If the words audience participation have your toes curling in your shoes then Tim Vine’s chat show is not for you.

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The punning powerhouse burst onto stage in Great Yarmouth last night (Thursday) delivering a volley ofword-warping gags.

His scattergun approach meant some hit their targets with explosive force while others fell on deaf ears – even Vine acknowledging the tumbleweed hush which was funny in itself.

Corny lines like “Exits –they’re on the way out,” had the audience laughing and groaning in equal measure, but there were many moments of genius.

What’s not to like about going to the sun-tanning Olympics and winning bronze?

After a tirade of witticisms it was down to the main business of the evening – the guests. On arrival we were all asked to fill in slips with our name, occupation and a ridiculous story about something that had happened to us, Vine selecting the most promising ones to join him on stage and be part of the show.

Clearly this was just a ruse to give him some material to play with – although it emerged that one person’s “ridiculous” was another’s “really quite hum drum”, like locking yourself out of the house.

One man told how he had twice stabbed himself in the leg while trimming masking tape, while an office worker explained she liked her job because it didn’t involve talking to people - something of a drawback on a chat show.

None of those who went up on stage in Yarmouth need to expect a call from Parky. Vine is always only gently mocking when some of his guests – ordinary folk including a signwriter and an insurance administrator – struggle to make their “ridiculous” story funny. When it fails we are invited to share the disappointment chanting in unison “What’s been killed? The atmosphere!”

Some guests were more successful than others, but you can’t help but admire their pluck and Vine is an endearing host.

However mining the audience for comedy gold did produce one gleaming nugget – the guy who was followed round B&Q by someone who mistook him for his brother, who died three years ago. “I thought I probably didn’t look very well,” said the guest and even Vine had to applaud, feigning indignance at his joke-telling prowess and whipping away the mic.

The chat show strategy was always going to be a bit cringey and the affectionate audience gathered at the Drill Hall were generous, cutting Vine some sympathetic slack when it fell flat.

Overall, however, it was a brilliant show the odd lead balloon adding to the edgy anything-could-happen feel, and there were plenty of silly songs and gags to lift everything back up.

Like the church pastor from Lowestoft stuck in drainpipe jeans in a changing room, he had to manoeuvre from some tight spots but in the end the show – like his chicken proof lawn – was impeccable.

Refreshingly there was no hint of the malice, sneering or swearing that afflicts some of Vine’s peers – just warm-hearted silly fun, and all the better for it.

Vine was meant to be one of the first headline acts to appear at the refurbished St George’s Theatre which is behind schedule.

However the Drill Hall venue, like an old school gym, chimed well with the no-frills performance and served the purpose well. Hopefully this will be the first of many high calibre acts to appear in the town which has proved, if ever there was any doubt, it has an appetite for them.

Liz Coates

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