Paul Merton And His Impro Chums

Liverpool Royal Court
30th May 2008

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

I am a big fan of Paul Merton on Have I Got News For You - he consistently displays great wit and a sharp mind on the programme - but I was disappointed with the lightweight comedy he and his chums produced at a packed Royal Court.

As the title of the show indicates, all the comedy enacted on stage was improvised, and that's where the problems arose. Great comedy depends on timing, body language, delivery of a joke or sketch. With improvisation - where Merton had only a moment to conjure up an appropriate response to a suggestion - asking two people to act the part of two nuns in a pizza parlour for example - it failed to ignite a humorous response.

Endless comedy sketch suggestions, written by members of the audience on pieces of paper and deposited in plastic buckets on the lip of the stage, were played out by Merton, together with his ad-libbing mates Mike McShane, Suki Webster, Richard Vranch and Lee Simpson - forgive my ignorance but I had never heard of any of these people before.

A lot of it was what I would describe as English-based humour - Monty Pythonesque and that sort of thing. For example, a naked man walks on stage shielding his naughty bits with his hand. Oh how the audience roared with laughter.

Comedy sketch suggestions include a prostitute and a vicar in a hot air balloon; a dwarf in an avalanche; two geordies taking part in a spelling contest (the person suggesting it spelt 'spelling' incorrectly!), the chuggies at a rave party, and an adaptation of Macbeth titled Smackbeth (Macbeth as a junkie was one of the funniest parts of the evening).

But overall I would probably would have had more fun watching Mrs Merton!

The Liverpool Comedy Festival takes place from May 28 to June 8. For details of the shows go to

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