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What Went Wrong With… Al Murray The Pub Landlord?

An image of Al Murray with the two coat of arms he is in line to receive. By What Went Wrong Or Right With

Al Murray The Pub Landlord is not only overrated, repetitive, and annoying to watch, he’s also quite offensive, although not in the way some may think. If you don’t know who Al Murray is, he’s a so-called comedy character who performs stand-up (and at one point headed a TV show) portraying a white, working-class, bald-headed, xenophobic pub owner from Britain. Strangely for a character, Al Murray is also the name of the creator, in fact rarely will you see the “real” Al Murray without his signature burgundy blazer and his “common” cockney-esque accent. These blurred lines between what’s real and what’s fake act as a distraction from the ridiculing representation. You have to remember that this comic creation which stereotypes a certain demographic is created by someone on the other end of the class spectrum. Similar to Guy Ritchie who continually writes, references, and therefore speaks for a section of society he does not represent, Al Murray seems to have been accepted by the social class he has been caricaturing for most of his career. Surely this is in very bad taste?

My point is this…

Is it not offensive for an upper-class, over-privileged product of classism to create a parody of the British working class? If you’re entire repertoire is to dress-up and mock the class below you, are you not the same as a white man blacking-up, lampooning a demographic your forefathers have been oppressing for years?

If you don’t know Al Murray’s background, here’s a quick breakdown; his father is a Lieutenant Colonel who is a descendant of a Duke named John Murray, 3rd Duke of Atholl, a Scottish peer and Tory politician who married his own cousin (also a Scottish Peer). Murray is also a descendant of Dr. George Murray who was a Bishop, and on the other side of his family he is related to novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. Al’s grandfather was Sir Ralph Murray who was from Scottish aristocracy and who married into the von Kuenburg family, nobility of the Holy Roman Empire. Because of this heritage, Al Murray awaits both English and Scottish peerage titles, he is in line for the dukedom of Atholl and the barony Strange, each with their own coat of arms.

My point is this…

Someone with this kind of ancestry is so far removed from the common man that his character “Al Murray The Pub Landlord” is insulting and disrespectful. Where does an ex-head boy of a Public School (who then went to Teddy Hall, Oxford) get off caricaturing an everyday manager of a pub?

His fans of course can point to the fact that The Pub Landlord is a satire of a working class British man, but if you think about it that’s pretty offensive in itself. The Al Murray character isn’t just an obvious stereotype of a white, heterosexual, working-class, British male, there’s also the fact that the character amidst making sexist and xenophobic remarks suddenly mentions historical facts which is intended to look surprising and unexpected for the demographic he represents. Wow, how can a white cockney be educated? What a barrel of laughs.

To the real Al Murray, a potential Duke of Atholl, I guess it’s hilarious that someone with an everyday appearance and “common” accent could then orate eloquently about history, as though this is somehow impossible for the working classes to do in reality.

My point is this…

Along with comedians such as Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Harry Hill, and Stewart Lee, a swath of toffs took over comedy and then alternative comedy in the eighties and nineties. Now I don’t normally have a problem with someone’s background, Fry & Laurie, Hill, and Lee were and are relatively funny and their routines are rarely classist, but when it comes to Al Murray, his whole schtick is centred around how working class people are prejudice, uneducated, idiots. This therefore infers that the working class are inferior to the upper-class in terms of opinion, education, and appearance.

Unlike Harry Hill and Stewart Lee (who Al Murray has performed with in the past) Murray is in constant disguise as a “normal” middle-aged white man. This alleged mock-xenophobic stand-up comic who looks like someone from the National Front, English Defence League, or Britain First routinely shows up on mainstream shows such as the ‘Soap Awards’, trying to appeal to the working classes. Every time he makes an appearance on a programme that is targeted toward the “lower-classes” he’s essentially saying that prejudice and bigotry is only a characteristic of “normal” everyday people. Every time he appears in character on a show catering to the working-class, he’s basically stating that rich, educated, upper-class people are devoid of hatred and bigotry.

My point is this…

Being patriotic has undoubtedly been drip-fed to the public especially since the mid-nineties, that’s why the noughties were such a state-licking, authority-loving, foreigner-hating decade it turned out to be. Being the son of a Lieutenant Colonel, you couldn’t plan this moulding of society any better if you were plotting a Psychological Operation for M.I.S.O., acts like Al Murray have definitely contributed to the changing attitudes of white Britain.

With the working and middle classes not understanding derision masquerading as satire and not recognising a condescending lampooning from an upper-class prat such as Al Murray, is it not surprising that society has turned out the way it has? Thanks largely to this type of propaganda, with “Keep Calm And Carry On” every-fucking-where, unrequited love for Will, Kate, and even the racist Harry, blind support of the military, supporting every war and drone strike, a xenophobic attitude to asylum seekers and foreigners in general – not that this behaviour is solely Murray’s fault, but acts like The Pub Landlord definitely helped proselytize many of the white working classes into accepting and then adopting their given stereotype.

My point is this…

He probably wishes he was but Al Murray is no Alf Garnett, he isn’t Johnny Speight, if anybody had the right to call out the attitudes of the everyday Briton it was someone born in West Ham rather than someone from Buckinghamshire. But, having said that, even the Alf Garnett character appealed to and affirmed people’s use of racial epithets. Bigots in the sixties and seventies had a mainstream precedent as they hurled abuse at other creeds and cultures, then in the nineties and noughties Al Murray became every racist’s go-to character of admiration. Satire is all well and good until it becomes a behavioural confirmation or stereotype threat.

My point is this…

Al Murray is so far from being “Al Murray The Pub Landlord” that for accuracy he should be called “Alastair James Hay Murray, Public-School Educated, Oxbridge Toff, Higher Rank Than A Lord”, but that wouldn’t fit on a frigging flyer for his tedious stand-up show.

Gentlemen Please.

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15 replies »

  1. I knew I didn’t like Al Murray and now I know why! Him and pretend mockney-cockney Guy ‘Posh’ Ritchie get right on my tits.

  2. Hiya…..

    Wow, you don’t half take what I previously thought as a bit of harmless fun, look deep at it, and, well, write these sort of articles. Not a criticism, just an observation.

    As always, fella, you make me sit back and think…. which is always a good thing. Don’t always agree, of course, but always gets me having a good ponder!

    Though, using terms like “toff” and suchlike, and other things I’ve read, you certainly seem to give the impression that you are not a great fan of the middle/upper classes. Which is fine by me, but makes me wonder should you not be a bit more neutral, considering the other comments you make?

    Let me stress, just playing devil’s advocate…, agree or not, I always enjoy your pieces and have done for quite a long time now. Keep up the good work….

    I should add, I’m not a great fan of AM. One, because I just don’t find him particularly funny, and two, because I’ve always known he’s a bit posh, him playing a working-class bloke just grates on me a bit. Probably for the reasons you’ve written about… Lol!!

    Cheers
    D

    • I hear what you’re saying but any derogatory terms I use in my pieces are a reaction to the person who is the focus of the article. Therefore if someone is racist (white or black) at that point it’s okay to speak or write a retaliatory racial slur back at them. When it comes to Murray, since he’s made it his life’s work to mock the working/middle classes, I thinks it’s okay to call him a “toff”.

      By the way I don’t dislike all upper class people (or all middle class people for that matter), hating everybody from one group would be prejudice. I do generally hate the establishment and people in charge (of government, of entertainment, and of business). These people (surprise, surprise) happen to be middle and upper class and so they are the target of a lot of my articles.

      😀

    • His “satirical” act may have been amusing once but it’s stale and fucking irritating twenty years later, bloody hell, move on you fat bastard !!!!

    • Al Murray is an establishment supporting champagne socialist and his act is absolute shit.

  3. This is the first time I’ve been flabberghasted by one of your articles. I didnt think you’d be the kind of person who drank from the SJW kool-aid. If a comedian offends you, don’t listen to him (unless they are offensive because they are an insult to human intelligence e.g that puppet imbecile)

    If ‘the poor working class’ want to do better stand up, then nobody is stopping them. I’m sick and tired of all this default ‘**** the upper class’ hate. From my experience, the working class have always been the first to generalise the upper class, all the while falsely claiming it to be the other way around.

    I believe that for you, in the case of Al Murray’s stand up…the truth just hurt you.

    • Fuck me, that comment was so contrived that it almost sounded like the one left by “Saber Tooth Tiger Mike” on my Whitewashing article. I think you two should go bowling together.

      It’s funny, there must be something in the air… There’s so many of you who when you happen upon criticism you don’t agree with, you rush to label someone a “Social Justice Warrior” but if you want everything to be free from reproach then the next step is Fascism.

      In addition you contradicted yourself in your opening paragraph; if you’re against criticism then why support certain types i.e. against Jeff Dunham (I assume that’s who you’re referring to)? His fans could tell you “If a comedian offends you, don’t listen to him” adding “Why are you drinking from the SJW Kool-Aid”. See the problem with wanting certain critiques and not others?

      In addition, if you read an article such as this commenting on ONE SINGLE upper-class man and you see as it some kind of comment about ALL upper-class people, you’re an idiot. Can one not muse on the merits of Al Murray (upper-class) and his comedy targets (working-class) without you jumping to conclusions?

      The first sentence from your second paragraph makes no sense whatsoever by the way, and if you were a fan of this site (like you’re pretending to be) then your final statement you should know doesn’t really apply.

    • I like how you didnt address any of my points, you’d fit in great at CNN or the BBC. This isn’t about Al Murray, this is just you being miffed that the upper-class for making fun of plebs after themselves being constantly made fun of by said plebs (oh, but you say you cant fathom this reality, hence the SJW kool-aid stains on your fingers).

      Conjuring up a false narrative, real journalism truly is dead and you’ve become just another statistic.

    • You made “points”? Really? I addressed everything you said, you want to somehow defend EVERYBODY within the upper-class as a reaction to this article, but you fail to understand the crux of the issue, jumping to contrived assumptions about my politics and likening me to the shite-stained CNN and BBC which doesn’t really fit.

      Your problem with this isolated article seems skewed, if you have a problem with my point of view on this one (saying I hate ALL of the upper-class), then similarly you could say I dislike ALL WHITE PEOPLE when I wrote about Eminem or that I’m somehow berating ALL JEWS when I wrote an article about Joan Rivers. You didn’t have a problem back then, but you do now? How very fucking selective of you.

      If you can’t get it through your thick skull that a demographic someone represents will get slightly tarnished when you speak about a person from that said demographic, then like I said, your an idiot. How can you speak about an upper-class comedian who mocks the working-classes without mentioning the obvious hierarchy and classist conventions? Offending the upper-class when it comes to Al Murray is just collateral damage. Get your shit together.

  4. I completely agree with this. Al Murray is a posh aristocrat pretending to be a typical “lads lad” with a common accent.

    Aren’t working class white van men funny with their love of warm beer, hatred of foreigners and funny accents?!?

    For a public school educated tosser to poke fun at the people who had no choice but to go to private schools his act is in bad taste.

    He appeared in a documantary recently called the Outcast Comic and he admitted that his comedy would not be accepted if he just showed up as himself and derided working class people (given his background) but since he’s “in character” everybody is fine with it (quite clever really).

    It makes you wonder, was it his original intention to take the piss out of his target audience or was he secretly agreeing with them? (either way it’s pretty trite I think)

    A couple of people I know who used to watch his show really did hate “zi Germans” etc hence the similarity with Alf Garnett and like Garnett, Murray is essentially one joke that’s been done to death, his irony in the end is lost and his target eventually become his target audience, actual BNP supporters.

    Maybe that’s why he acted like a complete pillock by standing against Ukip in a failed election stunt to separate himself from the rest of the rightwing. This though was the real irony, another Oxford educated toff making a mockery of politics!

    • KNowing this you wonder if he feels guilty that the “irony” is being bypassed and his fans are fast becoming the very people he was intending to ridicule

    • That’s why I think he pulled the Ukip stunt.

      When he realised he was appealing to the far right I think he wanted to show how he was a “character” but I think many of the people who were fans now hate him.

      If you used to support the BNP and now you’re a Ukip voter you won’t take to a posh “lefty” taking the piss out of you.

      Not only was this not funny it reduced his fanbase. Not very well thought out

  5. Your point is…

    Bleeding lost on me, do you not understand irony, sarcasm or just comedy in general? Perhaps he should stick with slipping on banana skins for laughs or should we leave that to you? Incidentally, seeing as you profess to know so much about the act, how many of his shows have you been to and when was the last one? Just saying…

    • Nice condescending tone there, typical of Al Murray fans.

      Firstly, “my point is this” is a reference to Al Murray who continually says this line in his stand-up routine. I thought you were a fan?

      My overall point is pretty clear, especially in the final few paragraphs, but I assume you’ve ignored all the pertinent points due to your adoration for this twat of a comedian.

      Firstly, regardless of the fact that your opening question is rhetorical, I’ll answer it… yes of course I understand irony and sarcasm. Just to point out however that Al Murray isn’t sarcastic, he may be a little ironic but his overall style is satire.

      Now satire is all well and good until it’s misunderstood or mistaken as real or literal, my example in the article was the character Alf Garnett who many far-right racists in the 70s admired. At that point the satire has failed since you’ve attracted the very people you were supposed to ridicule.

      The same applies to Al Murray, who during the 90s and some of the 00s began attracting right-wing bigots. Even Al Murray’s public school bestie Stewart Lee confirmed this in the opening sentence of one of his articles:

      “Yes, Jimmy Carr avoided tax and the BNP loves Al Murray’s Pub Landlord, but it’s hard to find a comedian who votes Tory.”

      http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/04/where-are-all-right-wing-stand-ups

      In addition, the fact remains that someone of a higher class (Murray) is ridiculing those within a lower class which lets face it, if this was delivered without the satirical garb would come across as classist and in bad taste.

      So that’s the frigging point, a. failed satire and attracting actual bigots and b. classism, moral superiority, and belittling those whom your demographic has an upper hand over.

      Also, if you watch contemporary comedy, you’ll notice how satire is fast becoming an excuse for prejudice. A white person can say Puerto Ricans don’t wash (Sarah Silverman) or say Indian people smell (Natasha Leggero) and people are fine with it because “it’s satire don’t you know”? This is utter bullshit. Target someone and tell jokes that would otherwise be deemed offensive but label it “satire” and everybody’s fine with it.

      I’ll also add that your idiotic example of “slapstick versus satire” is a clichéd response to criticism of satirical comedy. There are plenty of ways to make people laugh without stooping to prejudice. Here are a few much better stand-up acts and comedy shows that I’ve written about: https://whatwentrightwith.com/tag/comedy/

      Finally, I couldn’t give a fuck when or where Al Murray’s last gig was, he’s pretty much worn that “act” of his out. The Pub Landlord now looks and sounds out of date; a bald-headed, overweight white man yelling isn’t really the “look” of a modern day bigot. He’d have to be much more subtle and nuanced today if he wants to continue “mocking” xenophobes. But alas, he hasn’t updated his shtick, it’s still the same character from the 90s and it’s now completely and utterly unfunny, that UKIP stunt someone posted above proves that. Just saying….

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