Paul Merton makes his return to Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Paul Merton

PAUL Merton is to make his return to Aberystwyth Arts Centre tonight in his improvisation show Paul Merton’s Impro Chums.

Talking to Aberystwyth Student Media, Merton explained the premise of his show: “basically we’re on stage and it’s an improvised show from beginning to end, we have audience suggestions, suggestions of exterior locations, scenes from a bucket. Every show is different, and the show that we will perform in Aberystwyth is a show that will never be done again”

Describing the show as “very fun to do”, he agrees that a comparison can be drawn between his show on tour, and the popular Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which started in 1985 and went onto television in 1988. He said “we’ve helped launch the careers of many of the people on the show, Richard Vranch and Mike McShane, who are on the tour with me; have been on the show previously too”.

Over his varied career, including the iconic Have I Got News for You and travel programs such as Paul Merton in China, he says being on Radio 4’s Just a Minute is the highlight of his career. “It was something I listened to as a kid, the fact I’ve been involved in it since 1988 astounds me, I can’t believe it”.

Have I Got News for You is the show that Merton is best known for, with viewing figures of around 5 million every week. He pays tribute to its popularity: “It’s something that got very gradually popular through the years, it was getting 3 million more than other shows on BBC2 before it was moved across, something that is now also happening to the Great British Bake-Off. It’s extraordinary that after all these years it’s still going”.

The famous 2003 episode with Bruce Forsyth is his favourite episode, with “Ian’s bewilderment at him hosting the show” but he says that having Spike Milligan and Peter Cook on the show were his favourite guests – “they were comedy heroes of mine, and it was really special as I had grown up idolising them”.

The show is still showing “great signs of vigor” according to Merton and he can’t see it stopping in the near future. He recalls with great fondness an episode where Andrew Marr was on the show, and “I improvised a phone call to a police officer on his phone”.

Paul Merton is performing at the Arts Centre tonight at 8pm. You can find more details here.