Paul Merton: quick fired thinking and creative wittiness

chums3I MUST be honest straight away. My experience with improvisational comedy probably extends to a brief obsession with ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ back when Dave first transmitted through our helpless television sets. In fact, I would perhaps think I am less qualified than many Aberystwyth Student Media members to comment on and review the frolics that occurred within the Great Hall recently.

However, what I did do was come out of the performance a transformed, self-confessed fan. Spending a fair chunk of my teenage years convinced ‘WLIIA?’ was a heavily planned, scripted farce, Paul Merton and his chums probably had a fair bit of persuading to accomplish. Paul’s ‘chums’ were introduced to the audience and almost immediately floods of nostalgia washed over me as I instantly recognised Mike McShane and Suki Webster (Merton’s Wife) from the aforementioned popular TV show.

The proviso is simple. All five improv artists throw out questions to sections of the crowd who reply with themes to certain scenarios or ‘games’.  The games begin in earnest and whilst some were a little slow in starting, there was no denying that all five were true masters of their game. No matter what ‘body position’, ‘emotion’ or ‘location’ was bellowed from the audience, an instantaneous sketch was performed – completely off the cuff.

Explaining any of the sketch’s highlights would contextually prove pointless. Yet I still feel the need to tell you about how Merton, Lee Simpson and Richard Vranch hilariously took it in turns to say each word of a 10 minute interview dialogue with Suki, discussing the completely random concept of “teaching badgers to row”. Like I said, you had to be there.

Members of our own improvisational society ‘Exploding Fish’ were lucky enough to meet with some of the cast afterwards, gaining some valuable tips and insight into the wonderful minds of professional comedians. Incredibly jealous, I spoke to President Jonny Downs who explained; “the main thing improvisation highlights though is in fact how dirty some of the minds of the audience are with some suggestions and even Paul Merton wasn’t safe from the minds of the audience!” Jonny went on to tell me that “it was a fantastic opportunity to swap tales and tips of improv and to be able to quiz them on how they all started out as comedy store players. We also had the opportunity to find out their own favourite games and even how to perform a Shakespearean long form play!

I think what struck me the most afterwards was the realisation that these five arrived in Aberystwyth with no show plan (like the countless dates before), and had no intention of creating one for the next show the following night. Turning up to a show safe in the knowledge that the forthcoming evening is entirely dependent on you, the audience, is incredible. Despite consistent calls for Borth to be considered in material (and the subsequent bemused faces of all five performers), they excelled with almost every possible curveball and challenge thrown at them.

So was I convinced? Yes. Absolutely. It was difficult to not sit there and admire their quick-fired thinking and creative wittiness. I’d implore all of you to give improvisation a go, no matter how awful you may well think you’ll be. For anyone there watching, Exploding Fish are right here on our doorstep…give them a go!