And His Impro Chums
30th May 2008
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
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
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