James Macfarlane chats with the one and only Paul Merton about 20 years of Impro Chums, how to succeed in improvisational comedy and some of his favourite on-stage moments.
Anything is likely to happen and often does
Paul Merton! Lovely to speak with you! How are you doing?
I’m doing really well thanks. Really looking forward to heading back to The Edinburgh Fringe. We haven’t been since 2019 so we’re all looking forward to playing the Pleasance Grand again.
How does it feel bringing Impro Chums to the Fringe for the show’s 20th anniversary year?
The great thing about doing an improvised show is that every show is completely different and we can’t wait to take the show back to the Fringe. Because each night’s show is individually created from the audience’s suggestions it really doesn’t feel like we’ve been doing it for 20 years. Every show is always as exciting as the next.
How would you describe the show for someone who’s never seen it before?
Anything is likely to happen and often does. The shows are entirely based on audience suggestions. So if you have a great suggestion please don’t feel shy about shouting it out.
You’ve worked with many funny people over the years. What is it about this group of comics in particular that just clicks in an improv setting?
They are very cheap to hire!
What are some of the key elements necessary to succeed in improvisational comedy?
It’s very important that you listen to what the other people in the team are saying to you. It’s not important to come up with funny things on your own but much more important that you can react to the suggestions of the other people around you in order to come up with the best material.
Is there a guest performer you would love to work with on the Impro Chums stage that you haven’t yet?
Although it would be impossible, I’ve always admired the improvisational skills of Charlie Chaplin. Although he wouldn’t need to be mic’d up as everything he did would be purely visual. That would be a real joy.
Have you had a favourite moment from your 20 years of Impro Chums?
It’s very difficult to remember individual moments because your brain knows that it’s not important to remember after the show. So you tend to forget every detail once the moment has passed. However, I do remember the occasion when one of us transformed in the middle of a scene from Norman Wisdom to David Bowie! That’s exactly the sort of thing that’s likely to happen in our show.
Thanks so much for speaking to me! Finally, are there any shows that you’re looking forward to seeing this August?
I don’t tend to see many other shows in Edinburgh these days as I much prefer to sit around in public spaces surrounded by acolytes. Although we went to see Le Clique in the Spiegeltent a few years back and couldn’t help marvelling at their adult orientated Circus skills.