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Interview: Suki Webster back on the road for Paul Merton's Impro Chums

Improvisation show heading to Leeds City Varieties in June

Paul Merton's Impro Chums

One troupe of comedians, one stage, and a show dictated by the audience.

No two performances of Paul Merton's Impro Chums are the same, and the five comics who brave the weird and wonderful prompts from the in-house crowd are kept on their toes every night.

Comedian and playwright Suki Webster, Paul's wife, makes a format that would terrify most stand up comics actually sound rather fun.

"We're having a great time," she said. "The tour is going brilliantly."

The Impro Chums concept debuted in India in 2004 with Suki, Paul Merton, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Jim Sweeney, who were touring as the Comedy Store Players.

"We had such a fantastic time that when we came back we founded this group. Jim Sweeney has MS and is retired now so we have got the fabulous Mike McShane instead and it's gone from strength to strength," Suki explained.

"Mike has been with us for several years and obviously he knows Paul from Whose Line Is It Anyway back in the day. We've all been friends for a long, long time — on tour you're travelling around with your best mates."

Each night, the cast asks the audience for words, phrases or prompts and makes up scenes based on what they have said, from the banal to the bizarre. The result is a completely different show each night, and the cast are forced to think on their feet.

"It is a little bit nerve wracking," Suki said, "when you first do it it is quite terrifying. But anybody can learn to improvise, the same way anybody can learn to paint, if you have the aptitude.

"Last tour, I can't remember how it came about, Lee Simpson ended up playing a worm doing an impression of Sammy Davis Jnr. I don't know how but he managed it, it got quite surreal."

Suki said she was lucky to be able to go on tour with her husband.

"It's nice to travel with Paul," she said. " Traditionally showbiz marriages cant be difficult because people spend so much time apart and we're really lucky because we get to tour together."

And she has been especially looking forward to seeing the refurbished City Varieties.

"It's gorgeous," she said. "I can't wait to see it. I do know the venue, we have played it about five times with lovely audiences."

Paul Merton's Impro Chums is at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall on Tuesday June 9.

Tickets are on sale, £21.60.

Book online or call the Box Office on 0113 243 0808.

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