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Al Murray: 'Going to boarding school set me up to create the Pub Landlord'

Al Murray says the lessons he learned at an all-boys boarding school proved helpful when he began his comedy career. But he doesn’t have happy memories of his school days

Al Murray drumming

In 2019, behind the kit with The Fat Cops at Party at the Palace. Image: Stuart Westwood / Alamy Stock Photo

Boarding school gave comedian Al Murray a determination which helped his career – but he still wished he hadn’t had to go.

The popular performer – best known for his Pub Landlord character – says the lessons he learned at an all-boys boarding school proved helpful when he began his comedy career. But he doesn’t have happy memories of his school days.

“I didn’t want to fit in with the other boys and that determination, that bloody-mindedness, has served me incredibly well as a comic,” he told The Big Issue. “But I’d rather not have gone to a boys’ boarding school. I don’t know if it’s helped me as a person. It certainly would have been really fantastic to get to know more girls. I’m sure my attitude to women might be quite different now if I had.”

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“I heard Adrian Edmondson talking about this, what boarding did to him. You’re one person at home and another person at school. And they’re very different people. I don’t know, maybe that’s the training that prepares you for the different worlds of work and home. Or maybe it turns you into a two faced shit.”

But the experience of creating two personas in his life greatly influenced Al Murray’s comedy. It felt natural for him to invent a character onstage, he says, rather than just doing regular stand-up. Thus his famous Pub Landlord was born – a loud mouthed Brexiteer who shares few characteristics with his creator. 

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“Doing a character means that when you’re on stage, none of it’s real,” he said. “Some comics just do a version of themselves, but if you do a character, that means it’s not you saying these things, so you can say anything. It gives you total free license.” 

Al Murray says the Pub Landlord has adapted to changes in British life and politics, and even to his own celebrity.

“I made him aware that he was famous,” he said. “So he’d say, OK, you’ve come to the show because you want answers. He moved into that ‘man of the people’ space which was beginning to happen in politics too. He was saying, finally someone is telling truth to power, using common sense.”

“The Brexit thing falls squarely into, be careful what you wish for. The Pub Landlord got what he wanted, does he like it? He will never again have that feeling he had the morning he woke up to see that Leave had won. Nothing will ever feel that good again.”

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