Al Murray @ Hare & Hounds, 14th February 2011

With production cameras rolling enter the beer sloshing Pub Landlord; politically inept, weilding the sword of uncouth carrying a sheath in anticipation (it’s been a year) of a Valentine’s rumble. He’s the gaffer of laughter with beer gut swagger and car-crash, brash bonhomie. Barely had the show begun before two transgressors of the cardinal door policy, ‘All hail for the ale, All cheer for the beer and a glass of white wine or a fruit-based juice for the ladies,’ were targets for the gaffer’s wrath. The bloke had rashly chosen to drink vodka and lime. Murray’s liver-spasmed contempt was palpable. Even worse, the lass had a pint of larger! Chaos. Pub protocols invoked, they had to swap glasses. Rules are rules: ‘Where would we be without rules? France. Where would we be with too many rules? Germany! It’s British common sense.’

Ever the one to have his finger on the pulse of multicultural inclusion the Landlord’s main prize was a solid, frozen halal chicken which he proved by dropping it to the floor – twice. Runner-up prize was a bag of frozen sausages guaranteed 20% meat (chicken).

Inevitable punter ridicule warmed the evening up with all manner of occupations acerbically tongue lashed. A French teacher? Double whammy there sunshine. A food-taster? A leery smirk to her husband, ‘Valentine treat for you later on mate! Christ, it’s been a year!’ On to the quiz rounds of random subjects with plenty of red herrings and the Landlord’s pet hates: Mel Gibson (unrepeatable, but true) and film horror, Grease (he also holds Brum personally culpable for Duran Duran).

There’re humiliating expulsions to bar for the lowest scorers, each team name being pre-designated after ubiquitous pub signs. Play offs included participation heads & tales and a Countdown thirty second crisp eating race.

Despite it sometimes appearing to be slightly ramshackle improv we had a tightly organised, team collaborative show because the dynamic of stand-up, notwithstanding Al Murray’s monstrous alter ego, The Pub Landlord, making the rules up as he goes along, shouldn’t really gel with the pub quiz format. Amongst many other well honed constructs, Murray’s craft was to turn the answers feedback in to a tirade of ridicule. No surprise there. Well done the winning team and runners-up. Think carefully about your celebratory dish of choice though. A humiliatingly splendid evening.

Review – John Kennedy

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