Exhausting. The most exhausting show to watch on a Sunday. I had already run a five kilometer obstacle course that morning and now I’d been brought to this busy, underground room (with a bar though, thank goodness) and been made to laugh for two hours. Do you know how tiring laughter is? It burns calories, you know. I needn’t have ordered the veggie burger instead of the cheese – I came out of the Comedy Store with a six pack.
If the abs haven’t persuaded you, there’s plenty more to tempt you in. If you have £20 and a spare evening on a Wednesday or a Sunday, I would thoroughly recommend seeing the Comedy Store Players. The show is built around a core group of hilarious comedians, including the likes of Josie Lawrence and Richard Vranch, the lively faces of the beloved series Whose Line Is It Anyway. The performance is unscripted, revolving around a structure of improv scenarios (Andy Smart speaks Malagasy about monkeys and driving while Paul Merton translates) and relying heavily on the ridiculous and smutty participation of the audience. Essentially, the show is this: throw several clever, funny men and women together onto a stage and watch them mess around for two hours. Well what else would you do on a Wednesday or Sunday night?
But the best thing about the act is the pandemonium. You could watch it every week for the rest of your life and never see the same show twice. The players, with an apparent effortlessness, create such a whirlwind of mistakes and self-mockery within their more articulate witticisms and playful banter that it is easy to forget the point, the original scenario set for the comedians – although they never do. And getting lost is the fun of it; the games fall into the background and what takes over is the friends you can see on the stage – Andy Smart, red faced, trying to repress choking bouts of laughter; Paul Merton, insisting he is the butler, not the lord of the house that the scenario (and a stranded Josie Lawrence) claims. I have always said: bloopers are the funniest part of any film or TV series. Real people will always be funnier than characters, and what is improvised from a mistake kicks the stuffing out of any script.
I would like to say that Lee Simpson stole the show; teasing for him is like breathing and his playfulness with the audience began proceedings perfectly. And yet this comedic genius of his is only amplified by his fellow players. It is the interaction between them all that works so well, and where I expected to see boredom and exhaustion from decades of doing the same gig, I saw instead the oil that keeps the parts of the machine running so smoothly. The years have perfected a show that will never be perfect. A show that made me want to be funnier, to laugh more often, to quit my job and try my luck on the stage with them all. A show that definitely made me want to come back. Comedy Store, I will see you again soon.