Paul Merton on the Edinburgh festivals: “I broke my leg playing football on the Meadows which led to a stay in hospital, where I got Hepatitis A and a pulmonary embolism.”

Paul Merton might be in Edinburgh this month, or he might be in Peterborough. Picture: Alan Simpson
Paul Merton might be in Edinburgh this month, or he might be in Peterborough. Picture: Alan Simpson
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Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is at the Pleasance Courtyard, 9-18 August, 4pm. The comedian tells us what he gets up to in August in Edinburgh.

I only have time to see one show in Edinburgh. Why should I go to yours?

When you see me in a live situation you can fully appreciate that I am so much taller than I appear on television. Even my closest friends don’t realise that I’m 168 feet tall, because I always insist on meeting them sitting down.

Because our show is fully improvised, it has a strong comic spirit that readily interacts with the brilliant suggestions that emanate from our brilliant audiences. If our show is no good it’s their fault, but luckily it always reaches the comic heights of 168 feet.

Now I think of it, I’ve got time to see two. What else should I definitely go to?

Undoubtedly you should try and get a ticket to see Just A Minute being recorded for BBC Radio 4 on 8 August. The chairman is Nicholas Parsons, who has now reached such an incredible age that he has the unique distinction of being the only man currently working in showbusiness who is mentioned in the Bible. He performed the cabaret at the Last Supper. As he said afterwards, ‘It was a tough crowd.’ Appearing on Just A Minute is an absolute joy for me because I used to listen to the show when I was very young.

What are the best and worst things that have happened to you at the Edinburgh Festival?

Amongst the best things was receiving a five-star review from The Scotsman for a show I directed in 1999. The worst was undoubtedly 1987, when I broke my leg playing football on the Meadows which led to a stay in hospital, where I contracted Hepatitis A and also developed a pulmonary embolism. While I was lying in hospital a review came out for my one-man show, which enthusiastically declared: ‘Go and see this man!’ This resulted in many disappointed members of the audience standing by my bedside wondering when I was going to do something funny. There’s only so many laughs you can get out of X-rays.

Please describe where you’re living this month.

I’m sharing accommodation with an amateur dramatic company who are staging a musical based on the life of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s called Swing Along A Poe: a song, a smile, and a premature burial.

What’s your favourite place in the city and why?

Undoubtedly the Pleasance Courtyard, where the views of Arthur’s Seat and Arthur Smith are unrivalled.

Who do you most like spending time with at the festival?

With my Impro Chums whose range of personality disorders would greatly excite a psychiatrists’ conference over a three-week period.

Where can I find you at 9am, 9pm and 2am?

At 9am you will find me in Aberdeen, because I didn’t look closely enough at where my accommodation is.

At 9pm I’m in Peterborough because I often get on the wrong train back to Aberdeen.

At 2 am I don’t know where I am because I’m asleep.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I take spiritual advice from a pigeon called Alan Jacobs.

Thanks for the interview! I’d like to buy you a drink. Where are we going and what are we drinking?

As previously explained, it will have to be somewhere between Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Peterborough. What we drink depends on what is available at the buffet car.