Getting close! Last chance to snag 'Pub Landlord' tickets for Al Murray's Dubai gig
He's blunt, biased and very, very opinionated. His whole show seems to be a one-eyed, myopic view on what makes Britain 'Great'.
But miss out on the chance of catching an Al Murray show, complete with routinely brilliant meanderings, ramblings and ad hoc laughs, and the joke could be on you. The notoriously forthright ‘Pub Landlord’ is in town for a big show this Friday. The character may not necessarily translate to the bars and venues of the UAE, but there’s lots for comedy fans to enjoy - no matter the nationality. Al has proved it with sell-out shows here in 2010, 2011 and 2012, as well as big gigs in the southern hemisphere too.
The character originally came to life almost 20 years ago, in 1994, while Al was working with zany Englishman Harry Hill. The pair were looking for a decent character to wheel out as a support act for Hill, and the Pub Landlord was born.
Creator Al, actually a history graduate from the prestigious Oxford University, admits it was a fluke - but he hasn’t looked back since. The 45-year-old says: “It still amazes me. I think if I had sat down to figure the character out I would never have come up with it, or over-complicated it. Dumb luck I guess.”
That Bulldog spirit and ‘Little England’ attitude, where life was seemingly better in the olden days, will be familiar to many wincing Brits. But was there an inspiration for the character?
“He’s not based on anyone in particular, although there are one or two things people have said and done that have gone into the mangler, but they’d never be recognisable - at least I hope not,” says Al. Al’s character has been labelled ‘a national treasure’ by critics back in the UK and has spawned books and TV series, while the creator himself has also gone on to front a radio show. Doesn’t that success tempt Al to create other characters for a tour?
“Well, we did a sketch show a while ago with lots more, but for doing live stand-up he’s by far the best and most direct way of doing stuff - he loves getting up there and telling people what to think.”
Part of Al’s winning formula is his ability to interact with the audience. But how does he come up with a routine for his shows? He says: “There’s always a set in mind, though when I get to Dubai I know I may have to change things around! People are in a different headspace to at home.
“Dubai has that energy that expat places have, it’s got lots of different kinds of people all trying to make a few quid - often as quickly as possible - and that means they’re up for a laugh right now. They’re also a bit nostalgic or homesick, things that are fun to play with.”
Al’s material is funny and clever. Take his musings on ‘Great’ Britain’s adherence to rules. Germany and France are the butt of the observations, but so are Brits and human beings in general - any nationality would see the funny side of the crude stereotyping.
Gregarious, forthright and outspoken, has the character ever landed the real-life Al in trouble before? Not so. The general public are usually pretty decent to the father of two - unless he’s on social media, it seems.
Al, a tweeter of some repute himself with more than a quarter of a million followers, says: “People tend to be lovely - except on Twitter where people are emboldened by anonymity.”
Al’s an old hand at comedy writing. He’s worked on the famous Oxford Revue and also served as a writer for ‘Week Ending’ and ‘Spitting Image’. If anyone is qualified to give career advice to budding comedians, it’s Al. He says: “Never stop writing. Become obsessed, but also make sure you’re interested in other stuff - it informs what you might do. And heckling: well I’m asked more questions about heckling than I’ve ever been heckled. I’d say to a new comic that unlike you, a heckler doesn’t know what you’re going
to say next.”
Al Murray’s ‘The Only Way Is Epic’ lands at Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday. Doors open at 6pm, visit doneevents.com for tickets and information.
By Chris Fraser