“So your Balham thing involves a toilet?” I asked when we met this week.
“Oh, I’ll just wander on and have a chat,” he told me. “If I’m going to do an after dinner speech, for example, Debbie won’t let me write it, because I ad-lib better. I float free. I’m kind of a jazz comedian, a jazz magician. I don’t have a set route. I have this belief that, whatever happens, I’ll get out the other end.
“I have a sort of routine with the magic – it has to have a beginning, a middle and an end. But, with the beginning and middle, I can kinda drift into stuff and I don’t mind if I’m distracted or the audience wants to know something. I’ll wander off what I’m saying, but I’ll find a way back.
“In the early days, when I played the working men’s clubs, I was winning comedy awards which is long-forgotten because, when you get to the BBC, it’s all: Oh no, you’re the magician. Jokes must be edited out.
“Of course, you always over-record a show. Louis Theroux came to interview us and stayed three months. You over-record and then edit it down. We used to over-record my TV show by about 10 minutes. But, I mean, Have I Got News For You is like a…”
“Oh God!” I said. “Don’t! I sat through one recording. It was endless. I think it took over three hours.”
“Yes. Just to find 30 minutes of something funny,” said Paul. “Which is weird, because they’ve got it all written down anyway. I mean, Punch magazine published the script once.”
“Why did you go on it?” I asked.
“Because I couldn’t figure out,” explained Paul, “why my very funny friends weren’t funny when they were on it.
“I went on and I told a good gag about Bush and Blair and the War – about having ‘wargasms’ – I said they weren’t allowed to have sex any more because of Clinton, so they had wargasms instead.
“My longest, oldest friend was sitting in the front during the recording and, when he saw the show go out, he told me: You don’t do any gags! You did loads of gags when we were there. Where were they? He was going to write and complain. He’s like that.
“I said: Oh! It’s alright… But one week later, my wargasm joke was in the show told by the presenter (Angus Deayton).”
“I’m shocked,” I said.
“Good,” said Paul. “That’s my job.”
… CONTINUED HERE …