Paul Merton’s microphone was left on after the Impro Chums show, and some of the audience got to hear what he’s like behind the curtain.
He’s nice. We got the snippet “Well done guys, well done!” a few times as he thanked the team of improvisational and musical comedians after the gig. The not-really-a-gaff was heard by the last of the audience as we filed out of the first show of Paul Merton’s Impro Chums in Edinburgh Fringe 2023. It’s the first show in four years.
If I wanted to flex “Killer journalist instinct”, I guess I could have combat rolled out of the departure queue, listened longer and tried to see if the private conversation took a turn. I did not. That’s not me. Besides, I’d just had a great hour with the Impro Chums. Why ruin it?
What to expect
The Impro Chums are Paul Merton, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch, Mike McShane and Kirsty Newton on the keyboard. Taking suggestions from the audience, the comedian team plays several games and makes it up as they go.
There’s one game in which whoever gets pointed to must continue making up a story on the fly, and if they hesitate or stumble, they’re out.
Another game has one Impro Chum acting as an interpreter on an obscure subject while the other burbles charismatically in a made-up language.
The audience involvement is limited to people shouting ideas or whooping when an error strikes. It’s a safe show.
Shakespeare was, once again, the traditional ending.
Vibe and Performance
The show is top-tier stuff from an elite team and an expert captain.
Pleasance Grand is huge, and yet it felt cosy. It felt familial. The audience played along.
There is no weak in the Impro Chums chain. Complete and whole games went without Paul Mertin’s improvement, and they were hilarious.
I’m an old pro at the Grand. Don’t drink too much while queuing, and don’t over-dress. It gets warm in there. If you’re not fighting for comfort in the tightly stacked seats, then the show will fly by.
Improv can be a bit hit or miss, but I’ve had years of trips to Paul Merton’s Impro Chums and never had less than superb. The performers’ experience and the games’ structure seem to ensure success.
The show is a fantastic return to Edinburgh by Paul Merton’s Impro Chums, and no wonder they earned a full house.
Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is a great chance to see familiar faces off TV or, in my case, resume an Edinburgh Fringe tradition. Sure, it’s a little more costly, but there are five chums, and I suspect they would sell out at an even higher ticket price.