Imagine Whose Line Is It Anyway? applied to stand up and you have the gist of Set List, a Stateside wheeze landing in London via a stopover in Edinburgh. That cultural comparative was made all the more resonant tonight with the inclusion of the improv-savvy Greg Proops and Phil Jupitus among the stellar line up.
Proops and Jupitus along with Rich Hall, Scott Capurro, Brendon Burns and Tim Minchin had the unenviable task of squeezing coherent material out of some random nonsense categories such as 'Elf Esteem', 'Bill Gates Syndrome' and 'Albino Manifesto'.
Without the benefit of an ensemble, improv's customary safety net, the results were inevitably patchy. Whose Line...? star Greg Proops found that one line responses to the stimulus could be as fruitful as extended riffs, though he would have been on stage for less than a minute if he'd stuck to that ploy. "My name is David Cameron" was his quick quip in response to the category 'Nazi Audition' while 'Whiskey Learning' occasioned a rambling folk song.
Fellow American Scott Capurro also waffled with 'Jehovah’s Witness Report' but finished well with 'Ventriloquist Formula' where he picked a "dummy" from the audience. "You seem nervous, like it's your first shower in prison" was the phrase chosen by Capurro to put his "volunteer" at ease.
Phil Jupitus's ponderous gait belied his readiness to take the bull by the horns. He riffed on the idea of 'Mosque Moneymaker' and come up with an imam announcing "casual Wednesdays". Other, even more, surreal twists intrigued but Jupitus acknowledged the size of the task when, after one routine, he said: "I'm not overly happy about that. You should hear the stuff I come up with in the car."
Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with "96.4% Orangutan" and no shoes Tim Minchin monkeyed around with the notion of 'Holy Fail' to come up with a take on the Holy Grail resulting from a flawed attempt at pottery. Minchin's musical talents were employed more by the following act, Rich Hall, who used the the category 'Nicotine Gun' as a band name so as to help along his alternative history of music.
Last up, Brendon Burns decided there was safety in numbers and used the other acts as his backing band and impromptu improv troupe. What followed was a knockabout self-deprecating session about Burn's fame relative to his backing band. It was a loveable ending to a hit-and-miss night, memorable more for making a group of old hands look like nervous newbies than for the gags themselves.