I can’t say that Whose Line is it Anyway would even be a relevant topic right now if it weren’t for Paul Merton. The man took the show by storm from the very start, and made even dire episodes seem amusing and fun, giving this sort of ‘don’t-care’ demeanor while doing really good improv, and working well with people like Josie Lawrence and Tony Slattery.
Tonight…is Paul’s last show. After appearing sporadically the last two series, Paul would decide to stop appearing on the show thanks to his numerous other commitments, one of which, Have I got News for You, would continue to this day. He’d still remain a popular member of the improv circuit, and would definitely remain friends with the Comedy Store Players gang, but this would be the end of his WL involvement, which is a shame, as it would have been great to see him intermix with more of the Colin-Ryan-Brad crowd like Tony and Josie would.
Not only is this Paul’s last appearance, but this is also the last episode of UK Whose Line where the panel would be made up entirely of, well, people from the UK. Paul, Jim Sweeney, Steve Steen and Tony Slattery would either cease to be on the show or appear only surrounded by Americans from here on out.
Authors: Death of a Stand-Up Comic
Jim: Agatha Christie
Steve: Andrew Morton
Paul: Hello! Magazine
Tony: Rhyming Couplets of Rupert Bear
Clive announces the title suggestion, Death of a Stand-Up Comic. Paul immediately clutches his chest.
…or perhaps he was doing his impression of Tony Blair having his third heart attack of the day.
Steve: “It could have been so much bad for him…”
Clive, shaking his head: “…so MUCH BAAAD for him…”
Steve: “That’s Andrew Morton for ya..”
Tony: “Rupert spied his trousers on.
Much nicer they were, than Paul Mert-on’s.”
Somehow, everyone starts talking about Barbara Cartland, until we get to Tony again:
Tony: “Barbara Cartland, witch and hag
Too much makeup, fascist bag.”
Nice enough game, quicker pace than the older ones, and a funny final quick round.
Film and Theatre Styles: Tony and Paul (prisoner and jailer)
Tony: “I DIDN’T DO IT, I DIDN’T DO IT, I DON’T DESERVE TO GO IN THERE…”
Paul [immediately turns to Clive]
Paul: “…I think you’re as guilty as hell after that last read…”
Tony, looking over Paul: “…What a horrible suit…”
Paul: [ONCE AGAIN TURNS TO CLIVE]
Paul: “…That’s good, coming from someone who’s dressed up as DOC HOLLIDAY…”
Clive: “…this is just lapsing into personal abuse..”
Paul: “YOU SHUT YOUR FACE!”
The children’s nativity style is great, because both sort of blither about and waddle around forgetting lines. Then, the second Clive buzzes in, Tony lets out a burp, which frightens Paul.
Tony: “i did that, actually, I did that in a nativity play, I burped, so-”
Paul, turning to Clive: “So it’s like personal insight…”
Paul: “Listen Norris…”
Tony [looks behind him]
Paul: “You’re never gonna get out of- YES, THAT’S YOUR NAME!”
Tony, smoking a cigarette: “Yes, it’s interesting the way the li-”
Paul: “HANG ON, WHERE’D THE CIGARETTE COME FROM??? WHAT’S ALL THIS? Oh, scuse me while I get on me MOPED…”
Clive: “…it’s a long time since you’ve been on this show, Paul…”
Clive: “Doctor Who”
Tony goes to the back of his cell, attempting to possibly do something zany. Paul opens the cell door, comes in, and goes ‘WHERE ARE YOU GOING?’
Tony: “Have you noticed that this cell is bigger inside than it is outside?”
Paul: “Yes, though you can say the same thing about my underpants!”
Tony ends the scene, in pirate style, by flying out of the bars and encouraging people to escape with him.
Paul, exiting the cell: “BUT I’M THE JAILER!”
With that, the scene ends, and might I say that was absolutely insane. Tony and Paul were so damned loose the whole time that it was damn near impressive. Yes, it wasn’t the greatest improv, but it was still quite funny.
Clive even gives ‘-9 points to Tony Slattery for taking it all too seriously…’
Foreign Film Dub: The Turkish Film ‘Going to Scotland’, acted by Steve and Jim, dubbed by Paul and Tony
Finally this game debuts. Though it was only a matter of time.
Jim goes into this sing-songy Turkish dialect, which Paul translates as “…did you see the Eurovision song contest last night?”
Paul, after Jim says something else the same way: “…I’ve just said exactly what I just said the first time…”
After Steve shoves an entire pack of cigarettes in his mouth and says a line
Tony: “…at my age, you’re starved of love…”
Steve then runs his finger along Jim’s arm, which manages to crack Jim up.
Jim retorts something back but goes into Scottish a bit, and breaks.
Paul: “…it’ll cost you 50 quid…”
Pretty solid game, though we’d definitely get to higher heights with it once Ryan starts translating.
Clive: “My apologies to the Turkish community…and also to the Scottish community because they never got anywhere NEAR Scotland…”
Scenes from a Hat:
Clive: “Buying a doll with a pull-out string.”
Tony, using the power of an oxford comma: “I WANT A DOLL PLEASE” [pulls own string]
Jim: “Mother, get back in the car…”
Clive: “Deep-sea divers watching a football match…”
Jim, to Paul: “I still think the pitch is waterlogged…”
Clive: “A pecking order for fruit.”
Tony, not at all understanding: “…ME FIRST??”
Clive: “Queen bee selecting a suitor.”
Jim, as said bee: “…fancy a shag?”
Tony: “…I don’t think you’ll want me, I’m Gyles Brandreth.”
Clive: “Odd things to celebrate.”
They hold this for 10 seconds. Nobody can think of one. Then, finally:
Paul: “I had me first piss 35 years ago…”
Clive: “Things you wouldn’t expect to find in a kangaroo’s pouch.”
Tony, stifling laughter: “…LORD LUCAN!”
Clive: “Joyriding Elephants.”
Paul, not missing the golden opportunity: “COME ON, JOY, GET OFF THERE…”
Probably the best Scenes from a Hat we’re gonna get in this era of WL. Top to bottom hysterical.
Props: Tony and Steve vs. Jim and Paul
You can tell Tony has absolutely no idea to do with his- after Jim has a nice ‘LARGE FRIES, LARGE FRIES’ joke with his…Tony just repeats the joke with his prop. Poor guy.
Jim: “YOU CAN’T BE, *I’M* CAPTAIN DICKHEAD!”
Still a pretty nice round, even if I didn’t write a lot down.
Alphabet: Paul and Jim (in a confessional) Starting with J
Once the starting letter is announced, Paul starts counting his fingers, figuring out which letters he’s got.
Clive: “It’s too late to start revising the alphabet, Paul…”
Once Paul gets to q, he realizes he’s shit out of luck, and that Jim’s way better than he is at this game, so he takes a minute…goes ‘um….Q?? Um…WHAT WORD BEGINS WITH Q?”
Clive: “The word Queue does..”
Paul: “Okay. QUEUE….GARDENS is where i buried him…”
This game limps along, as Paul’s not great, and, like in F&TS, points it out a lot, so he even goes ‘YEAH’…highlights it, and then tries thinking of a C.
A bit haphazard, and they completely lost the plot, but still amusing as all hell.
Scene to Music: Jim and Steve (at a greengrocers)
Hard to believe, our first true Sweeney and Steen game of the show.
Even better, the music is, well, the music typically used for ‘Film Noir’, so they essentially go into a game of Narrate, which is always welcome.
Jim: “This is good coleslaw, how much is it- [aside]- I knew how much it was, I’d seen the price already, but I wanted him to tell me…”
Steve: “…I found his request extraordinary, because the price was clearly written up on the board…”
Very fun scene, though I feel like it stopped right as it was about to get going. Interesting, as recently the scenes have been just the right duration, and Clive’s been more lenient with letting scenes go on than he was in S1.
Party Quirks: Paul hosts
Steve: racing commentator
Jim: thinks Paul is giving birth
Tony: a chippendale dancer
Clive tells the audience that Paul has to guess who these people are, “and so have I, as I’ve lost the list of what they’re doing…”
Clive: “Is the party underway, Paul?”
Paul, absolutely done with this shit: “YES.”
Paul does very well at guessing Steve and Jim….and THEN…IN COMES TONY…
As Tony writhes around, he’s not saying a word, and neither is Paul. Paul is just taking everything in. As Tony straddles something, Paul peers behind him.
Tony, finally: “Have you got any twiglets?”
Paul: “YOU HAVE, by the look of it…”
Then Tony lowers his trousers a bit, and crouches down.
Tony then lowers his trousers even more and starts showing skin to the audience.”
Paul finally tries pulling Tony’s trousers back up, which Tony giggles at.
Then, finally, as Tony recovers, Paul thinks back to the Paul slam at the beginning of the night, and finally returns
Paul: “…YOU’VE COME AS TONY SLATTERY!”
BUZZ. TONY LOSES IT. THE HOUSE COMES DOWN.
Then, back at the seats, Tony finally tells Paul what he was, and Paul cracks up.
One of the last marches, or non-Hoedowns, to be performed on the show, though, to be honest, I can’t see Paul Merton doing a Hoedown.
Also, March is at a different key this time, at the key reserved for the last verse, or the Mike McShane verse.
Jim and Steve have nice, funny verses, but the second we get to Paul he’s confused, disgusted and not looking forward to his verse. So nothing’s changed.
Paul does have a nice enough verse, operating outside of the time that Richard’s setting, and being similar to a Stephen Fry verse in anything. Still gets it done though.
Tony ends admirably, giving what must be one of his first few Anne Diamond slams, saying his least favorite vegetables “are the two from Good Morning with Anne and Nick.”
Overall: A very outside-the-box hysterical show. Not a single bad game, and not even a single ‘okay’ game. Everything was pretty damn great, and everyone was really on tonight. It helped that Sweeney and Steen have become less ‘spotlight’ performers, and more auxiliary performers, helping out big time in group scenes, while still having great duo scenes. From here on out though, it won’t really be ABOUT them, as the Ryan-Colin duo’s about to take off, but they still are fantastic team players. Paul was less put-together than he’s been, improv-wise, but he was still hysterical tonight, proving how much we’re gonna miss him. Tony was the highlight here, elevating all his scenes, taking the games seriously even with Paul, and…for the entirety of his party quirks round. Just a phenomenal show, and proof that we’re gonna miss the heart-and-soul of these UK lineups.
Winners: All four
Best Performer: Tony Slattery, for still coming head-over-heels above a panel of three people just as good as he is.
Worst Performer: Steve Steen. Still doesn’t have much to do on his own.
Best Game: Scenes from a Hat. Funny all the way through.
Worst Game: Hard to choose, but by default I’ll go with Foreign Film Dub, just because it could have gone a bit farther.