Merchant lights up Empire

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Stephen Merchant

Stephen Merchant made an impressive return to the stand-up stage in front of an expectant crowd, and apart from confusing Scousers with Mancunians, he didn’t let them down.

The award-winning comedy writer is on his first major stand-up tour with the show ‘Hello Ladies’, and a sold-out Liverpool Empire was in attendance to see the sensational results.

After working on some of the greatest British comedy shows of all time with ‘The Office’ and ‘Extras’, Merchant could be forgiven for taking some time off. However, the comedian, who started out as a stand-up comic in the 90s, went back to where it all began and put on an impressive 75-minute set.

Despite towering at 6’7, he has often lingered in the shadow of his collaborator and friend Ricky Gervais. Merchant was quick to make a joke about this in the opening five minutes and was pleased to be working on a project where he wouldn’t have to split his profits with “you know who”.

Merchant says: “To a lot of people, I’m just Ricky Gervais’ sidekick, but I’ve been doing stand-up since long before I met him.”

The show, which centred on Merchant’s excruciatingly amusing love life (or lack of it), was another sign of his considerable talent. His presence on stage, laughable in itself, was entirely captivitating and he had the crowd
laughing from start to finish.

Merchant jokes that the premise of his tour is to find a suitable partner. The 36-year-old said: “Life can be lonely as a TV writer, so this tour is a great opportunity for me to get out there and meet my fans. And make at least one of them my wife!”

There is warmth about his humour that many comedians fail to achieve. His self-deprecating style is endearing and jokes about his own failed attempts at dating leave the audience on the edge of tears.

Merchant said: “My favourite comedians are always the butt of their own jokes. You appear to have a natural superiority when you’re on stage, because you’re the centre of attention, so I want to remind the audience that in my eyes they’re superior.”

During a huge nationwide tour, it might be understandable if Merchant occasionally forgets where he is sometimes, although not many unintentional insults come worse than asking a Liverpool crowd: “Is there not one man in Manchester who wants to read my play?”

It would have taken a lot more than that to upset the Liverpool crowd, who had been thoroughly entertained for the entire evening. Despite being a director, actor, writer and broadcaster, his performance in Liverpool proved that he still has much more to offer.

Take into account that he has just finished work on Sky One’s most popular show for years, ‘An Idiot Abroad 2’, and also co-written his third sitcom, ‘Life’s Too Short’, which is coming up this autumn, Merchant has really hit the top of his game with his latest masterpiece, ‘Hello Ladies’.

About Hugh Currell, Deputy Website Editor