one time – I remember it because it was such an encouraging thing to do – Mr Moss walked into the English lesson and said, “Today we will rehearse Tim’s play," and he offered up the whole lesson to rehearse this nonsense that I thought was an epic like Ben-Hur or something. When you are a child and you have your dreams and silly ideas, and they’re then validated by an adult, it’s a great moment.
2. Are there any other teachers who stick in your memory?
We had a teacher called Mr Squibbs at Epsom College and he was a brilliant teacher, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly so I got on the wrong side of him just through my joie de vivre in lessons – he was a French teacher. He was a very strange mix of incredibly strict but incredibly popular – everybody loved his lessons. He was a fantastic teacher and I bumped into him at a gig locally, actually, and it was “Hello, sir…Thank you, sir” from me!
3. Are you still in contact with any of your teachers?
Another great teacher I had at Epsom College was Stephen Oliver, who was also my English teacher. He runs a thing called the Banstead Arts Festival. It’s near where I live so I have occasionally taken part in that.
4. Did you like school?
I’ve been looking at old reports and stuff, and pretty much most of them say “Now’s the time to stop messing about” and “Knuckle down and get on with it” or “He’s a bit of a dreamer”. I think I did probably what was required of me, but I don’t think I pushed to be a straight-A student or anything like that – I just got on with it and I wasn’t driven in that way. I was a very happy boy, really – I made a lot of friends and, for me, school was mainly about that and just having a laugh.
5. Do you think it prepared you well for your current career?
It’s funny: in actual fact, I was getting ready for the world of work by messing about! But I do see that, in most cases, pupils are just messing around – they are not doing it because they are practising to be a comedian. I wasn’t aware I was doing that at the time.
That said, the best thing I had in a school report was from my housemaster and, summing up a term looking at all the different teachers telling me to stop messing about, he said this prophetic thing: “Tim should stop acting the clown – sometimes you should remember that what you act, you sometimes end up becoming.”
6. Did you get into a lot of trouble at school?
Yeah, I [ended up in detention] a lot of times. I wanted to mess about because it just came naturally to me, but I always found it a bit deflating, actually, when I was punished for my high spirits. I could never quite put those two things together because, to me, I was enjoying my life and having a laugh. And I was never a terribly badly behaved student. Sometimes there would be some teachers who really were properly wound up by my messing about, and then other teachers who sort of went with the flow and enjoyed it. But different teachers react in different ways, don’t they? So you never know what you’re going to get.
7. Do you have any mementoes of your time in education?
Aberdour had a science lab and at a certain point they got rid of all the stools in [that] lab. I’ve got two of those stools [in my house]. I use them all the time, actually – they’re very handy for putting props and things on. I painted them and I took them up to Edinburgh for a show because they’re so handy for using and for sitting on. Well, clearly I didn’t invent sitting on stools – that already existed.
8. Do you have any good memories of school trips?
We went to the Imperial War Museum – I think it was only a small group of us, maybe four or five of us – and the thing that is most memorable is that some boys from another school were there and they started sort of being a bit mouthy towards us. And I was walking next to [teacher] Major Metherel and he turned to me and said: “Ah, you can fight, can’t you?” I remember at the time being terribly middle class and thinking, “No, not really, I’d rather not – I’m 11!”
9. Do you still have friends from your time in school?
I do still have friends from those days. Two of my very good friends, Jason and Joe, who I met when I was 13 when I joined Epsom College, we still go out for a meal once every couple of weeks. Jason was my best friend at school and I still take the mickey out of him a little bit because of how we first met. He came up to me on that first day at school and said: “Can I walk up to lessons with you?” His wife finds that hilarious.
10. Ultimately, then, did you enjoy your time at school?
I did, I really did. Some people say, “Oh God, I hated [school]," but I just genuinely loved it and I can even remember when I was at Epsom College saying to myself consciously: “Make the most of this because it’s one more year and it’s over.”
Tim Vine is performing his Plastic Elvis tour across the UK in 2021. Check out the full list of performances at timvine.com. He was speaking to Dan Worth, senior editor at Tes