Paul Merton’s Improv Chums

I’m glad I decided to keep Sue company for Paul Merton’s Improv Chums as it was an enjoyable evening. I’d seen improvisation on TV before – mainly Whose Line is it Anyway? – but that was twenty years ago and my interest had waned. Having front row seats at the Hexagon, though, made all the difference – not only could you see the comedians up close but they could hear your suggestions.

Paul Merton

Richard Vranch

Lee Simpson

Suki Webster

Mike McShane


I can appreciate that over the years they must have heard practically every suggestion and idea but they were still very fast and imaginative. We had (as far as I can remember):

  • corpsing improv (where the audience shouted “Die” if a comedian was drying up and floundering)
  • sequence improv (where each comedian (of three) could only say one word at a time before the next added to the sentence).
  • tag improv (where two comedians were acting out and others could freeze the scene and take over)
  • ventriloquist improv (where each comedian acts for themselves but voices one of their chums, who must in turn blend that dialogue into their own role – damned hard to do, let alone follow)
  • charades improv (where Paul had to guess he was the designer of the IDR using a knotted ball of wool whilst wearing a suit of armour)
  • suggestion improv (where suggestions were taken from the notes made by the audience during the interval – I had “cloud of dust” picked out, which was nice)

Such a contrast to the traditional stand-up of Sarah Millican the night before. I was tempted to state that the improv was harder but I’m not sure that’s the case. I feel the chums had an advantage in that the audience were prepared to give them a lot of slack. Sure, they had to think quickly on their feet but nobody expected everything to be funny – that would be unrealistic. Sarah, though, had crafted and rehearsed her delivery and – at the prices she was charging – the audience were expecting a lot more.

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