Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Pub Landlord

One of my Christmas presents this year was Al Murray - The Pub Landlord, a DVD of Al Murray's 2009 show. It's a sign of how I've managed to infect my wife with British humour that she bought this artefact of her own free will. A few years ago, if you'd told her she'd be giving somebody a video of a bald man in a blazer, yelling abuse at (variously) a fat bloke who ate too many crisps, a troll-like man with a good looking wife, and a teenage boy, then she'd have thought you were mad.

Poor sweet lady that she is, it's only taken both series of Time Gentlemen Please to wear her down.

The Pub Landlord is an amazing thing to watch: like Dara O'Brain he's a big bald man on a stage, doing a lot of crowdwork, but whereas Dara is an avuncular Irishman, playing with the crowd, at first sight Al Murray is just attacking everyone for being fat, or a banker, or having a pretentious job (event consultant) or an unambitious job (minicab dispatcher). Yet there are a lot of similarities, and I think Al might be the more adroit performer. It's one thing to be friendly and whimsical, it's another to skirt (and leap over) the line into being offensive to people and getting away with it.

It's odd: from some of what I'd read, I expected the show to be something co-opted by fascists who hadn't detected the irony in Al Murray's act, but although I'm always scared by crowds waving Union Jacks, the crowd was a mix of races, ages and genders, although it often looked like the men in the crowd were laughing more than their female companions. Perhaps it's funnier to be told you're an old man who's going to die soon, than it is to be mistaken for the carer, rather than the wife, of that old man.

Crikey. That sounds much darker than it really was. It was a lovely 105 minutes to watch, including three different proofs of God, none of which were ever considered by Descartes (although he was French, after all), two of which involve bacon. There was also a long and drawn out joke about masturbation that eschewed an easy one-line gag instead, and everyone likes long, drawn-out ... er. Excuse me. I don't think I could overstep a line like Al Murray does.

It's strange, too, because I wouldn't have thought I'd ever have watched Al Murray a few years ago, lumping him in with Jim Davidson and Chubby Brown. I was labouring under misapprehensions about the basis of his humour, or perhaps I wasn't. Maybe this time next year I'll be a strict adherent of Royston Vasey and I'll have burned all my Stewart Lee DVDs.


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