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P A U L   M E R T O N ' S   I M P R O   C H U M S   2 0 0 8

Paul Merton and his highly talented Impro Chums are wonders of nature. Impro Chums take audience suggestions and create cascades of fantastic tumbling laughter.

Most of the time.

"They turned my grey cells psychedelic"
--The Hindu.

Paul Merton's Impro Chums
Paul Merton's
Impro Chums
Tour 2008

Impro Chums
are mainly
Richard Vranch,
Lee Simpson
and Suki Webster
+ a guest chum

P A U L   M E R T O N ' S   E D I N B U R G H   R E V I E W S   2 0 0 8

By John Nicholson on Aug 9, 08

Now something of a Fringe institution, Paul's show was, as usual, a sell-out and also as usual, was an excellent romp through improvised scenes, sketches and features. This year along with stalwarts Richard Vranch, Suki Webster and Lee Simpson was the brilliant Mike McShane who just seems to own the stage. He's always a pleasure to watch but the whole group throw themselves into every piece.

Paul and Lee's bit about static electricity generated by a Highland Nylon Kilt ( in the Hitler tartan of course) was especially hilarious.

It all wraps up with an improvised version of a Shakespeare play - we got Julius Caesar Salad - which was a tremendously funny way to conclude the show.

The fact that Paul and his cohorts do this every year and every year bring the house down is a testament to both their brilliance and their consistency. Tickets are few and far between now, those with them are in for a treat.

Johnny's Star Rating 5

Paul Merton's Impro Chums Pleasance Beyond: 16.30 until 23rd August

  at his best
reviewer: me, UK

yet again improvisation at its best. fans of whose line is it anyway would love this. the mind boggles at how quickly they can think of songs on the spot. excellent entertainment
  well done yet again
reviewer: paula , uk

as a family we saw this show 2 years ago and we were not disappointed this time either. it is very funny n the hour just flies by. audience participation adds to the hilarity
  Genuine Audience Suggestions
reviewer: Anna, UK

I can confirm that the suggestions are genuine and do actually come from the audience. Not only were we asked to write down suggestions whilst in the queue, but two of the ones we made were randomly picked out of the bucket.
  Mirth with Merton
reviewer: Clive, Scotland

If you ever saw the TV series "Whose line is it anyway" this is what you get. The actors have clearly done this so often that their improvisations are probably a rehash of previous sketches. Also since no-one actually announced that you could make suggestions for sketches, it wsn't clear how genuine were the ideas pulled out of a bucket. And why do these sorts of shows only have a token female artist? Despite these comments, the show was very funny, with enough variety in the format to make the hour pass quickly. The unexpected, and very brief, (male) nudity in one sketch was certainly hilarious. Worth going to
  Good stuff
reviewer: pidpads, Scotland

Saw this show last year and this year. Last year we were lucky to get to see Colin Mochrie, this year we randomly got Mike McShane, which is good and old school, for fans of WLIIA?. Solid perfomances, some good laughs and some of the stuff is very sharp and quick, you've got to applaud a fast comedy brain.
  Fast paced comedy
reviewer: Sally, UK

Paul Merton is as he appears on TV - razor sharp and very likeable. His crew were also brilliant (with one exception) and I was amazed at how quickly they came up with songs and sketches.
reviewer: Graham, UK

Highly entertaining show-can't get my head around how quick you have to be to improvise a song! Very much enjoyed and would recommend to all.
  great show
reviewer: Adam, scotland

i wasnt expecting much to be honest but it was sooo much better than i thught it would be ! i was expecting a bunch of bad actors doing that terrible acting school rubbish! but against the odds it was pretty good!! well worth seeing
  Excellent - recommended
reviewer: DE, Scotland

As the name suggests, entirely improvised on the spot. Most of the scenes and jokes work well (surprising, given the on-the-spot nature of the show), and Paul and his chums are obviously very polished and slick given their experience and natural wit. Thoroughly recommended.

P A U L   M E R T O N ' S   U K   T O U R   2 0 0 8   R E V I E W S


Review: By Charles Hutchinson - "The Press"

IMPROV, or impro as Paul Merton and his quick-witted chums have shortened it still further, is comedy improvised in the moment.

"It's just for tonight," says Merton, arriving on stage first, as much the lead wit as he is on Have I Got News For You. "It's never been done before; it'll never be done again."

In content, that is true; in format and chums, however, it is as regular as, say, BBC Radio 4's I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, with its pattern of interactive games that start off with audience comments and then bounce off each chum's reactions and flights of fancy. The full-house audience is quick and eager to offer suggestions - surreal, risqué, bizarre, inspired, straight, daft - and York is in that weekend mood that always helps a gig go well.

Merton, as sharp as his jeans and baggy shirt are not, sets the casual yet on-the-ball tone, picked up by Lee Simpson, the most physically adroit performer; Richard Vranch, the keyboard player, guitarist and laidback cheeky chap; and Suki Webster, irresistibly saucy, savvy and more devastating in her impact for choosing her moments when to chip in.

The wild card is the big American tornado Mike McShane, more erratic but bursting with energy. From strimming Matthew Kelly's nasal hair, to "larging it" in a new Shakespeare drama, The Duchess Of Manchester, Merton and co can make merriment from anything - and then it's gone, as quickly as it came. Flashing wit indeed.

Review by Rachel Sloane - "One Suffolk" - 4th June 2008

It is twenty years since "Whose Line is it Anyway?" the Channel Four improvisation programme was first on our television screens. Thanks to Dave (what a stupid name for a TV channel!) I am loving the re-runs which, not withstanding the dodgy 80's hairstyles and clothes, prove the programmes to be as funny as I remember them.

One in the team of actors in the 136 editions of the programme was Paul Merton, now better known as a panellist on Have I Got News for You, (BBC 1) and he, with others from The Comedy Store Players, came to Ipswich as part of a touring impro' show based on the TV format. The audience packed the Ipswich Corn Exchange, ready for Paul's sharp wit and whimsical flights of imagination….. and most of them would have been at school when Whose Line.. was first screened.

Paul Merton was joined by his "chums", talented comedy actors Richard Vranch, Suki Webster, Lee Simpson and Mike McShane, the American actor who was another of the original TV actors, although hardly recognisable with his slimmed down physique. As the audience called out suggestions for situations, characters, topics, and emotions, the actors, trusting on the quick-wits of their colleagues, responded by incorporating the ideas into improvised sketches. It was white-knuckle acting – and it resulted in the funniest show that I have seen for many a year.

A bit risqué at times (blame the audience for their suggestions) we saw an emotional bus queue, a TV interview of an "expert" on llamas who do fencing as an Olympic Sport, and a circus act involving a 55 year old circus lion with no teeth, performed in various film or theatrical styles. Over the interval a bucket on stage was the depository for audience suggestions which the cast then turned into 17 quick-fire sketches (some were apparently too rude to be read aloud never mind acted out!).

The evening ended with "a play that Shakespeare never wrote", Mac-Chef (the cast were initially a bit baffled by that suggestion) and, as each actor ended their life in dramatic gore, all on-stage and off, wondered which one would be left to find the closing punchline…

Paul Merton was as funny as we expected – but his team were equally good. I was slightly worried that the editing of the television series meant that a live version of the show would be slower, with more duff impro', but it was even better live and I left the Corn Exchange with my face aching from laughter. Catch the show if you can. It will be in Norwich on June 17th as part of their country-wide tour.

P A U L   M E R T O N ' S   E D I N B U R G H   R E V I E W S   2 0 0 6

  excellent fun
reviewer: Mr Toad's Troos, United Kingdom

as always. this is a brilliant romp througth impro madness. the hour passes in 10 minutes. it's a joy
  Paul Merton's Impro Chums
reviewer: Richard Gill, United Kingdom

I have seen a variation of this show many times both in London and Edinburgh and it is consistently funny. Five very talented improvisers play a series of games based on suggestions from the audience which makes every show different and inspired. Paul Merton is one of the quickest, wittiest, funniest and popular performers. His fellow improvisers were Jim Sweeney, Suki Webster, Lee Simpson and Richard Vranch. The winning formula of the show has proved very appealing for years and above all, it is very funny and recommended. Show rating: **** (very good)
  Consistent comedy
reviewer: Neil Stanley, United Kingdom

This is our third successive year at the Fringe investing our cash in Paul and his improve chums. Yet again he (and colleagues) make a good return on our investment and it was nice to see that he made himself available to answer questions after the show. Good to see Jim Sweeney playing his full part.
reviewer: Peter, United Kingdom

Very, very professional show which means there are no dull moments. Could go on for twice as long and I'd still be wanting to see more.
reviewer: Linzi, United Kingdom

A brilliant impro show - utterly hilarious. Paul Merton is my hero.
  Not enough superlatives!
reviewer: Diane, Scotland

Utter nonsense! Marvellous! Hilarious! Whatever else you do, don’t miss this show.
  As always...
reviewer: Ruth , Edinburgh

  Saving on script writers
reviewer: Gordon Stewart, United Kingdom

The audience script write the show with improbable ideas and suggestions which are superbly intertwinned with absurd disturbed thought processes from the players to produce an hour of hilarious entertainment. Manages to hold the audience in raptures and leaving them wanting more and no doubt will be sold out next year as well.
  Fantastic Fun
reviewer: bob , Perthshire

There are not enough superlatives for this show. Fast, Funny, Fantastic Fun does not do it justice.
reviewer: Don Reilly, Ireland

Saw quite a few shows in The Festival and this was by far the best. Great performances by everyone concerned. Thanks Paul.
  the real deal
reviewer: matthew, United Kingdom

All new acts at the fringe should come and see the professionals do it. This show had class written all over it. It was the true meaning of improvisation and had the contemporay views and ideas that made a great show. All members of the cast were brilliant and funny in their own way creating a fantastic show! in perticular i found the way that all of the cast could change and react to any given situation from the audience, and still produce constant laughter is a perfect example of how good this show was. I must see show for anyone as it will make you laugh!

Paul Merton's Impro Chums

Pleasance Courtyard *****

Anyone who has ever see Whose Line Is It Anyway? on television or the Comedy Store Players on stage will know the format of this kind of show. Suggestions are taken from the audience, both on slips of paper handed in before the start and from things shouted out during the show. The performers then create short scenes, speeches or jokes from these suggestions on the spot without any preparation and try to make the audience laugh.

The line-up for this show is similar to two years ago: Jim Sweeney, Richard Vranch (who also improvises the music on keyboard), Lee Simpson and Suki Webster, plus, of course, Paul Merton. There are also some special guest improvisers lined up, and on the first show the guest was Comedy Store Players regular and TV star Josie Lawrence. The show consists of a set sequence of scenes which use information supplied by the audience and are then created and performed by the cast. When it works, it is very impressive and very funny - when it doesn't it can still be funny if the performers deal with it well.

These are all very experienced improvisers who deal with pretty much anything that is thrown at them, by the audience or - which is often worse - by the other improvisers. They deliberately block, drop one another into difficult situations and make each other laugh during scenes, but it is all part of the style of the show and is all good-natured and funny. And this show is very funny indeed, at times getting a large, sold-out audience all rocking with laughter in unison.

There are a growing number of shows in Edinburgh that claim to use improvisation, but if you want to see some of the top performers in Britain in this style of comedy, you should definitely try to get a ticket for this show.

David Chadderton

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums

Hilarious improvisation by Paul Merton and friends.

Paul Merton, Lee Simpson, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch and Jim Sweeney improvise for an hour using suggestions from the audience.

It would be difficult for any comedy show starring Paul Merton not to get five stars, even more so when he is accompanied by such a group of quick thinking performers from the Comedy Store Players.

At the beginning of the show the audience is asked to suggest some household objects and a character (in this case a toilet brush, washing machine and Scooby Doo). One cast member has to begin a story involving these and the story is passed randomly and arbitrarily to one of the others. Anybody hesitating or repeating themselves is eliminated until only one is left.

After this, Paul Merton leaves the room while the audience decides on an obscure occupation, which he has to guess when he returns (an assassin from Carlisle who is going to assassinate a mouse for identity theft!). Needless to say, with the help of his friends, he manages it easily but watching him get there is hilarious.

The show carries on in a similar vein for an hour, with barely a pause for breath. It ends with a variation on a Shakespeare play, again chosen by the audience. Those used so far include Thirteenth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Wet Dream, Omelette, A Whinger’s Tale, Romeo & Julien and The Vagrant Of Venice. Try to think of one that will stump the panel (you won’t). Clever and very funny.