Paul Merton's Impro Chums

Paul Merton

Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 6 Jun


The public image of Paul Merton is one of an ad libbing master who can turn the blandest of suggestion or question and turn into improvised gems. Yet this is a man who has plied his comedy trade with the best of them, slipping around on the oily track of the stand-up circuit. ‘The bits on stage were fun,’ he recalls of his 1980s days playing the toilets of the land as well as more auspicious venues such as the Comedy Store. ‘But when I’m in some dressing room backstage at half time and hearing the buzz of hopefully excited people, I got to thinking: “Why am I sitting here on my own?” Compared to that there are five people on this tour doing a show that’s different every night.’

The quintet in question is Merton, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch, Lee Simpson and Mike McShane who has been drafted in as a substitute for Jim Sweeney whose MS has steadily worsened leaving it impossible for him to undertake such a demanding travel and performing schedule. ‘If you get an idea that you think is funny, you don’t have to pitch it, you just do it and find out there and then if it’s funny,’ notes Merton. ‘Normally it is, but if it isn’t then this person on stage with you will have a better idea and if they don’t, then this other person will and it’ll happen given time. This freedom to just come up with stuff that’s instant and doesn’t need a show of hands can be liberating.’

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