Whose line is it anyway, Have I Got News for You? and Room 101– are a few of his best-known appearances. Paul adds a twist of comic genius to every performance he is involved in. A truly talented man with admirable self-confidence.
He often claims that he was inspired to go into comedy at a young age watching clowns at a circus, remembering, “I had no idea that adults could behave like that.” He gained his earliest professional credits under his birth name, including an appearance as a yokel in an episode of The Young Ones. On joining Equity he found that the name Paul Martin was already taken, so he renamed himself after Merton, the district of London where he grew up.
Though he had harboured serious ambitions of becoming a performing comedian since his school days, it was not until April 1982, at the Comedy Store in Soho, that his dream was realised. He recalls that, on only his second or third night, he found the dour role that was to inform his comic approach ever since.
In 1986, while performing in the Edinburgh Fringe, he was mugged while helping a friend put up posters. He was kicked in the head and had to go to the hospital. A year later, Merton returned to Edinburgh. His one-man show was receiving very good reviews. However, while playing football with fellow comedians, he broke his leg, and whilst in hospital, he suffered a pulmonary embolism and contracted hepatitis A. He lost the £3,000 he had paid up front for the theatre and would have been in worse trouble had the Comedy Store not held a benefit for him. “I was getting the reviews of my life — they were saying ‘Go and see this man!'”, he said. “And I was in a hospital bed. They should have said ‘Go see this man and take a bunch of grapes with you’.”
His breakthrough as a television performer came as a result of the improvised comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway? from 1988 onwards, which moved to TV from BBC Radio 4. Have I Got News for You started in 1990, and two series of his own sketch show, Paul Merton: The Series, followed soon after. Between 1993 and 1995 he was amongst the regular cast members on the Radio 4 improvisational comedy series The Masterson Inheritance. Since 1999 he has been the host of Room 101, a chat show in which guests are offered the chance to discuss their pet hates and consign them to the oblivion of Room 101. He has been a member of the London improv group The Comedy Store Players since 1985, and still regularly performs with them.
After seven nominations for a BAFTA award for Best Entertainment Performance, Merton finally won the award in April 2003, ironically defeating fellow HIGNFY star, Angus Deayton. In 2006, BBC Four broadcast Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns: a four-part documentary series that focuses on the silent comedy craft of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd. Merton examines their respective careers, interspersed with moments from a live show in which he presents clips of their work. Among the audience are many children, who are seeing these iconic performers for the first time.
In 2007 he presented a four-part travel documentary, Paul Merton in China, which was broadcast on Five from 21 May 2007. His second travel series, Paul Merton in India was transmitted from 8 October 2008 on the same channel. A third series, Paul Merton in Europe began broadcasting on the 11th January 2010, again on Five
Merton hosted the British version of Thank God You’re Here, which aired on ITV in 2008. In 2009, Paul Merton directed and presented a documentary on the British films of Alfred Hitchcock, in a series of star presented documentaries on BBC Four and co-presented The One Show for two weeks on Thursday after Adrian Chiles left the show.
To book Paul Merton to make a personal appearance at your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.