Paul is a comedian, writer, actor and television presenter, famous for his quick wit and improvisational skills. He gained his earliest professional credits under his birth name (Paul Martin), including an appearance as a yokel in Time, an episode of The Young Ones in 1984. 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. He has been a member of the London improv group The Comedy Store Players since 1985. Merton performed in Paul Merton’s Improv Chums at Pleasance as part of Edinburgh Comedy Festival in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
His breakthrough as a television performer came in 1988 as a result of the improvised comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, which moved to TV from BBC Radio 4, although he had previously appeared on Saturday Live, performing stand-up comedy. He remained on Whose Line until 1993. Have I Got News for You started in 1990, and two series of his own sketch show, Paul Merton: The Series, followed soon after.
The two series of Paul Merton: The Series offered an inspired mixture of surreal stories and ingenious sight gags. Very much in the spirit of Spike Milligan’s Q, it was inventive without resorting to coarse language and violent slapstick.
As a sketch writer Merton excelled, especially on Sticky Moments With Julian Clary. Improvised comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway also provided a platform for his razor sharp spontaneous wit.
Merton hosted the British version of Thank God You’re Here, which aired on ITV in 2008.
His talent for improvisation continues to serve him well as a regular on Have I Got News For You.
Recognition & Documentary Work
Merton has accumulated multiple awards and honours. After seven BAFTA Award nominations for “Best Entertainment Performance”, he finally won the award in 2003.
Merton is a keen student of comedy, particularly the early silent comedians and in 2006, BBC Four broadcast Paul Merton’s Silent Clowns: a four-part documentary series on the silent comedy craft of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy and Harold Lloyd.
Also 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.