Al Murray on two decades of The Pub Landlord

As the Brit comic returns to Dubai we ask what’s changed in the Landlord’s life

Interview
Interview
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It’s about a year since we last spoke to you. What has the last 12 months held in Al’s life?
I’ve been touring ever since my last visit to Dubai, I’ve written a book, I’ve done a lot of radio, just been pretty much on the road.

And the last 12 months in The Pub Landlord’s life?
Well he’s becoming more and more convinced of his mission to save Western civilisation from itself by delivering his usual brand of [rubbish]. He’s basically decided to put his personal life on hold while he’s on tour to sort [Britain] out.

Er, good for him. Now, you’re bringing the same ‘The Only Way is Epic’ tour we had in Dubai last September. Has anything changed?
It’s a year later, so it’s evolved considerably and changed quite a bit. When I was in Dubai last I hadn’t actually finalised the show, so some of it’s completely different. And because the first half an hour is [interaction with] the audience, it can evolve quickly or slowly with different people.

Are the Dubai audience on the slower side?
What I think is really entertaining with British expats is they hold everything at arm’s length. They’re sentimentally nostalgic for the UK – and secretly relieved they’re not there at the same time. And the holding at arm’s length is exactly what the Pub Landlord is doing when he looks at the country.

So it’s easier to make a less clued-up audience laugh?
If the audience isn’t clued up they’re a lot harder to connect with, they don’t get some of the London or UK shorthand. The reverse is that people [in Dubai] are up for it, because it’s not a regular thing to get big comics over.

The last big one we had over was Michael McIntyre. Are you a fan?
Michael... is brilliant at what he does. You could get me into trouble with that question. There’s an Australian comedian, Brendan Burns, who said that when comedians say they don’t like [one] kind of comedy, it’s because they can’t do it. If you say you don’t like one-liners, [that] you’re a storyteller, it’s because you can’t do one-liners. You end up doing the kind of comedy you can do. I play a character – but I can’t play myself.

Have you ever tried to play yourself?
I do occasionally have to, and I always think: where do I start? Who’s interested in what I have to say? That’s why The Pub Landlord is absolutely brilliant, because I can talk about anything.

You could say you’ve been telling the same joke for 19 years.
That in itself is a pretty good thing. When you create a character you don’t want to stray away from that, it’s an affectionate portrayal. But if you were to follow it through with the landlord you would end up in places that I don’t think would be that funny.

You do sound like quite a clever chap, what’s it like pretending to be an imbecile for so long?
[Laughs] He is an imbecile, but he’s one with guile and smart. I’m confused by him, and I like that.

Would you sit down and have some hops with him?
I’d like to but he’d kick me out of his place! He’d hate me – I’m in show business, I haven’t done a proper day’s work in my life, I went to a fancy university. That’s [his] classic insecurity, throwing his barbs at everyone. What is he? He’s a bloke who pours drinks, and the idea that he thinks he’s got the answers to the world’s problem is absolutely absurd.

When people recognise you do they assume you’re the same guy as the Landlord?
Yes, but the moment I open my mouth it’s obvious I’m not The Pub Landlord. And then you find you’ve got one up on people. It usually ends up with them buying me a drink, so it’s not so bad.

So tell us about the real Al.
I like the sound of my own voice. I’m a sociable creature. I like good food and good [grape].

Okay. What’s your favourite book?
That changes on a daily basis. I really like Catch-22. I first read it when I was 17 and I read it every couple of years, because it’s brilliant.

Favourite movie?
If I ever discover someone who hasn’t seen it, I sit down with them and make them watch it the original Planet of the Apes. It’s full of allegory and satire. We think we’re so groovy now, but that is drenched in so much cynicism and philosophy that you don’t get any more.

You’re a drummer – what’s your favourite album?
The first album I bought was ...And Then There Were Three... by Genesis. I have a soft spot for them. If you like music, you don’t care if it’s cool.

What car do you drive?
I drive a Volkswagen Eos hard top convertible – essentially it’s a Gulf. It’s a wonderful car but it’s getting old. I love convertibles but I don’t get to drop the top as much as I’d like – because I live in the UK.

What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve bought?
I’m not very extravagant – probably when I took everyone from the tour to Claridge’s and bought dinner at the chef’s table. About ten people there from midday to midnight in Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant [drinking] expensive [grape].

The most romantic thing?
I don’t know, I’m not really adept at that business.

Okay... daring thing?
Parachuting. I did a TV show where each episode I had to do something immersive to experience what other people really experience – driving in tanks and playing with flame throwers – but it was parachuting that did it.

Tell us something we don’t know about Al Murray.
I really love Wild Wadi! I’m looking forward to going on the Jumeirah Sceirah, which is brilliant. I absolutely love Dubai’s waterparks, and they’re certainly a way to compose yourself [after partying].

What’s The Pub Landlord’s favourite pub in Dubai?
McGettigan’s – I really liked going there. It’s only resemblance to Irish-ness is that it’s on earth, on the same planet as Ireland, but that’s about it.

Looking at your career, how much are you like Roger Moore?
Well I wouldn’t make a very good James Bond – so very similar! [Laughs]

Read Al Murray’s guide to Dubai.

Al Murray’s The Only Way is Epic tour is at Dubai World Trade Centre on Friday October 4. Tickets from Dhs300 from www.timeouttickets.com.

On Monday September 30 Al Murray is hosting a pub quiz at Hard Rock Cafe in Festival City. Doors 7.30pm, tickets Dhs150-350 (04 232 8900).

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