I’m sure the day will come when comic Paul Merton is found in a whore house with a Hoover tube up his arse and a satsuma slice between his teeth – but that day has yet to arrive. Apparently he’s a clean living and rather decent chap so let’s hope his day in the tawdry tabloids remains just that - a juicy dream. But it’s funny how the unlikeliest people fall under the wheel of disgrace.
I grew less fond of Merton after his sanctimonious reaction to his old Have I Got News For You colleague Angus Deayton being put in the print pillory a few years back for fucking prostitutes and “snorting” [sniffing!] snow. You should have seen Merton’s face on HIGNFY as he and Ian Hislop crucified Deayton for his cock and coke tales: the moralist pair reminded me of those two old Northern bitches once played by Les Dawson and Roy Barraclough in drag, chin-wagging and pulling appalled faces over the garden fence at some neighbourly outrage. It was a low point in TV satire.
Last night I glimpsed Paul Merton in China on Five in which our hero does an Alan Whicker and plays the British Bloke Abroad. He visited a Shaolin temple and took kung fu classes. As he adopted certain postures usually required on the female side for what used to be called a knee trembler (“bend at the knees, legs wide open”), he did a Bruce Forsyth ("Good game! Good game!") and sportingly exhibited a body unfit for Oriental purpose: but it got a laugh in British homes, I’m sure. Then he did a Judith Chalmers and wandered about, wittering as he went, and then did a Bruce Forsyth again as he tried to line dance in the People’s Square. I fell about … in my attempt to hop channels fast.
As Merton’s star falls into lucrative TV template despond – as the new Forsyth/Chalmers/Whicker – Deayton returns soon in new BBC1 series Would I Lie To You? with David Mitchell and Lee Mack: celebrity panellists are challenged to tell the most fantastical stories. It all sounds a bit like Call My Bluff with Deayton as Frank Muir. Yet no matter his whores or his drugs or the sermonisings of erstwhile TV pals, it’s good to see a talent return to where he belongs – in a new show no fresher than Paul Merton in China.