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Thursday, 1 January 2009

6: Al Murray isn't Funny and Glorifies Inanity

Al Murray isn’t funny and glorifies inanity. Like any right-minded individual watching Jools Holland’s annual ‘Hootenanny’ last night/this morning, I was appalled by Murray’s involvement. His quasi-omnipresence cast a pungent funk over the otherwise enjoyable shindig. From the off, continued exposure of The Pub Guy flecked out from the screen like a child scattering snot on your lunch.

I am a long-time viewer of Mr. Holland’s annual opus and, as such, know the drill. Lenny Henry, Annie Lennox, Jo Brand, et al are to be expected. So too is the inevitable “alternative” music choice (that’ll be the Icelandic harmonica quartet, then.) Some features, however, are best left behind. Some people remind us all why New Year’s resolutions endure, despite continued neglect. Al Murray is both the former and the latter.

“Everybody loves a joke, but no-one likes a fool.” So sayeth Billie Joe Armstrong. Clearly, Murray missed the memo. That he has long been considered a one-note joke is nothing new. Well, last night, Murray’s performance aimed to prove us all wrong. Unfortunately for those watching, he couldn’t hit a cow’s posterior with a banjo. First, viewers were subjected to cut-aways of his bland responses to the musical performers. These continued with suspicious regularity. The hashing of my buzz had begun.

All efforts to concentrate on Duffy’s sensuality failed. Murray’s rampant uselessness pervaded, culminating in arguably the most egregious shark-jump of our time. Holland granted Murray the most trumpeted one-on-one chat during his customary between-song walk and talks. Playing on his already exhausted Middle Ing-Ger-Land shtick, Murray responded to Holland’s every remark with one word: “hootenanny.” The name of the show, you’ll recall. As many people enjoy a drink on New Year’s Eve, Murray - in a brilliant deduction - spotted an opportunity to further shoehorn his mono-character into any scenario. Clever, no? It’s like the Pub Guy was on the show. And drunk. Brilliant.

Not since John Culshaw has a “comedian” so outstayed his welcome. When Britain’s second best one-punchline-wonder showed up later (to unveil his Bush - sorry - Barack Obama impersonation), the universe was fortunate not to crumble from such Herculean mediocrity. Compare this to Dara O’Briain who, after being ignored for much of the show, outclassed his peers in a few moments. Actually, there is no comparison. O’Briain, who may well have been legitimately hammered, needed only his wit and the involuntary involvement of Dizzee Rascal to impress.

Pity would probably not be high on the list of feelings I’d be expected to bear towards Al Murray. It is, though. I’m no hoot (see above), but at least I know my limits. In the words of Seymour Skinner, “if life has taught me one lesson repeatedly, it’s to know when I’m beaten.” If Murray could say the same, I’d give the guy a break. But no. He’s manchester city, a small club with delusions of grandeur. And, like all fish out of water, the sound of his feeble flapping is unavoidable. Witness his child-like glee at the embarrassed, perfunctory laughter of Holland and guests at his antics. He was even more stunned than I was that one word got so many laughs. Though rather than use this valuable moment of limelight to branch out, take a risk, or just enjoy himself, Murray chained himself to his comfort zone. And leched shameless after Duffy. The nerve...

I doubt anyone can study at Oxford if they aren’t intelligent. I also doubt that anyone could sustain a successful TV and stand-up career without talent. However, to follow-through on the man city metaphor, it’s only so long before someone or something shows up the sub-par’s inadequacies. The league table doesn’t lie. Lest Murray fully inhabit the city model and find himself stranded in mid-table obscurity or, worse yet, relegated to dreaded Bravo, Danny Dyer/Ross Kemp territory, why not give it a rest? Shape up or ship out, before Frankie Boyle or Sean Lock finally tear you a new one.


Ian Pratt will start capitalising manchester city’s initials whenever they become a big club... and not a moment sooner.

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