Going to a live Paul Merton show is like sitting down with a big family for an evening chat with Dad; EVERYONE is included. From the lady who asks for tips on how to stage her own comedy shows, to she-who-had-too-many-cocktails standing with the support of a chair to ask a very slurred question about his travel documentary. And, like awe-inspired children listening to the tales our wise father has to impart, the audience gave its full attention our the entertainer, with no-one seeming tempted to text their way through the evening (sorry Michael McIntyre).
His opinions can be taken or left, but they are expressed uncensored all the same.
Paul Merton filled the 750 seats in the auditorium as well as filling the whole room with laughter. I was fortunate enough to be sitting next to the evening’s interviewer wife, who told me that her husband had been asked not to mention Merton’s wives. As many know, Merton’s marriage to Caroline Quentin broke down and the couple divorced in 1998. His second wife, Sarah, died in the same year they were married (2003) after battling breast cancer. However, when they were both (unexpectedly) touched upon during the interview he used these important figures in his life to show another more emotional side to the comedic Merton we know and love. Cleverly combining comedy and the more serious elements of death and psychiatric troubles after his trip to Kenya, there was truly something new for everyone to learn about his life. Although the questions were mainly focused upon the comedian’s autobiography, Merton was able to completely avoid mentioning the fact he was selling the book. He chose instead to focus on the comedy of the evening, rather than doing an impression of a vegetable seller at Covent Garden.
Merton was first inspired to become a comedian by seeing and admiring clowns, as he had ‘never seen adults act in that way before’.
Never one to fear controversy, Merton included various digs at fellow comedians and politicians alike throughout the evening. The light hearted impression of Bruce Forsyth and comment that ‘Ian’s DNA doesn’t allow for ITV’ (referencing his fellow Have I Got News For You panelist, Ian Hislop) amused the audience, whereas his response to the question ‘are there any guests you’d rather not have on one of your shows?’ prompted raucous laughter and widespread murmurs of agreement. Merton did not attempt to conceal his lack of affection for politician Robert Kilroy Silk, even referencing the clip circulating with him yelling ‘How about we play a game Robert, where I finish a sentence and you shut up?’. With Paul Merton, what you see is what you get. His opinions can be taken or left, but they are expressed uncensored all the same.
The audience learned that Merton was first inspired to become a comedian by seeing and admiring clowns, as he had ‘never seen adults act in that way before’. He enjoyed making his school mates laugh in the dinner queue, through his use of comic book jokes and impressions of teachers. As a child he liked anyone ‘fun and vibrant’, and gave the examples of Charlie Chaplin, Kenneth Horn, and the Monty Python group, which was set up in his youth.
It would be wonderful to recount all of his jokes but, as anyone who has reported a funny story to others before can tell you, a recounted tale tends to lose its hilarity on the way. I will close with an example of how bad syntax/grammar can be saved and made into a joke (a hope for all scientists out all) – ‘yes he died the series before I did…*realises mistake*…I’ve been dead for 25 years now!’