Al Murray is one of those comedians who has created an entire career based off just one idea. The character of the pub landlord. Obscene and explicit, Murray has toured the world with this character and has made himself a staple on British television. Nerve was lucky enough to speak to him whilst he was promoting his most recent tour.
Should you go to his show, the only thing you can expect from Al Murray’s new show, Landlord of Hope and Glory, is that if you sit in the front row, you might get ‘a bit of beer’ spilt on you. Of course, audience participation is a huge part of his show, with Murray constantly picking out members of the audience to make jokes of. Should you be luckily, or unluckily, chosen during the show, Murray has only one rule. ‘The worst things someone can do is lie to me’ he revealed. ‘I can smell lies from [the audience].
His character of the pub landlord seems to have become an amalgamation of many influences. When asked where he got the influence for the pub landlord, he simply said that ‘people got digested into it. Anything you create has bits of other people and sometimes you don’t know where they come from’. The Pub Landlord is a controversial character, spouting many explicit and controversial statements. The idea of acting even a little like his alter ego made Murray somewhat nervous. When asked if he saw parts of himself in his character, Al jokingly said ‘I would be pretty worried if I did. He and I remain distinct entities.
Controversial characters will often kick up a fuss with audience members. Al revealed that there have been times where people have taken his jokes the wrong way. ‘You get people saying, “you shouldn’t be saying these things”, but I’m playing a character and because of that, it’s as if I’m not saying that at all. It all depends on what you think comedians are for. I think they are there to make mischief and cause trouble however, that may mean that people don’t like it’.
To some, you could say a comedy career was always in Al Murray’s sights. Whilst studying history at Oxford, he got involved with a comedy group that peaked his interest during freshers. ‘I thought it was worth a try and absolutely loved it’. now those who are British comedy fans will know that oxford university has produced some of the countries most celebrated comedians, from Monty Python and Rowan Atkinson, to Richard Ayode and David Mitchell. ‘There is a long history of comedy coming from Oxford, it felt like a complete no brainer to give it a try’.
Reflecting on the comedy world as a whole, Al Murray expanded on comments he made to the guardian that you cannot be a comedian and respectable. ‘There is a tension within comedy to be seen as cool but seen as funny. As a comedian, what you’re doing is trying to take the piss. That will involve upsetting people and you just get on with it.
He also touched on Joker director Todd Philips comments about PC culture ruining and creating a crisis for comedy. ‘This guy has had a massive hit movie, it doesn’t affect him whatever this “crisis” is’. Murray went on to make a point of showing how those complaining about the changing state of comedy never seem to be the practitioners of it. ‘the moment someone says stuff like this, you think “Have you actually been to a gig lately? What do you actually know about comedy?”. People who practice comedy don’t think this. Comics simply don’t get asked about it. It’s always the people who critic comedy that says stuff like this, never those who perform it’. As a final point on the matter, he simply said ‘it’s all nonsense what he’s saying. People need to chill out about it’.
Now those of you who are big Taskmaster fans know that Al played a hilarious part in the third series of the hit Dave competition comedy show. He loved being a part of the experience so much that not one single moment could be described as his favourite. ‘I loved every single second of it. It was the most amazing experience and it was the easiest job in television. You can’t prepare for it, there are no lines to learn, there are no second tapes. Its just immense’.
Now one section of the show is the prize category, where each guest brings in a weird item set to a theme and whoever wins the episode, wins these weird and wacky items. Now, rumours have circulated that the comedians don’t actually keep the prizes they win, but Al put that rumour to rest. ‘Right now, I’m looking out my office winder and there is Rob Beckett’s sundial. If you want to take the prizes home with you, you can. I didn’t keep Dave Gorman’s microwave though. I don’t need two microwaves’.
Finally, the question that is on everybody’s mind. Is Greg Davis really as scary as he is on our televisions?
‘He’s a big pussycat’ Al joked. ‘I watch bits that make him look scary and thought “what are you doing? You are a lovely person”’.
Al Murray is on tour till December. To pick up tickets to see him yourself, go to ThePubLandlord.com