5 Things You Might Not Know About... Paul Merton
1.) Paul Martin (as he was named in July 1957) was inspired to get into live comedy after seeing Alexei Sayle perform in 1981. The tight-suited scouser’s ‘stream of tastelessness’ led Merton to take to the stage with his ‘policeman on acid’ sketch. He had to change his name due to Equity rules as there was a juggler in Leeds called Paul Martin.
2.) Merton gained some early success in Edinburgh with his Fringe shows in the 80s but he carries some painful memories of that time. In 1986 he was helping put up a friends’ poster in the street (as opposed to in his bedroom) when he was assaulted. The following year he wound up in a hospital bed after breaking a leg during a comics’ football game, and eventually contracting hepatitis A.
3.) He admits that sometimes he and his Impro Chums simply can’t read out an audience suggestion on the grounds of taste and probably decency. The one that sticks out in his mind came in 2005, just a few weeks after the terror attacks in London: ‘travel on the Underground with a rucksack stuffed with explosives’ read the note which was promptly chucked in the imaginary stage bin.
4.) He married fellow improviser Suki Webster last year. Apparently, guests arrived to the ceremony in rickshaws and the happy couple danced to ‘All You Need is Love’ played by a Mexican three-piece band.
5.) While Have I Got News for You continues apace, not everyone is smitten. Occasional panellist Will Self called on Ian Hislop and Merton to quit believing that ‘plump, middle-aged multimillionaires sitting behind a desk making jokes about Clive Anderson’s hair style’ is not satirical enough. Merton responded by insisting that Self may be feeling somewhat aggrieved because a joke he made about fisting was cut out of the last appearance he made on the show.
Paul Merton's Impro Chums, Perth Concert Hall, Mon 3 May.