My Edinburgh: Paul Merton - At least I haven't been beaten up this year


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The Independent Culture

I have been coming to the Edinburgh Fringe for 29 years and I've had some dramatic times. In 1986, I was attacked in the street as I helped Neil Mullarkey from the Comedy Store Players to put up posters. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time - midnight - and we were English. I got kicked in the head. Then in 1987 I broke my leg playing football, which led to a blood clot on my lung. And then I contracted Hepatitis A, which the doctor told me I probably caught from the hospital food. It was a pretty grim place then.

I haven't been put off. Although I wouldn't do stand-up up here anymore. It's such a grind. Oh god, I've got another 55 minutes to go. Why aren't they laughing at that bit? I'm glad I went back to it last year but my show [Out of My Head] demonstrated to me how much I don't like doing prepared stuff anymore. Now I prefer improv with the gang: this year, my wife Suki Webster, Richard Vranch, Lee Simpson and Steve Steen. You don't have to prepare anything, there's no script to learn - the show doesn't exist until you do it. Last time we came up we didn't even have pen or paper, but we're so experienced now. We know that if we ask the audience for a film star, someone will always say Harry Potter. If we ask for a household object, someone will shout out toilet brush: they find them hilarious for some reason. 

The days of playing to three people and then walking home in the rain for three miles because you have no money are gone. Now I have all the upside of Edinburgh and it's a joy - I wouldn't do it if it wasn't. Plus my wife is in a play here; if I didn't come, I'd be stuck down South on my own. 

Paul Merton's Impro Chums, Pleasance Courtyard, 4pm to 17 August (0131 556 6550) 

Paul Merton's Must See:

Go up to Calton Hill - you get a really good view of the city from there. Take a cab if you like. Or go down into Leith. Just take some time to get out of the madness of Princes Street and the Royal Mile and experience some of the beauty around the city.