Al Murray – 'If you can't cope with irony then you can't cope with human interaction'
The xenophobic Pub Landlord is back on tour serving up more satirical bonhomie and witty schadenfreude
Al Murray and his Perrier Award-winning Pub Landlord creation are two distinct individuals. The former is a committed Europhile, the latter can barely bring himself to utter the word 'France', but both are enjoying a new wave of popularity as the world fractures and booze-fuelled satire fills the gap. Here, Murray discusses Nigel Farage, canoodling audience members and the hallowed number 318.
After you stood at the General Election in Thanet, did it give you a little more sympathy for the politician's lot?
It did in a strange way, because the thing about politics is that you don't have to do it. There's no compulsion. Obviously there are the ones that are bent, the ones who are colossal egotists and the ones who are opportunists. But beyond that, we ran a joke campaign which was deliberately not designed to change the world, and the hostility to that was fascinating.
And did the campaign give you a little more sympathy for Nigel Farage?
I have no time for nationalism in any shape or form; it's about division and that's what he is about. He has steered the argument and, in that sense, politically he's hugely successful but the fact that he's not taken responsibility for it is amazing and I'll go as far as to say disgusting.
You received a total of 318 votes: was that a triumph?
That's the caballic number in the bible. Abraham or somebody picked 318 warriors, so it's a deeply symbolic number that proves there was a conspiracy.
Talking of elections, why wasn't the Pub Landlord able to cast his vote in the EU referendum?
He couldn't vote because he's died in five consecutive pub fights. For the last ten years, he's gone on about faking his own death in a pub fight, and in one of the books, there's a guide on how to do it.
An almighty ruckus interrupted a recent Russell Howard show. Given your occasionally contentious material and regular sharp banter with the audience, has there ever been a scrap at one of your gigs?
We've had stuff kick off but it's usually because people have never sat in a theatre before. One of the interesting things about comedy having broken out now and being a common thing to do, is that people are in a theatre for the first time and they don't realise that you're not meant to talk as though you're in front of the telly. There was one gig in Buxton where people were making out and, really, I'm not that kind of act. This isn't a sexy show, it was quite ridiculous. And if what I'm doing is getting you in the mood, then you've got real problems.
What do you say to those who think your character and the off-stage Al Murray must be the same person with the same beliefs?
I get people saying, 'well you are a racist'. Is that really what you think seeing my act? In which case, I worry for you because you're dealing with life through a very grey prism. What they are arguing for is some politburo-approved idea of creativity and people say the portrait is too close to the real thing. But you can't portray a thing without, well, portraying it. If you can't cope with irony then you can't cope with human interaction because people say things they don't mean all the time for effect in normal life. Why that should be frowned upon in the theatre, I don't know.
So, how long do you envisage the Pub Landlord drenching his front rows with ale and insulting all non-English peoples?
I never thought I'd get him past the fortnight when I went up to the Edinburgh Fringe. He was invented to plug a gap and is still here almost 25 years later. Until the men in white coats lead me off, then I'll still be doing him.
Al Murray: Let's Go Backwards Together is on tour until Sat 10 Jun.