It’s a warm Monday evening of February in London. The show will soon begin, and the members of the comedy act Chuckle Duster warm up the best way they know: through laughter. They pick at each other with the familiarity one could expect of a group of people so close as this one.
Chuckle Duster began in 2011, after Jack Donnelly had discovered the comedy troupe The Groundlings during a trip to Los Angeles. On his return, he spoke to his friend Joel Mellinger, and they decided to form a similar improv group. Through auditions, they met James Hamer-Morton and Lauren Shotton. The chemistry appeared instantly, and Chuckle Duster was born.
The magic of their performances lays on completely improvised sketches -albeit they do rehearse what pairings are the best for each one, and the help from the audience. In fact, the reliance on the people attending the events is what makes it so special. They ask them what they want them to do, and they obey without a second thought. And luckily, it always seems to work.
But an important part of this success is the understanding among the Chuckle Duster members. They get each other at a level where anything the audience throws at them is valid: they know how to do it, and they have enough trust in their fellow castmates to perform every sketch smoothly. No matter the situation they are put through, the characters they are told to play or the ongoing changes on the process, they make it work and they give the audience a unique show indeed, as with this premise, not two shows are the same.
It pays off so well that their shows at Bar Kick in Shoreditch, where they usually perform, are always packed. Most of their fans have come a long way, being there from the beginning, while others have gotten to know them through word of mouth. Many others have started coming recently thanks to the TV success of Jack Donnelly, who has reached fame with the BBC fantasy show Atlantis. The actor lures them to the show but, as funding member Hamer-Morton states, “they discovered this show because of Jack, but because it’s good, they come to see us regularly.”
This devotion and dedication from the fans is perceived during one of their performances. The attendees respond to everything they do with fervour, appreciating the way the comedians rely on them to act.
But the four original members are not the only ones who are part of Chuckle Duster right now. Other up-and-coming young comedians, like Wim Mellor or Michal Banai, have also come to join the group, and they have developed a rotation routine that allows some of the members to rest some times, or gives others the chance to step in when someone cannot make it. The chemistry is the same, with the spirit of the original Dusters always there: improvising, trusting each other and giving people what they want.
They summarise their work style with “Listen to each other, react to each other”. It is their mantra, what makes them who they are. And it works.