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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
film
News
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
people
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
tv
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor