DVD review: Al Murray – The Only Way Is Epic
When it comes to The Pub Landlord, you’re never quite sure what you’re laughing at. Is it Al Murray’s stinging satire on middle-England xenophobia, or the confident chauvinism that rallies the troops? In truth it’s probably somewhere in between. Tackling the Euro, saying the unsayable and joining the debate on Scottish Independence, Murray’s offering, The Only Way Is Epic, promises to fix a nation that’s going to the dogs.
Speaking of which, this DVD release starts with a brief intro of the landlord touring Brighton with a toy dog, which is bemusing yet also quite endearing. Then we’re into the show, and the first order of business is building up a base of audience contacts with some interaction. It’s passable; not particularly bad, but not particularly witty either, despite the obvious presence of a few interesting characters.
In terms of the prepared material, The Pub Landlord’s rage is transformed into irascible, unstoppable dynamism, which makes Murray so compelling to listen to. Then Murray gets going, as he rattles off the entire list of English prime ministers, each of whom is described as heading “the worst government ever.” Sure, it’s more fact than funny, but an impressive feat none of the less.
Murray’s passion for history trickles through the contorted face of the Landlord as the show progresses, and when this political comment is combined with a more familiar joke structure, the end result is a lot more pleasing. Probably the best line in the whole show is when Murray undercuts a lengthy build-up to a role-play in which the audience are Europe’s nations, and he is the central bank. After collecting their money, he puts it in his pocket and says, “And that’s the end of that.” Lovely stuff.
It’s moments like this that I find really rewarding; the strong reliance on structure, the polemic political comment, and the lurking intelligence behind the publican’s loveable face.
The extras are worth seeing, and basically provide a bit of extra material; more of the same. The production values on offer on this DVD are great, and particularly fun is the DVD bed, sung by Al (you’ll know what I mean when you hear it).
The Only Way is Epic is typical Murray; intelligent, stinging satire, though somewhat unfocussed and occasionally repetitive. Confident material and good production values make this a must for Murray’s fans, but a lack of real definition may deter the casual comedy viewer.
The Only Way Is Epic is out on Monday. Buy here: thepublandlord.com.