Has Paul Merton got some laughs for you

Paul Merton
Paul Merton
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He’s written his autobiography and he’s appearing in Sheffield on October 20.

As you might expect Paul Merton has plenty to say.

For years, he’s been the unsmiling team captain on Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY), delivering witty observations and surreal musings in deadpan fashion, yet in person, he is apparently a world away from the depressive individual many people might perceive.

“Throughout the Eighties, a lot of my act would be about doing strange things with a straight face,” Merton explains. It’s a technique that has served him well.

Today, he’s talking about his autobiography, Only When I Laugh, and indeed there is much hilarity in his recollections, from growing up in a council flat in Fulham, the shy son of a London train driver, to taking his first steps into showbiz, unsuccessfully auditioning for RADA and ditching his job in an employment office for a comedy career.

Merton, 57, still writes in longhand, doesn’t use Twitter or even possess a mobile phone. He stays on top of current affairs for HIGNFY by watching the news on TV and reading some of the papers, but would rather be walking in the countryside than sitting in front of a computer screen.

It’s more than 30 years since he made his debut at The Comedy Store in London in 1982 - to great acclaim...

“Those three-and-a-half minutes on stage were what my life had been leading up to. The first time I did it, the first time I jumped out of the plane, the parachute did open, not only did it open but I did aerobatics in the sky and landed perfectly on a sixpence in the field.” Today, he laughs at the memory.

While Merton fills the book with funny anecdotes about his career, there have also been notable dark periods, including the death of his second wife, and the six-week period he spent in the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital in 1990.

He’s now married to actress Suki Webster, who appears with him in his Impro Chums acts, and has also written with him and directed him in a play she wrote for this year’s Edinburgh Festival, entitled My Obsession.

“The work we do together we thoroughly enjoy. We’re touring next spring with the Impro Chums. As long as you enjoy the work you are doing together, it’s fine. If we were making garden gnomes, we might get a bit sick of each other.”

Only When I Laugh: My Autobiography by Paul Merton is published by Ebury Press, priced £20.

Paul Merton appears at the Crucible, Sheffield on October 20.