Five things you might not know about Paul Merton

By Guest, 20 August 2019 - 9:40am

Discover more about the comedian, who traces his family history on Who Do You Think You Are? on 28 August

Paul Merton Who Do You Think You Are?
Paul Merton at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (Credit: Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images)

Since first appearing on our screens in the 1980s, Paul Merton has become one of the most recognisable faces on British television.

Despite being a team captain on Have I Got News For You, which has now been running for an astonishing 29 years, there is plenty about Merton which may still surprise his long-time fans.
 

1. Comedy roots

Merton says he was inspired to become a comedian after watching clowns at a circus as a child. He began performing at the Comedy Store in Soho in 1982 and is still a member of improvisation group The Comedy Store Players. He made his breakthrough as a TV performer on Channel 4’s improvised comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?
 

2. A (slight) name change

Like many of television’s famous faces, Merton is not known by the name he was born with. He adopted the stage name Paul Merton upon discovering that his real name, Paul Martin, was already being used by another member of the performing arts union Equity. Nevertheless, he did rack up some professional credits as Paul Martin including a small role in a 1984 episode of The Young Ones.
 

3. Top of the polls

In the Comedian’s Comedian, a 2005 poll of fellow comedians, Merton was ranked the 20th best comic of all time. Moreover, in a 2007 Guardian public poll he ranked as the 6th greatest wit, in between Winston Churchill and Noel Coward as well as above William Shakespeare!
 

4. Catholic roots

Although his father was Anglican, having an Irish-Catholic mother led to a largely Catholic upbringing with Merton attending a Catholic school from an early age. This personal history inspired Merton’s 2000 radio program Two Priests and a Nun Go into a Pub where Merton and fellow comedians discuss their shared Catholic histories.
 

5. Locked in Room 101

As presenter of Room 101, Merton once interviewed fellow Have I Got News For You captain Ian Hislop. At the time, Merton had left the long-running panel show to present Room 101 and as revenge, Hislop chose Merton as his final proposal for banishment into the locked room. After Hislop’s powerful argument, Merton obliged, to the satisfaction of Hislop and the amusement of the audience.

 

 

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