Analysing humour, it has been said, is a bit like dissecting a frog. You can do it -- but the frog dies in the process. So it is probably not wise to try to explain exactly why a one-liner by Tim Vine has been named as the best joke at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.
The comedian, who is the younger brother of the BBC presenter Jeremy Vine, won the gong, now in its third year, for the following quip: "I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what -- never again." Of course, it may all be in the delivery.
The crack was chosen by a panel of judges made up of leading comedy critics on behalf of the television channel Dave. After each judge watched 60 performances by stars including John Bishop, Emo Philips and Sean Hughes, chuckling (or groaning) their way through 7,200 gags each, a shortlist of 24 was put to the public vote, with Vine coming out the winner. He said: "I'm going to celebrate by going to Sooty's barbecue and having a Sweep steak."
The gag was taken from his show The Joke-amotive at the Pleasance Courtyard. One critic said of his act: "The jokes have power because of the sheer audacity of the wordplay, and a surprisingly high proportion of them are inspired, in a warped sort of way. A few are pure genius."
Vine (43) was named Perrier Best Newcomer at the Fringe in 1995 for his show The Tim Vine Fiasco. He also stars alongside Lee Mack in the BBC sitcom Not Going Out. But perhaps his greatest claim to fame came in 2004, when he briefly held the world record by telling 499 jokes in an hour -- shattering the record set by Estonian stand-up Erkki Kolu.
His style is heavily reminiscent of Tommy Cooper, bludgeoning his audience into submission with a rapid stream of clean but consciously laboured one-liners. Typical examples are: "Velcro. What a rip-off", and "I ordered dessert at the Pizza Hut and they gave me tiramisu and a blindfolded horse. I said, 'No mascarpone'."