Tim Vine

Little votes of confidence from an English teacher made a big impact on the comedian who always played the class clown

Emma Seith

I used to write little plays when I was about 12 and get my mates to be in them and we would put them on in school. I used to think they were going to be big productions, and then I would suddenly discover they were only nine minutes long. At that time they were just my take on mythology, so I did Theseus and the Minotaur and Jason and the Argonauts.

The reason I liked Mr Moss, my English teacher at the Aberdour School, is that he came into class one time and said: "For today's lesson we'll just rehearse Tim's play." I found that very encouraging. He could have told me to put it away and got us all to read Shakespeare.

I always liked getting up on stage. I'm not trying to lay the blame for my career at Mr Moss's door but that was a little vote of confidence. I used to like the school plays but I never got any decent roles. At my first school they did it based on seniority, so the lead role went to the head boy. At the next school there was maybe some kind of audition, but by the time I went I was asked: "Do you want to be soldier left or soldier right?"

Mr Moss was a nice bloke; very popular with the kids. He wasn't strict but he wasn't weak or anything like that - he was well respected by all the boys. I "um-ed" and "ah-ed" about doing this (interview), because I think he might be getting bored of me bringing up that anecdote about my play. Once in a while I spot him in the audience and I always tell the story and he looks faintly embarrassed. And then I did the school prize-giving and it just happened to be the year he was retiring and again I brought it up.

I really enjoyed school, but for me it was a lot of messing about. There was a lot of laughter because there were so many situations where you were not allowed to laugh. I probably was a little bit of a class clown - in fact, I definitely was. One of the housemasters at Epsom College, Roy Moody, actually put on my report: "Spends too much time acting the fool. He should realise the way you act is sometimes what you become." As it turns out, he was bang on the money.

I remember being in his office for something else - I must have been about 16 - and he asked me what did I want to do? I said I wanted to be an actor and he said: "Well, thing is, you've got to look the part, don't you? That's the only problem with that."

I used to play a lot of darts at Epsom College. I used to come back and my dad would say: "I'm not paying for you to play darts all day." I was not at all academic. I just didn't make much of an effort. I don't think I was incredibly thick; I just could not see the point of working when there was the possibility of having a laugh instead. English probably was my best subject but, even then, I don't think I was massively into it.

Tim Vine is performing at this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Tim Vine Chat Show is on at the Pleasance Courtyard, 1-27 August. He was talking to Emma Seith. For more details, visit www.edfringe.com

Personal profile

Born: Cheam, 1967

Education: Aberdour School and Epsom College, both Surrey

Career: Messed about until he turned professional comedian. Became a full- time comedian in August 1993.

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Emma Seith

Emma Seith

Emma Seith is a reporter for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Emma_Seith

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