London lads back for more funny business

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 January, 2010, 12:00am


Richard Vranch makes a lot of things: animation, music and, with a PhD in radiation physics, he could probably make a bomb if he tried hard enough.

But he enjoys making things up the most.

He'll be doing just that next week when he performs at the Punchline Comedy Club.

Vranch and his team - Andy Smart, Stephen Frost, Steve Steen, and Ian Coppinger - have performed improvisational comedy together for more than 25 years. Known as The Comedy Store Players from their regular appearances at the Comedy Store in London, the crew have a routine that spawned the hit TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway? and led them to performing worldwide.

Vranch says it'll be 'at least their tenth show' in Hong Kong over the past decade. But the shows will never get old, he says.

'The beauty of improvisational comedy is that we're making things up as we go along, so it's a guaranteed fresh show each time,' says the versatile Vranch, who also works as a TV writer, music composer, animator and actor.

The group's routine consists of the five performers playing out scenarios in a style and setting of the audience's choice.

Search for them on YouTube and you'll see clips of Vranch performing skits on piano, kissing another man, and taking a peek at a man's ripped trousers.

'It's really anything goes,' he says.

But Vranch says the clips online or on TV only serve as an advertisement for their live shows, as they fail to recreate the atmosphere.

'To interact with us live and actually have a say in what we do is an experience that simply cannot be replicated on television,' he says.

The ability to thrive off feedback from live audiences and spin off their suggestions makes improvisational comedy more accessible to the local audience than traditional English stand-up comedy, he says.

Vranch first got into comedy during his days as a radiation physics student at Cambridge University, when he stumbled into a comedy club and met fellow comedians Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. 'We performed a bit and I was hooked,' he says.

After he received his PhD, Vranch had two choices: continue comedy or work in radiation physics with the army.

'It was either work with the army - a dead serious job - or comedy,' he says. 'No brainer.'

Vranch expects a rowdy crowd at the show.

'The first time we came to Hong Kong to perform was right in the middle of the Sars outbreak,' he says. 'It was packed house. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.'

Whose Line Is It Anyway? Punchline Comedy Club, Jan 14-16, 8pm; Jan 17, 9pm. The Viceroy, 2/F, Sun Hung Kai Centre, 30 Harbour Rd, Wan Chai. HK$360. Inquiries: 2317 6666;