Venue: Grand Opera House, York
Unsurprisingly, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is all about improvised comedy. Taking suggestions from the audience, Paul Merton and his four companions, Richard Vranch, Lee Simpson, Suki Webster and Mike McShane; create wild and ridiculous scenarios, bringing almost all of the audience to tears. As far as comedy shows go, this has to be one of the best around.
The concept of this show is certainly its selling point – what other comedy act gives the audience exactly what it wants? By creating a relationship with those you’re trying to make laugh, you can tap into directly what does exactly that. Through simplistic scenarios, such as fast-changing improvised scenes (the themes of which are chosen by the audience) and group storytelling (one person says one word each), the audience is constantly involved, as well as kept on their toes.
For an improvised show, Paul Merton and his chums were pretty polished. Their sharp wit came through with their ability to almost instantly adopt a role given to them in any situation. The energy levels were high throughout, and there were few moments when the audience were not laughing. The ease with which Mike McShane and Suki Webster moved between a Musical, a silent movie and an Opera, creating songs (still keeping to their Christening scenario) was highly impressive and it was hard to believe that their songs were created on the spot.
One of the top highlights of the show for me was ‘Guess the Imaginary Job’. The audience were asked to create an unusual occupation, which Paul Merton then had to guess. It was completely ridiculous watching him unravel the mystery, particularly when he attempted to decipher the cryptic clues given to him by his four companions.
To someone who is more accustomed to watching stand-up comedy, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums was pleasantly refreshing. It is clear that they are seasoned performers and their confidence shone through. The bond between the five was also obvious – their ability to trust one another, follow an individual’s idea and add their own personal twists was what allowed every sketch to be so funny. Such effortlessness also allowed the audience to get involved. By the end of the night, almost everyone was shouting out, keen to see how their idea would be actualised on-stage.
Currently touring the UK, Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is worth a watch. It is not enough to say that this show is funny, as that would not do it justice. The inventiveness, spontaneity and ridiculousness give the show its high energy, as well as its ability to appeal to absolutely everyone. From James Bond with an iron to javelin-throwing tortoise experts, this show’s absurdity will have you in stitches without a doubt – you chose the jokes, right?