AL MUR­RAY

What's On (Dubai) - - AL MURRAY -

If you’re won­der­ing whether Al Mur­ray, The Pub Land­lord can throw any light on cur­rent Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, here’s your an­swer.

“Far away from Blighty in the sand­box you’re go­ing to need pe­ri­odic up­dates on the cur­rent state of com­mon sense in the UK,” says Mur­ray, whose comic cre­ation will ap­pear at Dubai Opera on 19 Novem­ber. “And who bet­ter for this than the Com­mon Sense Am­bas­sador him­self, the Pub Land­lord?”

Brexit looms large in the words and deeds of The Pub Land­lord. He stood against Nigel Farage, the for­mer leader of the UK In­de­pen­dence Party, as a joke can­di­date in the 2015 Gen­eral Elec­tion, win­ning only 318 votes in the par­lia­men­tary con­stituency of South Thanet. His Free United King­dom Party had cam­paigned on a plat­form of 13 elec­tion ‘pledges’, one of which was to revalue the pound at £1.10.

Mur­ray, who has been do­ing the com­edy cir­cuit for al­most 25 years, clapped and cheered when Farage even­tu­ally lost to the Con­ser­va­tive can­di­date Craig Mackin­lay, hav­ing pledged that the UK would “leave Europe by 2025 and the edge of the So­lar Sys­tem by 2050”.

In a bizarre twist of fate, how­ever, Mur­ray now finds him­self in the strange po­si­tion of hav­ing cre­ated a comic per­sona who mir­rors el­e­ments of the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal re­al­ity. Prior to Brexit, The Pub Land­lord was sim­ply a big­oted Lit­tle Eng­lan­der with fan­tasies of Bri­tish ex­cep­tion­al­ism. Now he’s a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the UK’s rup­ture with Europe, all crisps, warm ale, and a dis­trust of both the French and the Ger­mans. “Ger­many has been too quiet for too long. Just say­ing,” he said amus­ingly ahead of his elec­tion bid.

All of which means that cur­rent af­fairs and Brexit pro­vide much of the in­spi­ra­tion for his cur­rent ma­te­rial.

“It’s un­avoid­able,” he says. “If Brexit is what its pro­po­nents say it is it’s go­ing to change ev­ery­thing (though they did prom­ise noth­ing would change as well). It’s the kind of thing a comic can’t avoid. The trick is not to bang on about it bor­ingly.” Will a Dubai au­di­ence get it? “Well, it’ll fig­ure it­self as we go I guess,” replies Mur­ray. “I’ve been to Dubai a fair few times so I think I’ve an idea of how to pitch it, though the in­trigu­ing thing about Dubai is how it’s dif­fer­ent ev­ery time I go there. I think they

ap­pre­ci­ate you’ve made the jour­ney too, though not as much as the crowds in the Falk­lands.”

The con­ver­gence be­tween the im­age of a pub land­lord Mur­ray cre­ated 24 years ago and the pol­i­tics of the day in­trigues, per­haps more so be­cause Mur­ray in­hab­its the per­sona of the land­lord with such ease. Where does he stand on Brexit? Where does Mur­ray end and The Pub Land­lord be­gin? How much of his own be­liefs are ev­i­dent in the land­lord’s?

“I like the sound of my voice a bit too much like he does,” says Mur­ray. “And we go to the same bar­ber. But we don’t re­ally think the same way at all… or do we? To be hon­est, if there’s con­fu­sion about who is me and who is him I’m fine with that.”

In re­al­ity, of course, Mur­ray is as far re­moved from his al­ter ego as it’s pos­si­ble to imag­ine. Ed­u­cated at Bed­ford School and an alum­nus of St Ed­mund Hall, Ox­ford, his great-great­great-grand­fa­ther was the cel­e­brated novelist Wil­liam Make­peace Thack­eray (best known as the au­thor of Van­ity

Fair), while his grand­fa­ther was the Bri­tish diplo­mat and for­mer gov­er­nor of the BBC, Sir Ralph Mur­ray. His an­ces­tors also in­clude the 3rd Duke of Atholl and the Bishop of Rochester.

It’s not some­thing he re­ally likes to talk about, which is un­der­stand­able given the sen­si­tives that sur­round the is­sue of class. How can a posh boy know what it’s like to be the work­ing class owner of a pub? Or put him­self in the mind-set of a down­trod­den mi­nor­ity?

Then there’s the char­ac­ter him­self. A gar­ru­lous and xeno­pho­bic ale guz­zler born in the cel­lar be­hind the boxes of crisps, he is per­ceived by some as a big­oted stereo­type and a par­ody of the Bri­tish work­ing class. So is this com­edy or ridicule?

In the past Mur­ray has ar­gued against the be­lief that co­me­di­ans, or artists, should not be al­lowed to imag­ine what oth­ers may think or say, stat­ing that such a lim­i­ta­tion runs against the grain of cre­ativ­ity it­self. Be­sides, he is “res­o­lutely down­wardly mo­bile”, he once told Tatler, point­ing out that his fa­ther worked for Bri­tish Rail for 40 years and his mother for the Cit­i­zens Ad­vice Bureau in Mil­ton Keynes.

What­ever you’re take, The Pub Land­lord was ac­tu­ally de­vel­oped by ac­ci­dent. “He came about dur­ing a show at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe to plug a gap in a show, but then I had to take him round the club cir­cuit to knock him into shape,” says Mur­ray. “Do­ing hun­dreds of gigs a year did the trick. Since I’ve done him on telly I’ve made sure that he knows he’s fa­mous, and it’s gone right to his head.”

“Be­fore a show I re­ally like to chill out, drink some tea, read,” adds Mur­ray. “Some­times we have an ex­er­cise bike which we take on tour with us which I like to look at from the couch. At the end of the show it’s ba­si­cally see­ing how fast we can get out of the venue and onto din­ner/the pub/wher­ever we are go­ing next.”

What’s on his Dubai bucket list?

“Desert Sa­fari,” he replies. “I have never got around to it yet. I’ve done pretty much all of the other Dubai ex­pe­ri­ences, eat­ing in great places, gaw­ping at the in­door ski slope, hang­ing out at Barasti, watch­ing foot­ball with the Liver­pool sup­port­ers club at my tour man­ager’s in­sis­tence. I’ve even been through the rite of pas­sage of telling a plump Rus­sian teenager he can’t jump the queue for the Leap of Faith and to get back in line.” Nov 19

Dubai Opera, Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid Boule­vard, Down­town Dubai, Mon 8pm, Dhs150 to Dhs250. Tel: (04) 4408888. Taxi: Dubai Opera. dubai­opera.com

“I’VE BEEN TO DUBAI A FAIR FEW TIMES SO I THINK I’VE AN IDEA OF HOW TO PITCH IT”

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