Alastair James Hay Murray (born 10 May 1968) is an English comedian, actor, musician and writer. His comedy is often hard-edged social and political satire. In 2003 he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy, and in 2007 he was voted the 16th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
Murray as "The Pub Landlord" in 2011
|Born||10 May 1968|
Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, England
|Medium||Stand-up, television, radio, musician|
|Alma mater||St Edmund Hall, Oxford|
|Genres||Character comedy, Parody, Political satire|
|Subject(s)||British culture, British politics, World history, Current events|
|Notable works and roles||The Pub Landlord;|
Al Murray's Happy Hour;
Time Gentlemen Please;
Multiple Personality Disorder;
Fact Hunt; etc
Murray was born in Buckinghamshire, where his father worked for British Rail. His paternal grandfather was the diplomat Ralph Murray, while his maternal grandfather was killed at the Battle of Dunkirk. After graduating from Oxford University, his comedy career began by working with Harry Hill for BBC Radio 4. He regularly performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, before launching his "Pub Landlord" persona (which he describes as a "know-all know-nothing blowhard who knows the answer to every question even though he hasn't been asked any of them"). This led to the Sky One sitcom Time Gentlemen Please and the chat show Al Murray's Happy Hour for ITV. He continues to perform as a stand-up and is a regular on British TV and radio.
Early life and family background
Murray was born in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, the only son of a Lieutenant Colonel in the British Army. A descendant of the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray, his grandfather was the former British ambassador Sir Ralph Murray, was from Scottish aristocracy and married into the Kuenberg family, Imperial Counts of the Holy Roman Empire. His patrilineal great-great-grandfather, Dr George Murray, was Bishop of Rochester, while Sir Edward Leigh MP is his third cousin. Al Murray is in remainder both to English and Scottish peerage titles, including the barony of Strange and the dukedom of Atholl.
Murray was educated at Bedford School, and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read Modern History. He later said of his time at school: "When I was nine I was sent to boarding school, which I despised. The first five years were hideous because I wanted to be at home. I guess I resented my parents a little and it put tons of distance between us. One of the things I took from boarding school is that it made me emotionally self-sufficient."
Personal life and campaigning
Murray married Amber Hargreaves in 2002. The couple, who have two daughters, Scarlett and Willow, separated in 2008. Murray is a keen cricket fan, and was invited to attend a farewell lunch for the England cricket team before their departure for the 2013–14 Ashes series.
Murray, together with Stephen Fry, supported Paul Chambers' High Court appeals after Chambers had been arrested for contravening the Communications Act 2003 when a joke tweet was regarded by police as "menacing" and a terrorist threat. An appeal against Chambers' conviction was successful.
In August 2014, Murray was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian expressing their hope that Scotland would vote to remain part of the United Kingdom in September's referendum on that issue.
Having started out by touring with comedians such as Harry Hill and Frank Skinner, Murray won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1999, after being nominated in 1996, 1997 and 1998. He started out with an act that involved sound-effect impressions, including guns, animals and a car boot. With this act, he supported Jim Tavaré in Leeds in winter 1992.
In 1994–95, he was the drummer in the band Evangelista, the house band at Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery's experimental Cluub Zarathustra in London. Film maker Martin Pickles made a short film about the band in 2002. At this time the lead singer Reid said of Murray: "He's still not a household name, but anyone who's into comedy knows who Al Murray is".
The Pub Landlord
Murray's principal character in performance is an English publican with conservative values and an animosity towards Germans and the French; he challenges audience members to name any country before producing some plausible instance of Britain bettering it. The character has a great love of the British 1970s rock band Queen, often getting musician(s) on his show to perform one of Queen's tunes in their own style.
The character first appeared in 1994 during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, in the show "Pub Internationale", with Harry Hill and Matthew Bradstock-Smith (who played "Little Alan" as well as the keyboards in Hill's Edinburgh, radio and TV shows). The show featured the "Pub Band", with Murray playing the drums and compering. After trying out a character deemed not to have worked, at the opening show Murray suggested saying that the compere had not made it to the show and that the barman in the venue, the Pleasance Cabaret Bar, had offered to fill in. At the Edinburgh Festival, Murray came up with "The Pub Landlord".
Murray made his first television appearances on Harry Hill in 1997 playing Harry's big brother Alan ("If it's too hard, I can't understand it!"), and subsequently featured in a short film, Pub Fiction. He made a brief appearance as the Pub Landlord in Series 2, Episode 6 of Lee and Herring's This Morning with Richard Not Judy. Murray's Pub Landlord theatre show, My Gaff, My Rules was short-listed for an Olivier Award in 2002.
The Pub Landlord is the central character in the television series Time Gentlemen Please. He has made many other television appearances, including the An Audience with... strand. Theatre tours have included ...And a Glass of White Wine for the Lady (another catchphrase) and Giving it Both Barrels.
The Pub Landlord has hosted several television programmes including Fact Hunt, named after the fictional quiz machine of the same name from Time Gentlemen Please. In addition, the character has ghost written four books: The Pub Landlord's Book Of British Common Sense, The Pub Landlord's Think Yourself British, The Pub Landlord's Great British Quiz Book and Let's Re-Great Britain.
Murray has an interest in music and is a semi-professional drummer. As a teenager, he played in the big band at Bedford School, and also played percussion in the Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra. He plays drums for the rock covers band T-34 and appeared at the Download Festival in 2010, returning once again in 2011. Murray is a fan of the progressive rock bands Genesis, King Crimson and Yes. He appeared in the documentary Genesis: Together and Apart, and was announced as the host of the 2019 Progressive Music Awards for Prog magazine.
Murray presented Al Murray's Road to Berlin on the Discovery Channel. This was a series about the last phase of the Second World War, taking him from the beaches of Normandy, through Arnhem and up the Rhine, ending in Berlin. In the series he drove around in a restored Willys Jeep, and interviewed survivors from both sides of the war. In the episode about Operation Market Garden he parachuted, together with veterans, from an aircraft, to commemorate the battle.
Murray starred in Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder, a sketch show, which aired in early 2009.
In late 2010, Murray made a documentary on German culture for BBC Four Al Murray's German Adventure in which he presented a different side of the German nation from the one portrayed by "The Pub Landlord" character.
Murray invented his own potato crisps – branded "Steak and Al Pie" – as entered in a "crisp competition" hosted by Gary Lineker, used to raise money for Comic Relief. The other flavours were "Jimmy Con Carne" (Jimmy Carr), "Stephen Fry-Up" (Stephen Fry) and "Frank Roast Dinner" (Frank Skinner). The winner was Stephen Fry-up at 27%, with Al's in 2nd with 25%. The other two got 24% each.
In April 2016, Murray played Nick Bottom in Shakespeare Live, a celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare, opposite Judi Dench as Titania. In 2018 he starred in pantomime at the New Wimbledon Theatre, as Jack's brother Al, in Jack and the Beanstalk, winning 'Best Newcomer' for this role, at the Great British Pantomime Awards in April 2018.
In October 2018 Murray fronted the HISTORY TV series Al Murray: Why Does Everyone Hate The English, appearing both as Al Murray and his alter-ego The Pub Landlord. The series looks at the historical rivalries between England and its closest neighbours and features comedians Antoine de Caunes, Elis James, Andrew Maxwell, Fred MacAulay and Henning Wehn representing their respective nations.
On 14 January 2015, Murray announced his formation of the "Free United Kingdom Party" (FUKP) and declared his candidacy, deploying his Pub Landlord persona, for the seat of South Thanet running against UKIP leader Nigel Farage, as parliamentary candidate in the 2015 general election. Murray’s agent, Dan Lloyd, told the BBC: "it's definitely happening". The party's logo is an upside-down pound sign, not dissimilar to UKIP’s purple and gold pound sign. Murray said: “it seems to me that the UK is ready for a bloke waving a pint around, offering common sense solutions", adding: “let it be known that like many of the parliamentary hopefuls in the forthcoming election, I have no idea where South Thanet is – but did that stop Margaret Thatcher from saving the Falkland Islands? No!”
Farage appeared to welcome his new opponent on Twitter, saying "the more, the merrier", and a spokesperson for the UKIP MEP said: “at last, serious competition in the constituency”. The Conservative candidate, Craig Mackinlay, said he enjoyed Murray's video and his proclamations but was not worried that the comedian would split the anti-UKIP vote. Finally, the Labour candidate, Will Scobie, insisted it was "always good to have people putting their names forward to stand" and that Murray would "certainly make things interesting". When nominations for South Thanet were released on 9 April 2015, it was confirmed that Murray would appear on the ballot paper with no description, rather than his FUKP name and emblem.
The results of the election were announced on 8 May, revealing that Murray garnered 318 votes. This number of votes was higher than the average votes received by candidates from, amongst others, the Communist, Socialist and BNP parties. When it was announced that Farage had failed to get elected, coming second in the poll to the Conservative candidate Craig Mackinlay, Murray's reaction – feigning shock and clapping on stage – garnered widespread media attention. Speaking to the media during the vote count, Murray invited Farage to a drink in his pub to drown his sorrow at losing.
|Live - My Gaff, My Rules||24 November 2003||Live at London's Playhouse Theatre|
|...And A Glass of White Wine for the Lady!: Recorded Live at the Playhouse London||22 November 2004||Live at London's Playhouse Theatre|
|Giving It Both Barrels: Live||29 May 2006||Live at London's Bloomsbury Theatre|
|Live at the London Palladium||19 November 2007||Live at London's Palladium Theatre|
|Beautiful British Tour: Live at the O2||16 November 2009||Live at London's O2 Arena|
|Barrel of Fun: Live||22 November 2010||Live at London's Hammersmith Apollo|
|The Only Way Is Epic||26 November 2012||Live at Brighton's Theatre Royal|
|One Man, One Guvnor||24 November 2014||Live at Bath's Theatre Royal|
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- Evangelista were Pat Reid (vocals), Martin Ellis (guitar), Paul Ewart (bass) and Al Murray (drums). Reid and Ellis were at school together in Crosby, Liverpool. Reid was at Oxford with Murray. The line up included different bass players of which Paul Ewart was the longest lasting.
- Fall Apart: The Evangelista Story (2002), at 1.40. http://www.gmfilm.co.uk/fall_apart.html%5B%5D This comment lead to great audience amusement when the film was screened at Pickles' 45th birthday in London in 2013. Half of the band can be seen in a video by Pickles: https://vimeo.com/77492045 Pickles also produced an Evangelista CD in 2003 featuring Murray. Contrary to the film the press release claimed the band was active 1992-1995.
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- Official website
- Al Murray at British Comedy Guide
- 7 Day Saturday
- Al Murray on Planet Rock
- Chortle page (including forthcoming dates)
- Al Murray on IMDb
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