He’s best known for being a team captain on hit panel show Have I Got News For You, but Paul Merton is returning to his stand-up roots for the first time this century with his new tour, Out Of My Head.
The show, which comes to the Royal & Derngate in Northampton on Saturday, April 14, sees Paul muse on the mighty behemoth that is his noggin.
Paul said: “I’m doing stand-up again for the first time since 1998.
“I’m touring with three great people, Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster and the show consists of sketches, some special effects and stuff you will not have seen in a stand-up show before.
“I usually tour with an improv show so this is the first time I have done a written live show in 14 years.
“With improv it’s a joy as you don’t have to worry before the show, you have no props to worry about.
“But I wanted to write something, I loved the idea of working in the edit suite and getting stuck into something.
“Writing new stand-up and sketches was a challenge but it’s been very exciting, it’s been different, it’s been about building a show from point A.”
Improvisation is what Paul cut his comedy teeth on, having got his big break in 1988 on the hit improvised comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Paul said: “I have been doing improv for 27 years so it does not worry me any more.
“From the outset it seems scary but you are never on your own so it’s less scary than it appears.
“You can say anything but it’s got to be funny, it’s about listening a lot to what people are saying to you.
“It’s exciting to be doing the show from this approach and writing something.
“We don’t have scripts on Have I Got News For You either, there’s just the guest host reading the autocue and I’m happy with that, I like to wing it and ad-lib.”
It was in 1990 that Paul joined Have I Got News For You, and the success of the show led him to leave Whose Line Is It Anyway in 1993.
Except for taking a break during the 11th series back in 1996, Paul has appeared in every series of the show since it began.
Paul said: “Our Christmas show had 5.8 million viewers, which after more than 20 years is still extraordinary.
“It’s all down to the loyalty of the viewers, but we are always trying to do our best with it.
“The news itself helps us keep it fresh. Some people watch the show as a catch-up on the news if they haven’t seen any that week.
“Then with the guest hosts, that keeps it fresh and I think in a way that has helped its longevity.”
Have I Got News For You isn’t the only hit show Paul has got under his belt.
During his career, he has had his own TV sketch show, Paul Merton: The Series and he hosted 64 editions of Room 101.
He has also crossed over into making documentaries, including a four-part documentary called Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns and a series of travel documentaries entitled Paul Merton In... which saw him travel to China, India and Europe for each set of programmes.
His most recent documentary series was called Paul Merton’s Adventures, where he travelled around the world going on popular tourist trails, but still managing to find some extraordinary things.
Paul said: “I have been very fortunate with my career and hopefully the things I have done have provided a little something for everyone.
“I wanted to be a circus clown when I was little as I was always the funny person or being the generator of fun.
“But then The Comedy Store opened when I was in my 20s and that just opened up so many more possibilities for me. My only options before that would have been working men’s clubs and Butlins, there was no circuit to play until it came along.
“So to be still performing the circuit 30 years later with this new show is just fantastic.
“But it’s going to be different and I’m a little nervous but at the same time, it gets the adrenaline going a bit and I hope there will be a real buzz from that.”
n Paul Merton will be appearing at the Royal & Derngate on Saturday, April 14.
Tickets cost £21 or £24 and the show starts at 8pm.