Festival Favourites

Words Claire Smith   

How does it feel to be bringing your Improv Chums back to the Fringe?

It’s great and it doesn’t really feel like work. It’s a different show every night so it never gets boring.

Who are your chums?

They are Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster.  We’ve also got a new member this year, Kirsty Newton who plays keyboards. We’ve always had music, but this means we’ll have more of it. Because I’m not musical, I’m in awe of people who can improvise music.

What makes a good improviser?

I suppose the crucial thing is you have to really listen to what’s being said around you.  Then you have to have a really robust comic imagination and the ability to put that across to an audience. Other skills help too – Mike McShane has a proper West End musical quality voice and is also really strong on Shakespeare.

Why do you think improv continues to be so popular with audiences?

Well the key thing is that the show doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t exist on paper.  It only comes into being on the night.  Because you are surrounded by people you know and respect and love, it’s very freeing.

When did Improv become a thing in the UK?

It was a big thing in America but not so much here until the Comedy Store Players formed in 1985. The US comics Kit Hollerbach and Mike Myers, who went on to create Austin Powers and Shrek, came from the scene in the US and wondered why it didn’t exist here – Don Ward of the Comedy Store took a chance and put it on on a Sunday, and it took off.

You are a real expert on the history of comedy. What do you think of it nowadays?

I don’t see a lot of comedy, and I avoid watching panel shows on TV because I have a really good memory for jokes but I don’t always have a good memory for whether
I thought of them or not.


Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand, 4 pm,
8-17 Aug, from £14

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