COMEDY The Pub Landlord's Late Lock In Her Majesty's Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture
For rather too long, Al Murray was grinding it out as one of comedy's also-rans, building up something of a name as the circuit's number-one gun impressionist. If a comic burst of Kalashnikov fire was your idea of a rollicking night out, Murray was your man. Then, while introducing Harry Hill's Pub International show a couple of years back, he needed a fill-in character to cover Hill's wig change, and hurriedly came up with a Cockney landlord. Murray took to his royal-worshipping pub patriot with such relish that in a very short space of time the character had evolved into a full act. So convincing has the Landlord proved that people have been known to come up to him after a show and ask him the whereabouts of his boozer.

You can almost understand why, because when Murray rants, "British beef may be rancid brain poison, but it's our rancid brain poison", you like to imagine those same words are spewing out from behind bars all over the East End. How far-fetched is an attempt to explain why foreigners actually think in English? Okay, it probably depends on what you're drinking, but, just as Harry Enfield's Loadsamoney came to personify the grabbing greed of Thatcherism in the late Eighties, so Murray's Pub Landlord is tapping into the rising xenophobia of the new Right with his absurdist Alf Garnett stance on Europe. "France is just France," he shouts, close to hysteria. "But Britain is Great Britain. It's not All Right Britain."

From the moment he races on, declaring "unconditional love for beer", spilling his pint with trembling emotion at the sheer proximity of lager, the infectiousness of his characterisation pulls you in. Gazing lovingly at his glass, he holds it up to the audience: "That for me is proof enough of God's existence."

In the Pub Landlord's lounge bar of life, there are no stools for deviants. Not only does he turn apoplectic with rage at the thought of "two blokes together", but he manages a fair old shade of crimson at the prospect of any "left-handers" in the audience: "I mean, yer arse is built to be wiped from the right."

The potential is endless, as an upcoming regular slot on BBC1's Stand- Up Show should prove - the time is now for Murray's pint-kissing monster. Never has pub philosophy been so believable

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