The Pub Landlord: A hit for being nasty

The Pub Landlord: A hit for being nasty
Comic Al Murray (above), on people thinking he is like the obnoxious Pub Landlord character he created

English comedian Al Murray plays the obnoxious and rude The Pub Landlord so well that fans always assume he is the same in real life.

"People always think that I might be just like him. But he's such a lunatic - why would anyone be like that?" says Murray, 45, on the telephone from Hong Kong, ahead of a performance there.

"Still, I guess it's flattering because it's a testament to how I perform the character and that it is one that people remember," adds the stand-up comic, who will jump into his well-loved character again at the Kallang Theatre tomorrow night.

The Pub Landlord, as the name suggests, is the head of a pub. An annoying, crude guy, he has something against all things "un-British" - reserving particular dislike for anything German or French. Fittingly, he is a great fan of British rock band Queen.

Murray is eager to find out how Singaporean audiences will react to his first show here.

"Wherever I go, I talk to the audience and every show comes out sort of different and specific to them, so I'm looking forward to seeing how Singaporean audiences will respond," he says.

He created The Pub Landlord character "completely by accident" in 1994, while touring as a support act for comedian Harry Hill, 48.

There had been a gap in the stand-up schedule one night and he was asked to fill in.

As they were performing in a bar at the time, he suggested a scenario where the compere had failed to turn up and so a pub owner would come at the last minute to fill in.

The Pub Landlord was thus born and became an instant hit after "just 10 minutes of performing".

Recalls Murray: "I came off stage and said, 'Well, that worked', and started writing more bits and pieces."

Since then, the persona has been seen on numerous sell-out live tours, as well as on television shows such as British sitcom Time Gentlemen Please (2000-2002), which was originally broadcast on Sky One channel.

"Doing the same character for so long, it's great, but it's also a big surprise. But I guess that's show business. So far, it doesn't feel old to me," says the comedian.

"When I first started doing it, it was sort of about making it work, but now that I've done it for so long, it feels more rounded and the point of view is so established and figured out that it comes naturally. I feel like I have a whole history and lots of material for the character to go on now."

In 2003, British newspaper The Observer listed Murray as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and in 2007, he was voted the 16th greatest stand-up comic on TV broadcaster Channel 4's list of 100 Greatest Stand-ups.

The comedian admits that there are times when audiences do not understand the irony behind the character, but it does not bother him.

"It's not my job to tell people what to think and I can't bear comedians who do that. You're just supposed to make people laugh. If people are laughing, I don't care whether they get it or not because I know I have a clear conscience."

Despite the immense success of The Pub Landlord, it is something else entirely that has made him a hit with his own daughters aged 10 and 14: his stint as a supporting actor on children's television series Horrible Histories earlier this year.

Based on the best-selling books of the same name by Terry Deary, the series dishes out historical facts and events in a fun and entertaining manner for young audiences.

Says Murray, who has a master's degree in history from Oxford University, with a laugh: "I loved doing that. It has given me a lot of street cred with my kids.

"Also, it's nice not to be in charge and have to carry the whole thing for once, unlike in stand-up. For Horrible Histories, they just gave me some lines and I just popped up and read them, so it's simple."

yipwy@sph.com.sg


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