The Blog

Je Suis The Pub Landlord: When Satire Kills (In Memory of Al Murray)

Hopefully one day we will hit on the one thing which will cause our art to transcend mere folly and become a flighty dove of pure satire. One day I hope to be as great as Al Murray.

Who was to know that Al Murray's electoral victory would cost him his life? Least of all, Murray himself. Satire can be a tragic art to master. I am a poor man's satirist, not a gold bullion piss-taker like Murray was. I have not yet been able to touch the heady heights of great satire. I am still merely one half of comedy double-act, Ellis & Rose, who anger people occasionally. Hopefully one day we will hit on the one thing which will cause our art to transcend mere folly and become a flighty dove of pure satire. One day I hope to be as great as Al Murray. I was there on the night he died. It will stay with me.

By standing against Nigel Farage, leader of the right-wing UK Independence Party (or UKIP to ) in the General Election for the parliamentary seat of South Thanet, in the guise of his famous comedy character, The Pub Landlord, Murray sent-up exactly what Farage was: a crackpot standing on a platform of ignorance and fear of losing an imagined 'pint of bitter and a firm handshake' Britain. Which never even existed at all. Even though The Pub Landlord won on the votes of people who didn't understand that the character was ironic, it was still an important victory. Who cared if Murray's creation was an outdated stereotype which had finally died-out in the late nineties? The memory of which only lingered in frustrated old blokes who longed for the re-acceptance of casual misogyny and unsatisfactory pies... and in the mind's of a large number of South Thanet's voting population.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP and self-proclaimed man of the people (or rather, charlatans) had been untouchable, he presented himself as an antidote to the cabal of political elite, who had turned the proud land he loved into a degenerative state for their own gain. The problem with a man who trades on fearful generalisations and gets away with it, backed by people who can't think for themselves is that you can't argue against him because he will say you're only arguing against him because you are afraid of the truth. There is no way to win in an argument with a man who trades in bullshit fiction. Unless you are Al Murray, and also trade in bullshit fiction (the comedy industry term for satire).

I was there on the fateful night of Murray's death, standing at the back of the hall with a pork pie in my hand in an attempt to blend in. When the results were announced and The Pub Landlord was hailed as MP for South Thanet, Murray necked a pint of ale as the crowd cheered, but it wasn't a the sound of cheers lauding a victory for satire. It was the dull, ugly cheer of people who genuinely wanted what The Pub Landlord had to offer. It was a cheer like a car door 'thud' or like a group of lads just having seen their mate fall down a flight of steps and thinking it a genius move. It was the guttural jeer of people who actually thought his policy of making one pound coins worth one pound and ten pence in value seemed like a logical step to economic recovery. That's the problem with satire, when it is done too well there is always the risk of people not understanding that it is in fact satire. People are largely morons. This is doubly true for the population of South Thanet, or as they call it 'Saaf Fannit'.

A look of utter disappointment fell upon Murray's face as he realised the grounds of his victory. It should have been a win for people who dislike the ignorance of uninformed bigots; instead it was even more of a win for casual misogyny and cans of Kestrel.

In that moment of celebration, Farage swiftly exited in anger of being beaten at his own game; his pint of ale slammed on a table. Unfinished. He had never not finished a pint before. Slipping through a side door, like a weasel covered in shit, he was off into the night.

Murray's face dropped as the sound of the cheers hit him for what they really were, and he screamed at the crowd to 'shut up'. This was not the win he had imagined. They looked at him in confusion when he began to berate them for not getting that the joke was on them and for not understanding the nature of satire. He called them 'idiots' and 'twats'. At one point he began to sob. The crowd were confused. Why was their hero saying these hurtful things? Why did he throw his empty glass at the floor? There was nothing wrong with that glass and he hadn't smashed it over another man's head... so why had he done it? It was only when Murray got to shouting about The Pub Landlord not being a real person and that he had really studied at Oxford University that the crowd began to realise what the truth of the situation was. In a stereotypically predictable move, they got angry as fuck and began to smash anything that was light enough to lift and heavy enough to do damage. Within moments Murray was fleeing through the same fire escape Farage had gone through. The mob were quick to follow.

When an artist dies in the creation of satire, they become a martyr. For a satirist, murder can only be the best form of criticism. It means their work was good. It means it struck a nerve. Instead of being upset at having stolen Farage's fanbase, Murray should have been proud that his art was so good, he was actually embraced by them. Many satirists dream of having their work mistakenly being taken as genuine. Chris Morris (an eminent satirist) has often said in interviews that he isn't even creating satire, trying to trick people into taking his work at face value. The problem is by doing exactly that he ruins the pretence. The moment a satirist pokes their head above the parapet of their art, the illusion is shattered and by pointedly denying it as being satire, they are inadvertently labelling it as exactly that - thus rendering it shit. Needless to say, Chris Morris is still alive. I hope one day my own satire leads to an untimely and violent death. All I have sustained thus far is a black eye, for my part in the infamous Edinburgh Fringe production of Jimmy Savile: The Punch & Judy Show; which must have been good satire, because it angered many.

Luckily, someone caught Murray's murder on a phone camera. It was swiftly stuck up on Facebook, and then on to every website ever. His head was violently smashed to a bloody pulp using a ballot box. His face was unrecognisable. Some say what happened is the result of democracy in action. I say it is the perfect ending for a perfect satirist. His life and is work is validated by the way he died. I'm sure the question on everyone's lips now is 'what will Chris Morris do to try and top that?'

A few days later a large congregation of liberals filled Trafalgar Square in silence, holding identical placards:

'Je suis The Pub Landlord'