THEATRE / Fine old mess: Paul Taylor reviews Paul Merton at the London Palladium

The revolve at the London Palladium - ah, what misty black-and-white memories light the corners of your mind (those eponymous letters swirling by with Brucie, pre- wig, stationed behind one of them, and look] Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson . . .)

From now on, though, whenever I think of rotations in the Palladium, it won't be this Proustian posse that springs to mind, but the memory of Paul Merton doing his casually hilarious ice-skating spoof. Emerging from behind the tinsel curtains up stage, his skater 'performs' semi-circuits of increasingly surreal suit-yourself perfunctoriness before disappearing behind the glitter again. Deeply absorbed in the Times on one round, he next materialises ensconced in a dinky mobile living-room, still reading the Times and, when he can remember, giving apathetic little dance kicks. Tonya Harding, eat your heart out.

They say that variety is dead, but TV's Mr Misery and his two talented stooges, Lee Simpson and Richard Vranch, seem intent on knocking some affectionate nails in its coffin. Mortality is certainly on the menu in a number of the sketches - the one, for example, where Europe's 'Premier poodle act' tries to do its turn minus the poodles, who have snuffed it in a road accident. Death also crops up in those musings that rely on the sort of gloomy bastard's lateral logic at which he excels: 'Did you know that more people die in hospitals than in fast-food outlets? I know where I'm going when I have a heart attack - Spud-U-Like]'

Not that the show is without traces of resurrection - particularly in the used gag department. Often accused of excessive recycling, Merton manages to get away with it yet again. He introduces us to 'the funniest man in Moscow', played by Simpson, whose torrents of Slavic patter Merton proceeds to translate for us. To the comedian's growing disgruntlement, though, the Russian rib-tickler seems to have an act based on Merton's own golden oldies, including the one about the bombs that have your name written on them, the punchline here being cheekily switched to 'That scared the neighbours - Mr & Mrs V2 Rocket'. Brilliantly dubbed 'the Alien from the Planet Stroppy' by Ian Hislop, Merton bounces, for my taste, too many jokes off his own media image and his ponderings can run to the formulaic. For example, a joke which involves the paradox of a gloomy person grumping about people whose lack of joie de vivre is quite justified crops up twice: both when he plays a hangman and when he launches into a fantasy about having Salman Rushdie to stay. Once would have been quite enough.

No one, though, can veer off on a more interestingly angled tangent than Merton, or keep a running gag going with more stubborn inspiration. On the opening night, he had to endure some witless heckling from a group of rich young oiks in the front row. By the start of the second half, he'd had enough and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that they might consider leaving with a refund. To loud applause for Merton, two of them took him up on this, thus ending the only hiccup in an evening that was otherwise endearingly shambolic only when it meant to be.

Booking: 071-437 7373

Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
exhibition Gillian Orr traces the movement from Bram Stoker to Kate Bush
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone