Veteran of the comedy scene Paul Merton tells Joanna Davis what to expect from his Impro Chums show, which is set to delight and entertain an audience in Weymouth next weekend.

I'VE interviewed many big names over the years - Queen's Brian May about his love of badgers, Des O'Connor about his longevity in in the industry - and the late, great Ken Dodd about that infernal tickle stick.

But not a single one of those legends filled me with as much terror as the prospect of interviewing Paul Merton.

The owner of the one liner, the purveyor of the put down and the comedian with the most withering of looks that would put fear into the likes of Anna Wintour.

So it is something of a surprise when I pick up the phone to a bright and bubbly Paul, who is worlds away from his Have I Got News for You persona. Paul has been a central figure in the British comedy scene ever since making his debut appearance in the first episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway? in 1988.

We're chatting about Paul's upcoming visit to Weymouth Pavilion next weekend.

Paul Merton’s Impro Chums have starred at several Edinburgh Fringes and have taken their ad libbing ways on tour across Britain to great acclaim.

They will flex their improvisational muscles at Weymouth Pavilion on Sunday, April 28 at 7.30pm.

Surely venturing out on stage in front of hundreds of people not knowing what you're doing must be the ultimate terrifying experience, I ask?

Paul said: "What really helps is years of experience of doing it. Everyone in the show has been doing it for at least 30 years. I don't feel nervous doing it. I look forward to it.

"Before I go on stage I have a bit of a warm-up with my voice to practise my diction and make sure I'm speaking clearly - it's very easy in impro to speak too fast!"

I ask Paul what his most memorable moments are from years of doing impro.

He said: "I don't remember moments from the shows, if there's a moment that doesn't work it only lasts for five seconds or so and then we move on to something else. It will on occasion happen.

"The great thing about impro is that when you try something that doesn't work, you can try something else. If someone comes on as a comic doctor and you can't think of what to say, the key thing is not to panic and there are six of us doing it so you're never on your own. It is so important to listen to what everyone else is saying."

Paul and chums, including his wife Suki Webster, make sure they're travelling in comfort when they're on tour, he tells me.

They travel from theatre to theatre on a double decker bus complete with DVD player, a bathroom, a coffee machine and, as Paul says, 'it's big enough so we can get away from each other '.

Now 61, Paul says comfort is of utmost importance to him.

"In some venues the backstage area isn't great. So it's good that we can stay on the bus. Then we can be on our bus and get back to London at 1am. So from most places it's fairly easy to get back and you can sleep in your own bed. It's a very easy way of doing it and it's really quite luxurious. We want to make sure that everyone is well rested."

And the fact that he's trying to outdo his wife on stage with his impro skills doesn't put any strain on his marriage to Suki, Paul says.

"If I wasn't doing this with Suki I'd be getting in at 1am and she'd be fast asleep. I think that would put more of a strain on our relationship, the fact we're doing this together is good because we enjoy doing it together. And there's a bit of fun with it. We like testing each other on stage!"

Many of us are used to watching Paul on our small screens every Friday night with the perennial favourite Have I Got News For You. What's the secret to its longevity, I ask.

Paul said: "There have been 57 series, the key thing for that is it's a bit like the impro, in that it's only as good as last week's show. You can't rest on your laurels with it, you have to entertain the audience afresh every time."

Many viewers tune in to see the latest round of Paul's long-standing rivalry with Ian Hislop.

Paul tells me: "I laugh at Ian a lot. He's meant to be a journalist but he knows nothing about the news. He thinks of himself as this great person and great journalist but he's really just a twit!"

Dream guests for Paul on the show were his childhood heroes Spike Milligan and Peter Cook, he tells me.

He said: "Having been going for so long, everyone who wants to do it has done it. But there was something very special about having Spike and Peter on the show for me.

"I think we're likely to see Theresa May hosting very soon when she's not Prime Minister - which won't be very far away now!" he adds.

Although I've experienced the lesser known warm and fuzzy side of Paul, I'm still grateful not to be one of the poor hosts sat in that hot seat in an upcoming edition of the show.

It is at this point that Paul admits he can 'look a bit grumpy' on television!

"I'm usually very dour on Have I Got News For Yoy because they ask me questions about Brexit and Trump and I also have to do that on BBC Radio 4's Just a Minute," he says.

"I do try and smile a bit more when I'm on the radio but I realise I can look a bit grumpy on TV!" he confesses.

*Paul Merton's Impro Chums, Weymouth Pavilion, Sunday, April 28, 7.30pm. Call the box office for tickets.