INTERVIEW: The Caretakers Welcome Us To The Big Smoke Improv

Want something to do next Monday, well you are in Luck because if you are in Covent Garden next week there is a fantastic show that you will not want to miss. The show is lead by a group that formed off the back of Free Association, I caught up with Sal to find out all about it. 

Big Smoke Improv

big smoke

Date: Monday  14th October

Location: Nell of Old Drury, 29 Catherine Street

Price: Free

Time: 8pm


Hello Sal tell us all about who you all are and three unknown facts about your troupe! 

I’m Salim Fadhley and I perform with Caretakers. 

Fact 1, I’m not even sure we are a troupe, that’s definitely a word that we would never self-apply. We’ve probably never played with the same line-up. I think it’s more of a group of friends who like to perform. The closest thing we have to an official membership is a WhatsApp group.

Fact 2, We’ve never had a practice. We don’t have a coach. We have never auditioned. We don’t do debriefs. Caretakers is supposed to be a low-maintenance team. Our primary goal is to have fun. If there’s anything not fun we will get rid of it.

Fact 3, Caretakers are almost the same people as Big Smoke comedy – a group which puts on shows at a number of venues around London.



How did your troupe form?

We were all met at Free Association’s Sunday night jams:

At FA jams, there are no short-form games. You can’t walk in and play. Everyone on stage has been pre-booked by FA. Three One-night-only teams are formed and everybody gets to perform a 20 minute montage of Harold. It’s great because an FA jam gets people good at playing complex games and forms with strangers you may never have met before – and you get better very quickly.

Caretakers was formed from a group of people who were regularly attending FA’s Jam nights in 2018. We had played with each other a bunch of times and grew to appreciate each other’s style.

Over a few beers, we agreed that if we set up a group we might be able to do more gigs. Initially, we formed the team just to play FA’s Cage Match night. There was never an intention to keep things going, but we kept getting bookings so we stayed together.




How did you come up with the name of your troupe? Was it difficult?

There’s no joke in the name – it actually represents our genuine desire to take care of each other and care about what we do. It’s all rather earnest.

We didn’t have a name until about ten minutes before our first gig: We were performing with an excellent team called The Gatekeepers (they are all the people who do the tickets and tech for Free Association), so as a joke Sammy [Samantha Hannah, google her!] suggested we be the Caretakers. 

I like the name because it’s a bit humble. It’s not a joke or a boast – nor is it meaningless. It describes who we aspire to be. 



How did the show come about?

I’m not sure it has yet. 

Every week we do something different. People ask us “what was that format”, truly I have no idea. Usually we decide what we are going to do about ten minutes before we get on stage.




How did you get into improv?

In 2017 I was going through a stressful divorce. A friend who I’d known from university suggested I join him at a “comedy class” – which turned out to be Free Association’s Introduction to Long-Form.

It seemed like a good idea, given that at the time, everything else in my life seemed to be going wrong – I was convinced that the course would suck but I had a chance to spend some time with a good friend.

Fortunately I was wrong about it sucking, it turned out to be the most hilarious three hours per week. I’ve been doing it ever since.




Tell us a little bit about the show that are happening this week? 

 On October 14th we return to The Nell of Old Drury for our own night. Three spectacular teams plus a guest MC. 

All our shows are listed on Improv Guide, where Caretakers are the number one team. That’s not to say we are the “best” team, only that because I made the web-site, I listed my own team first.



It is a new season of improv what are you most looking forward to seeing?

FA and Hoopla have just formed a bunch of new teams – it’s going to be good seeing what some of our friends come up with. It will be delightful watching styles come together.




It is the month of October – what were some of the best shows that you saw at festivals over summer and why?

Some of the best stuff I saw at Edinburgh was in the Free Fringe. MC Hammersmith totally blew me away – a one man inprovisional power-house. I don#t think I’ve ever seen one person with so much ability.




How do you warm up before a show? 

We don’t really do warm-ups, at least not in a conventional sense.

I’ve never been a fan of the happy-clappy zip-zap-zop style of warm up. They seem to be good for getting people to pay attention, but they always seem a bit shallow to me. 

I think my favourite warm-up is to join the team around a table,and speak honestly about what we’ve all been up to since we last met. We listen carefully to what’s on each other’s minds, drink some tea or beer and reconnect.

I’ve noticed that our calm warm-ups tend to lead to more thoughtful and satisfying shows.




What have been some of the best suggestions that you have been given in a show and why?

Caretakers don’t normally work from suggestions. 

When we do our Big Smoke nights, it’s often fun to base our material on the stand-up comedian’s performance that has come just before is. It’s fun to use improv as a way of reflecting somebody else’s set back to them.

We did a cabaret show last month called Crimson Grenade – we were the only improv act. We were last in the first half, and the preceding acts had all been very serious drama or spoken word performances. 

Our plan was to listen carefully to the previous acts and then create a montage of scenes which linked the ideas of the previous performers. That sounds harder than it actually turned out to be – the end result was very satisfying for performers and audience. We might try that again in our next cabaret gig.




If people want to find out more about you where can they follow you on social media?

Just follow us on Facebook:

Or check our gigs on




And Finally in three words – Why should people come and see the show? 

I’m too busy having a good time to care! 🙂





What makes your smile?

A freshly baked croissant.

What is your biggest strength as an improviser?

Being very specific

Dream venue to perform at and why?

One day we will make to to the Edinburgh Festival.

Are you a dog or cat person?


What is the most delightful suggestion for a scene you can think of?

I did a harold scene where we were all ingredients in some kind of ramen. I really enjoy scenes where we are all playing non-human characters. I played an ambitious rookie chunk of Tofu. Brooke (playing a straight-man) was a gruff “seen it all before” noodle. Sammy Deschamps (who plays with Lester City Improv) was a piece of cabbage with an inferiority complex. It’s really satisfying when something that crazy just falls into place.

If you had to have a tattoo to represent improv what would you have and why?

I could never have a tattoo – not even of something I love. My artistic preferences are way too fickle to commit to any specific design. And that’s even before we deal with the difficulties of making a pictorial representation of an entirely abstract concept.

Who is your improv hero and why?

I think Steve Roe has done more than any single individual in the UK to popularize this art form. I’m not sure I’d call him my “hero”, but he’s a good egg.

I’ve been really inspired by some of the performers who have come from Second City Toronto – they seem to be collectively developing a city-style that is fast paced, and intense. Some of the London stuff can seem plodding by comparison. 

What is the last thing you liked on social media?

I don’t really use social media socially, and I certainly don’t remember the stuff I read on social networks. It’s just not important in my life.

Something on your bucket list?

I want to train at 2nd City Toronto. I’ve seen some of their performers, and they blow my mind. One day… one day!

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