Alastair James Hay "Al" Murray (born 10 May 1968), is an English comedian and TV personality well known for his stand-up persona and quick repartee.
His best-known character is "The Pub Landlord", a mock-xenophobic but stereotypical publican. In 2003, Murray was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy. In 2007 he was voted the 16th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
Early life and family background:
Murray was born at Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, only son of Lieut-Col. Ingram Bernard Hay Murray (a great-great-great-great-grandson of John, 3rd Duke of Atholl, who married Charlotte, Baroness Strange), by his wife Juliet Anne Thackeray, née Ritchie (a great-great-granddaughter of the celebrated novelist William Makepeace Thackeray). His grandfather, the former British ambassador Sir Ralph Murray, was from Scottish aristocracy and married into the von Kuenburg family, nobility 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 (head boy) and St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read Modern History.
At Oxford he performed in the comedy group, the Oxford Revue, in a show directed by Stewart Lee (later an Honorary Fellow of St Edmund Hall).
Personal life and campaigning:
See also: #Parliamentary candidacy
Murray married Amber Hargreaves in 2002. The couple, who have two daughters, Scarlett and Willow, separated in 2008. Al Murray is also a keen cricket fan, and was invited to attend a farewell lunch for the England cricket team before their departure for the 2013 Ashes series.
Murray, together with Stephen Fry, supported Paul Chambers' successful High Court campaign for the right to free speech (over the sending of an allegedly "menacing" tweet). In August 2014, Murray was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.
Murray was awarded an honorary degree (Hon MA) by the University of Bedfordshire in 2014.
Career in entertainment:
Murray started out touring with fellow comedians including Harry Hill and Frank Skinner. He 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 of guns, animals and a particularly impressive car boot; a combination that prompted an equal number of plaudits for vocal skill and complaints of tastelessness. With this act he supported Jim Tavaré in Leeds in Winter 1992. In 1994-95 he was the drummer in the band Evangelista, in effect the house-band at Stewart Lee's 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 described Murray as "he's still not a household name, but anyone who's into comedy knows who Al Murray is".
The Pub Landlord:
His character "The Pub Landlord" is a stereotypical, right-wing British patriot avowing a dislike for anything "un-British". This character professes an apparent particular animosity towards Germans and the French; he will challenge the audience to name any country in the world before producing some plausible instance of Britain bettering it. The character also has a great love for 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 is very different from Murray's real life public-school and Oxbridge background and first appeared in 1994 when Murray was the tour support act for Harry Hill. At that time part of a comedy band called "The Pub Band International" in which he played the drums, they were looking for a link to Hill's act. After trying out a character deemed not to have worked, on the eve of performing at the Edinburgh Festival, Murray came up with "The Pub Landlord".
Murray then made his first television appearances on Hill's TV show playing his big brother Alan ("If it's too hard, I can't understand it!"), and subsequently featured in a short film, Pub Fiction (1995).
Murray's theatre show in "Pub Landlord" character My Gaff, My Rules was short-listed for a Laurence Olivier Award in 2002, and he has also appeared in character as the central focus of the television series Time Gentlemen Please, as well as a number of other television appearances, including the An Audience with... strand. Subsequent theatre tours, ...A Glass of White Wine for the Lady (another catchphrase) and Giving it Both Barrels also ran to critical acclaim. When asked about the sitcom during live shows, in character as "The Pub Landlord", Murray claims to be unhappy with the television series, a joke some have taken literally.
A quiz show, Fact Hunt, presented by Murray as "The Pub Landlord" and named after the fictional quiz machine of the same name from Time Gentlemen Please, was shown on late-night ITV in 2005.
From January 2006, Murray filled in for Tim Lovejoy on Virgin Radio on Sunday afternoons, in character as "The Pub Landlord", and broadcast his final show on 24 December 2006.
His chat show Al Murray's Happy Hour began airing 13 January 2007 on ITV. The show has won a British Comedy Award and was nominated for a National Television Award. A new series returned on 12 September 2008, and of this Murray said:
"It goes without saying ... the trouble with telly these days is that the viewer is not credited with enough intelligence and the fact I'm back on is proof they know what's good for them".
Murray was the headliner on 11 July 2009 episode of Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow, which was filmed at the Brighton Dome.
On 18 December 2009, Murray hosted the BBC One TV show Live at the Apollo.
In May 2011, Murray began hosting a new quiz show, Compete for the Meat, on the UKTV channel Dave. The show is co-presented by ex-Blue Peter presenter Zöe Salmon, with voice-overs from Jim Rosenthal. The prizes are: a frozen chicken for 1st place, sausages for 2nd place and "Shame for the Losers!" (3rd and 4th places).
As a teenager, Murray was a drummer in the "big band" at Bedford School, and also played percussion in the Bedfordshire County Youth Orchestra. He played drums on the music for "The Pub Landlord" TV series and during an appearance by Phil Collins they performed a duet. He also plays the drums for the rock cover band T-34 and appeared at the Download Festival in 2010, returning once again in 2011.
In 2003, Murray appeared on an episode of the BBC's Time Commanders alongside Kate Silverton, Raji James and Ricky Groves.
In 2004, Murray appeared as a contestant in the first series of Hell's Kitchen, Gordon Ramsay's cookery based reality show on ITV, and in 2005 appeared as a contestant on Comic Relief Does Fame Academy on BBC One. 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 a plane, to commemorate the battle.
Murray has twice appeared in the An Audience with... format - a televised show where the audience is made up solely of his peers i.e. other actors, actresses, performers and media personalities. In 2005 he recorded An Audience with Al Murray for the ITV network, and this was shown on 19 March of that year; and on 27 October 2007 Another Audience with Al Murray was broadcast, by the same TV channel.
In 2007, Murray published the book The Pub Landlord's Book of British Common Sense. It consists of "The Pub Landlord"'s "sage" advice, i.e. opinions and views on a range of topics including James Bond actors, religion, politics, television, films and Churchill quotations.
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 BBC4 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.
Also in 2010 Murray was a guest as a Star in a Reasonably Priced Car on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson.
Murray serves as Patron of The Cambodian Children's Charity, a development and relief charity for children in Cambodia.
Murray became the host of the BBC Radio 5 Live show 7 Day Sunday in March 2011, succeeding Chris Addison, with the show later moving to Saturday (and associated name change)..
Murray invented his own 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.
Murray sat in for Dermot O'Leary Saturday show on BBC Radio 2 on 3 September 2011 and 26 November 2011.
On 13 April and 26 July 2012, Murray guest-hosted the Kermode and Mayo's Film Review on BBC Radio 5 Live. On the latter, he exchanged places with critic Mark Kermode to review the comedy Ted.
On 8 December 2012 Murray appeared on the ITV special The McFly Show starring British pop band McFly. He played the band's drummer in character as "The Pub Landlord" while playing the drums with McFly for their cover version of the Queen song "Don't Stop Me Now".
On 1 January 2013 Murray was guest editor of Today on BBC Radio 4.
Since May 2013 Murray has hosted a show on Bauer's digital radio station Planet Rock called Defender of the Planet Rock Tradition.
In 2014, he appeared as Jon Westmore in The Life of Rock with Brian Pern. He also wrote and presented the TV documentary Al Murray's Great British Spy Movies on BBC Four.
On 14 January 2015, Murray announced the 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 UK 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 just 318 votes. 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 - cheering 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
The Pub Landlord's Book of British Common Sense
11 October 2007
The Pub Landlord's Think Yourself British
5 October 2009
The Pub Landlord's Great British Pub Quiz Book
28 October 2010
Watching War Films with My Dad
24 October 2013
Let's Re-Great Britain
1 April 2015
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license