banner ad
banner ad
banner ad

INTERVIEW – AL MURRAY, ‘The Pub Landlord’ – August 2015

| 21 September 2015 | Reply

INTERVIEW – AL MURRAY, ‘The Pub Landlord’ – August 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

British comedian Al Murray brings his Pub Landlord character to Australia next month for the One Man, One Guv’nor stage show. SHANE PINNEGAR says ‘all hail to the ale, and a fruit-based drink for the lady’ to get the story.

Al Murray - One Man, One Guvnor


A descendant of Scottish, English and ancient Roman nobility, and boasting a degree in Modern History from Oxford, Murray himself couldn’t be more different from his most famous character, The Guv.

“No, no, no,” laughs Murray, “he wouldn’t have [read history at Oxford]. No, he wouldn’t have gotten in, no! But the thing is… I couldn’t do me [on stage] is the truth. I couldn’t go on and do me – I wouldn’t know where to start. But when you’ve got a character with a firm voice, where to start and where to end up are much more umm… ‘easy’ is the wrong word… but much more defined, you know?”

Surprisingly, despite The Guv’nor being such a strongly drawn character – complete with xenophobic outrage, stubbornly pig-headed views of right & wrong, and ‘I was never confused’ catchcries – Murray doesn’t get accosted by too many people in public.

“Um… no, actually,” he laughs. “I tend to get left alone, to tell you the truth! Yeah, yeah, it’s all right. You know, here in the UK people certainly know well that there’s me and there’s him. So when they do meet me, they really don’t expect me to be like the character. And that actually is really great because it means I can sort of surprise people more, you know what I mean? When you’re known, people have an impression of you. As I’m not the person they have an impression of, I’ve got a little bit more room to manoeuvre, actually.

“You know… you open your mouth and you sound different, and they’re like, ‘oh right, okay, he’s not going to punch me in the face and call me lazy!’”

Al Murray 05

Being a nation who enjoys a glass of amber fluid, Australia seems to have an affinity for The Guv’nor – even if he’s mostly own known through the Time Gentlemen, Please TV series of 2002/03. I ask Murray why he thinks we get the character so well?

“Well I don’t know,” he replies thoughtfully, before laughing once again, “I was married to an Australian for a while – maybe she didn’t find the joke funny anymore?!

“Yeah, I certainly like Australia,” he continues, “but I haven’t played Down Under in a very long time. So I’m looking forward to it – I don’t know what the lay of the land is though, I’m going to find out pretty shortly.”

Al Murray 01

Murray is reknowned for his quick wit and repartee with his live audiences, which he says he only lightly prepares for with a bit of local flavour.

“Well, I watch the telly and read the paper, if that’s what you’re asking, yeah. But I talk to the audience every night anyways, and improvise half hour to the front few rows, so I get a pretty good idea what the room’s like and what’s going on in the room. But, I’ll watch the telly and watch the news, figure out what’s going on – I might even do a bit of that in advance.

“Just a little bit… because what audiences are interested in is very often not what’s in the paper.”

Murray goes on to say that his whip-like wit, ability to read a room and fire razor-sharp retorts to hecklers didn’t come straight away – or easily.

“No. And it’s a thing that you can’t stop working on, actually. You’re always… I think you’ve always got to figure out what the angles are, [and] how to deal with different situations. When we first get to Australia, I’m going to be on my toes to figure that stuff out, I think. We’ll see because one of the things that I love about stand-up is that you don’t know what’s going to happen: you can’t be sure. And as a comic, I know that I’m bit of a control freak so it’s quite good fun to put yourself in a situation where you don’t know if you’re in control. You know what I mean?”

Al Murray 03

I imagine that one of the first things you have to do before going out on stage as a stand-up would be to have some weapons in your arsenal to deal with failure.

“Yes. Yeah, of course you do, yeah,” he agrees. “One of the most important things is to move on, to keep moving. If you keep it moving and you keep the stuff fresh, then… I mean one of the things when talking to an audience is that if you’re getting nowhere with one person, you don’t stick with them – you drop ’em quickly and find someone else.”

Seeing as we are 100% ROCK MAGAZINE, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Murray was also quite an accomplished drummer.

“Well I like to play as… errr… I can never remember the name of the other bloke in Wayne’s World…,” he laughs, before I admit that neither can I. [it’s Garth, as played by Dana Carvey – IMDB consulting editor]

“There you go. So, I like to play and I play a fair bit – It’s the thing I wanted to do and I realised that I wasn’t good enough. And then stand-up started going well and it stayed as a big, big hobby for me. And I think that’s why I still love it, to tell the truth. I think if I had to do it for a living, I’d really fucking hate it right now!

“I know lots of drummers and they all say, you know, if you do it for a living your relationship with it changes quite dramatically. There are days when you’ve got to play and you don’t want to… you’re not in the mood. But yeah, I did do a lot of gigs with one of my old bands and I record all of my own music for the show – all that sort of thing.”

Al Murray 04

Murray becomes effusive when I ask what sort of music really struck a chord with him, so to speak, when he was growing up.

“Oh god. Um, well… I grew up when punk was really big… and punk was really big at my school. So, I kind of reacted to it and really got into prog rock – I went in the opposite direction to everybody else. So, I’m really eclectic, and we played a lot of jazz at school – jazz was about as far as you could go on school time, you know what I mean? Rock music was [considered] beyond the pale!

“So I played a lot of jazz music, and then played a lot of rock music and sort of indie rock when I was at uni. And then about 20 years ago I played in a band that… we thought we were kind of an English Smashing Pumpkins… that sort of stuff.

“I think if you’re really into music, you do [go all over the playing field],” Murray continues. “I think you can find good stuff everywhere, to tell you the truth. Very often I get asked to write those articles: you know, your five top tunes. Well, it depends in the morning and it depends in the afternoon, you know… it varies for what genre or, do I even believe in genres, you know what I mean?”

With similarly eclectic tastes and wild diversity in our daily listening, we understand completely.

“Really great musicians – like, I’m a big [David] Bowie fan, and he’s slithered all over genres, and I’m a big Miles Davis fan, and I think they’re very similar. Their central voice – Bowie’s actual voice and what he’s trying to say, and Miles Davis’ trumpet – the voices remain the same, [whilst] the settings behind them have changed. And that’s how we know the voices stayed the same and that’s how they defined themselves – by altering their backdrop. Mike Patton in Faith No More does that as well, with his side projects like Fantomas, and things like that.

“Yeah, I pretty much almost like anything,” he goes on passionately, “music’s amazing… and sometimes music is SO amazing, it’s almost unbearable to listen to, I think. It’s too heavy sometimes, it’s such a big thing…

“Yeah, we could talk about music much more than we could talk about stand-up!” he laughs.

Al Murray 02

He may be most well-known for The Guv’nor, but Al Murray has his fingers in plenty of other pies: he even ran for Parliament early in 2015 – as The Guv, for the purposely-registered Free U.K. Party (FUKP) – and scored about 1% of the vote, a result that he still seems incredulous about.

“I was amazed that anyone voted for me at all!” he says with another laugh.

You were cheated, man!

“Totally robbed. Um yeah…it was the most extraordinary month, getting involved and sticking my head above the parapet – it was hilarious.”

Al Murray - election campaign

What would he have done if he actually had won?

“I would’ve been the MP!” he laughs. “Obviously, yeah. I would’ve been the MP and… we would’ve had a very interesting couple of years I think.”

On TV in England he’s practically ubiquitous, having helmed sitcoms and chat shows, skit shows and game shows and documentaries (most of which has not been shows on terrestrial TV here in Australia). I ask whether he thinks all these projects up himself, or whether they are pitched to him to try and secure his involvement.

“You know what, it’s sort of six of one… The talk show was very much a thing I very much wanted to do. The game shows are things I’ve devised… I mean, they have to want to let you make them, but you kind of get left to devising them.

“The movies thing [two wonderfully engaging, intimate round table shows he’s done for the BBC discussing the Great British Spy Movies and Great British War Movies] is sort of hybrid that came out of a book I wrote about watching and being into war films.

“One of my favourite things I did, though, was a documentary that I did about last year of the second world war,” he adds, referring to his Road To Berlin series of 2004, in which he retraces the steps of the last phase of WW II, from the Normandy Invasion of D-Day, through to the Fall of Berlin.

Al Murray's Road To Berlin

“Yeah, that came out of nowhere. That was someone saying, ‘do you want to do this?’ And you’re like, ‘yeah, all right – try and stop me, I’d love to!’ I didn’t have to come up with a single thing on that, it was brilliant.”

Despite the hundreds of TV and stage appearances of his career, one thing Murray has not yet tackled is a movie, but he’s cagily working on something – even if he won’t tell us what it is.

“Yeah… but it’s something I can’t talk about,” he laughs. “But having something ‘in the works’ with movies and it actually happening is, you know, a world apart. But that’s something that’s hopefully going to happen.”

The other thing still on Murray’s bucket list takes us back to rock n’ roll…

“Well, I want to play Glastonbury with my rock band!”

Finally, I ask if his two daughters – especially his eldest who is about 17 – have taken his Pub Landlord character to heart either way when considering having a drink themselves.

“No… not consciously – but I have a suspicion that she thinks drinking is for fucking idiots,” he laughs, before adding, “it could be the best piece of indirect parenting anyone has ever done.”

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

Leave a Reply

Please verify you\'re a real person: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

banner ad
banner ad