Paul Merton has worked long and hard to secure his reputation as he teeters on the brink of national treasure status.

With nothing more to prove, and plenty of work flowing his way, it begs the question, why does he continue to do live comedy, risking a duff performance and suffering the rigours of touring, when he could kick back in a comfy TV studio or jet off for the occasional documentary?

I’ve seen him a few times at the Comedy Store in London, and now at the Grand Opera House last Saturday, and judging from the sheer delight he and his friends take in performing their rapid-fire silly gags, it must be for the sheer unadulterated fun of it.

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums is a delight, the tall impresario immersing himself into the action with Mike McShane, Lee Simpson, Suki Webster and pianist Richard Vranch as enthusiastically as any budding comedian, keen to prove the sharpness of his wit.

Highlights included the spontaneous Shakespearean production, which ended on the immortal line, “So blood was spilt between kin and kith, in the tale of the boy from WH Smith”.

The crowd played a significant role, suggesting ideas for gags and sketches, and good-natured and appreciative throughout, a far cry from the hardened hecklers that can be found in the Comedy Store, but no less inspired.

Suki Webster, made to guess her job as the electrician who worked on Elton John’s spectacles for his funeral, can attest to that. Clever, laugh-out-loud, silly fun.

Review by Catherine Marcus