Every month, in the basement of a friendly bar in Shoreditch called Kick Bar, the comedy group Chuckle Duster performs their routine. They have a loyal fanbase, people they can count on to always show up. But they also attract new admirers, who remain after seeing one of their performances.
Formed in 2011 by James Hamer Morton, Jack Donnelly, Joel Mellinger and Lauren Shotton, the basis of Chuckle Duster is improvised comedy. They have a set of sketches they know how to do, but the audience decides the setting for each one, and that is what makes this show special.
They are naturally funny and very friendly towards each other. You can feel their understanding from the minute you see them interacting. And they also transmit that to the public. When you attend one of their performances, you can hear as much from the audience as from the comedians. They allow the public to give them ideas, to participate, to feel part of the show.
A typical Chuckle Duster performance begins with the ‘Magic Words’: the audience decides a word for each member, which they will have to say at any point during the show.
After this, a succession of quick numbers takes place, all of them requiring something from the audience. But most importantly, the sketches work because they know how.
For instance, there is ‘Alphabet,’ a number where two Chuckle Duster members have a conversation (in a setting chosen by the audience) with each sentence beginning with the next letter of the alphabet and so on.
Or ‘Backwards & Forward,’ in which they move the story (in this occasion, a visit to the dentist) back or forward in time. Or the one that was a personal favourite of mine, ‘Blind Date,’ set like the typical show where a girl chooses among three candidates, only that, this time, she had to guess the personalities the audience had given to them (a zombie, a face licker and a nymphomaniac).
Even the theatrical ‘He said, she said,’ where they had to perform according to the mood their colleagues said, was hilarious. But the final number (a musical one) was the culminating moment after two hours of great humour and good fun.
This is a show that leaves the audience feeling they were part of something, instead of just watching it happen.
Photography by Leila Murseljevic.
Originally published here.