Comedian Paul Merton 'loathed' Laurel and Hardy biopic 'Stan & Ollie'

Tom Beasley
Contributor
Paul Merton had some harsh words for 'Stan & Ollie' in a new interview with The Guardian. (Credit: Robbie Jack/Corbis via Getty Images/eOne)

Stan & Ollie was a well-received biopic of comedy icons Laurel and Hardy, which earned awards nominations for both of its stars, but it didn’t impress comedian Paul Merton.

The Have I Got News For You team captain told The Guardian he “loathed” the movie, which focused on the double act’s later years touring the U.K..

Steve Coogan portrayed Stan Laurel, while John C. Reilly played his partner and friend Oliver Hardy in the film, directed by Filth filmmaker Jon S. Baird.

The movie, released earlier this year, features disagreement between the two men over Hardy’s decision to make the 1939 movie Zenobia without Laurel, due to the pair holding separate contracts with producer Hal Roach.

Read more: Reilly spent three hours in make-up for Hardy role

Merton, however, believes that the film’s dramatic moments were manufactured and sensationalised for the sake of the movie.

The 62-year-old said: “It tried to create drama where there was no real friction.

“If I’d seen it in a cinema, I’d have been asked to leave. Every 15 minutes, I was like: ‘Oh, for f**k’s sake!’”

John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as Laurel and Hardy in the biopic 'Stan & Ollie'. (Credit: eOne)

Merton, promoting the re-release of two films starring his comedy hero Tony Hancock, added that the genre has historically been given something of a raw deal when it comes to serious recognition.

Read more: Reilly felt fat-shamed during Stan & Ollie filming

He theorised that comedy movies are seldom recognised at the Oscars “because comedy undermines the pomposity of calling yourself something like The Academy of Motion Pictures and Science”.

That’s not to say that Merton is an apologist for every aspect of the genre, revealing that he rarely watches modern comedy, which has “coarsened” into something “weak and lazy”.

Ian Hislop and Paul Merton have been team captains on 'Have I Got News For You' since the show launched in 1990. (Credit: BBC)

Merton said: “I don’t want to sound prudish, and some bodily function jokes can be good. But it’s a shame that if you say ‘f***’ in front of an audience, they’ll probably laugh.

“It’s a shock thing. Any weak punchline can be bolstered by sticking that word in there.”

Read more: ITV comedy boss bans all-male writing teams

Merton is recognisable for spending almost 30 years as one of the team captains on topical panel show Have I Got News For You, opposite Ian Hislop.

He has also presented Room 101 and was a regular performer on the British incarnation of improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway? between 1988 and 1993.