Builder hits back at the Pub Landlord

Preston man lampooned by comic after they fell out over a patio threatens court action over jibes
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His stereotypically xenophobic and chauvinistic stand-up persona, the Pub Landlord, has earned him plaudits and riches on the comedy circuit and spawned several successful television series.

Now the comedian Al Murray has found himself embroiled in a war of words with the very kind of white, working-class, British male from whom he takes his inspiration – a builder from Lancashire.

Malcolm Snape, 62, from Preston, is threatening legal action against the 40-year-old comic after he was publicly lampooned in front of 2,000 people during Murray's live show at the city's Guild Hall last week. The pair fell out in 2003 over building work.

The comic had hired Mr Snape to build a patio extension to his semi-detached house in Chiswick, west London. But a row broke out, apparently over a contractual mistake involving a decimal point.

Mr Snape refused to finish the job and Murray had to bring in other labourers – and the story began to appear in his live act. Six years on, the joke is still running. During his Preston show last week, Murray reportedly shouted: "Does anybody here know Malcolm Snape? He ripped me off for 20 grand."

Mr Snape, whose middle name is William, also claims that the comedian based a character, the dodgy builder Bill Preston, on him and used it in the television series Al Murray's Multiple Personality Disorder.

"Everybody now thinks 'He must have done a crap job'," Mr Snape told The Independent yesterday. "But that wasn't the case – it was just a genuine contractual mistake. They wanted the whole of the back garden made into a patio, which would have cost me a fortune.

"In the contract there were procedures for resolving disputes, but Al didn't go down that route. He got somebody else to come and finish the work, and he's borne a grudge ever since."

The angry builder claims his reputation has been "totally wrecked" by the mickey-taking. He has left London and moved back to Preston.

Presuming he would be safe from the comic's wrath in Lancashire, Mr Snape was horrified to learn that he had been mentioned by name during Murray's live TV performances. "It's been a thoroughly unpleasant experience."

For the builder, Murray's performance in his home town of Preston – part of his Pub Landlord's Beautiful British Tour – was the last straw, even though he didn't attend in person.

"At the Guild Hall on Friday, he wasn't joking or telling a funny story, it was pure nastiness," Mr Snape said, although he was not in the audience.

"There were 2,000 people there, which is a fair lump of the population of Preston. Al is a likeable chap and a super bloke, but I think there is a darker side to him.

"I'm a happy, jovial type usually but this has gone on for too long."

Al Murray's spokesman said that the comic had not heard anything from Mr Snape or his lawyers, and declined to comment further on Good Friday.

No laughing matter

*During his show in Preston a week ago, Murray reportedly shouted: "Does anybody here know Malcolm Snape? He ripped me off for 20 grand."

*He has been name-checked during several live TV performances, with Murray saying things like: "Tell that Malcolm Snape I am coming for him."

*Mr Snape also claims Murray based one of his characters, dodgy bricklayer Builder Bill Preston, on him.