Paul Merton coming to Fairfield Halls in Croydon
Coming out from the Have I Got News For You studio Paul Merton is on a stand up tour for the first time this century.
One of this country’s best known comedians, Merton is preparing to present Out of My Head, his first written show since 1998, and is joined by friends Lee Simpson, Richard Vranch and Suki Webster in this rare outing.
One of the world-of-comedy's great improvisers, a return to script is a big change for the former Room 101 presenter, who has also fronted travel programmes and documentaries about the beginning of cinema.
He says: "It's about taking the plunge and devising a show that is fully scripted. It has stand-up, sketches, interaction with the audience, and a few things that will startle people.
"Working on a tour that starts off as a mere jotting on the back of a fag packet and develops into a spectacular show is a sheer joy"
Having been a key member of the country's most famous improvisational troupe, The Comedy Store Players, since its formation in 1985, Paul relishes his connection with the audience.
He says: "I get such a buzz from performing live "It's just the best rush in the world, better than anything else you can think of If you're trying to convince a TV producer that something is funny, it can take ages. But if you have a good idea with The Comedy Store Players, you can just say it there and then. You don't have to take it to a commissioning editor, or get a budget and have the comedy kicked out of it by a committee. And you immediately know whether it's funny because you'll hear the sound of laughter – or not."
He reveals he keeps sharp by continuing to work with the Comedy Store and appearing at the Edinburgh festival He says: "We go to Edinburgh every year with no preparation apart from turning up sober! Sometimes we have to borrow a pen and paper from the barman to write down the order of the impro games."
Out of My Head covers themes including the class system and the spell Paul spent in hospital after falling ill from anti-malaria tablets.
The overriding theme of the show, though, is imagination.
He says: "I went to a Catholic school. When I was 10, I wrote an essay which the nun who was teaching me really didn't like because it was imaginative. She didn't like imagination.
"It was one of those things that you know is desperately unfair but can't do anything about it because you are only 10.
"For years I hated that nun, but now I realise that experience was very good for me.
"Imagination has built my entire career. This show is a celebration of imagination."
Paul Merton Out of My Head, Fairfield Halls, Park Lane, Croydon, May 8 8pm Tickets cost £23 or £20 call 0208 688 9291