‘When the man said ‘Come on Tim!’ Centre Court just erupted,’ said presenter Sue Barker, ‘people were rolling about the aisles, the players couldn’t continue and the umpire was laughing so much he fell off his chair. It was pandemonium. We haven’t seen anything like this since the time when the pigeon landed on Court Number 3.’
The contagious laughter spread so fast that play on all courts was suspended with a number of people taken to hospital complaining of chest pains. ‘At one stage we feared the joke might derail the entire Championships,’ said Tournament Director Ian Ritchie, ‘we only managed to restore order by repeatedly opening and closing the retractable roof – something we use to help calm people down.’
Speaking afterwards, the man who shouted the line, Mr Lionel Bream from Godalming, Surrey, said: ‘I noticed that people were shouting for the two players on court so I thought that it would be really funny if, instead, I shouted ‘Come on Tim!’ I guess the rest is history.’
‘The line ‘Come on Tim!’ is so amusing because it creates a surreal juxtaposition,’ explained comedy expert Dr Jonathan Miller, ‘it refers to a time when people genuinely shouted ‘Come on Tim!’ for Tim Henman, a man who is himself a joke. Thus, by shouting ‘Come on Tim!’ when Tim wasn’t even there, Mr Bream created a sublime moment of post-ironic metatextual comedy genius.’
The shout has now been confirmed as the funniest incident in the entire history of the All England Club, funnier even than when Ilie Nastase got down on all fours and looked into the Cyclops line calling machine, more amusing than when Henri Leconte pulled a face and minced round the court pretending to be a girl, and more ironic than every time John McEnroe knowingly says ‘You cannot be serious’ when he isn’t even being serious.
Now the challenge is on for the players themselves to come up with something even funnier by the end of the tournament. ‘We looked at the shape of the tennis racquet and wondered if there was some sort of musical mime we could do to raise a laugh…’ said Roger Federer. ‘We’ve tried pretending to blow down one end like a clarinet or banging it like a drum but it didn’t really work. But when we finally work out what sort of musical solo you could pretend to play on a tennis raquet, it’s going to be hilarious!!!’