Paul Merton comes to Alban Arena
PUBLISHED: 18:58 30 April 2012 | UPDATED: 12:10 28 February 2013
Paul Merton tells Pat Parker about his inventive new stand-up show, which gives us an insight into the bizarre workings of his noggin
PAUL Merton is full of enthusiasm for his new show, Out Of My Head, which is coming to the Alban Arena as part of a 50-date tour.
Its his first stand-up tour for 13 years, and he doesnt want to give too much away to audiences who havent yet seen it.
Im being slightly mysterious about it, but its going to be a mix of stand-up, sketches, a touch of variety, and visual effects which are going to be rather startling, he tells me. I cant think of any other stand-up whos done this kind of show. Its exciting, its new and its different. Theres a real buzz from just anticipating it, and I hope audiences will share my enthusiasm.
Paul performs with fellow Comedy Store players and Impro Chums, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and his wife and co-writer, Suki Webster. Purporting to take a look inside Pauls head to see what has shaped his surreal imagination, it takes a tour through key moments in his life.
A train drivers son from South London, Paul wanted to become a comic after being taken to the circus as a small boy. He studied silent-movie and radio comedy, devotedly recording shows like Just A Minute. Little did he know hed one day become its star performer, and he still sees appearing on the show as his proudest achievement.
Being on Just A Minute is pretty special. I started listening to it when I was ten, and its amazing to think Ive been doing it for 24 years more than half its existence! The idea that Id one day be in a position to say that is extraordinary.
Paul attended a Catholic school, where his creative imagination was rather frowned upon. He went on to work at Tooting employment office, while dreaming of becoming a comedian. He finally left, giving himself a five-year apprenticeship to make it as a comic. It must have taken some courage to quit a steady job? It did, but the alternative was still to be working there now thinking, You see those people on the telly? I fancied doing that, but I never gave it a go. That would have been so much worse!
It was Whose Line Is It Anyway? which really made him a household name, and he still performs impro weekly at the Comedy Store. Ive been doing it since 1985, but if I miss a couple of weeks, I still find everybodys about 20% faster than me, and it takes a few minutes to catch up. Its like a muscle the more you do it, the more youre on top of it.
Hes regularly performed impro on tour with Richard, Lee, Suki and others. It sounds paradoxical, but impro is a lazy way of doing a tour. You dont have to rehearse, or write it, or be measured for costumes. You just turn up sober with a pen and paper and away you go!
He doesnt know where his impro talent comes from. You just have to have a certain kind of energy and confidence. At the moment of improvising, you become that character and you dont know how the scene is going to end, but somehow it all ends perfectly. You dont know how you do it you dont need to know. All you know is its there.
Maybe after watching Out Of My Head, well understand what really makes Paul Mertons comic brain tick. n
See for yourself
Paul Mertons Out Of My Head is at the Alban Arena, St Albans, Friday, May 11, 8pm.