Comedian and passionate historian, Al Murray, delves into the past and unlocks the simmering resentments that have made the English so unpopular for his new series
Most famous for his fiercely patriotic comedy creation, The Pub Landlord, comedian Al Murray has also always been an avid historian.
In this new light-hearted series, he travels to England’s nearest neighbours, starting with France, to delve into historic feuds and simmering resentments and find out what has made the English so unpopular.
Covering everything from the Battle of Waterloo to arguments over which nation invented what, he also teams up with native comedians to engage in some lively patriotic debate and sample a few traditional practices along the way
What’s On TV chats to Al Murray to talk Napoleon, terrifying parachute jumps and ridiculous rivalries
WOTV: Which countries do you visit and which comedians do you meet up with?
Al Murray: “As well as France, I travel to Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Germany. I meet Fred MacAauley in Scotland who is a Scottish national treasure, Elis James in Wales who’s a very proud Welshman, Andrew Maxwell in Dublin and Henning Wehn in Germany. We kick about some of the national antagonisms between our countries and try and get to the heart of them. They’re all pretty patriotic but because they’re all comedians they can also see the nonsense in a lot of it.”
WOTV: France comes under the spotlight first. Tell us what you got up to?
AM: “I meet Antoine De Caunes who people may remember from Eurotrash. He’s a massive star in France and a huge fan of Napoleon. He’s even made a feature film about him.
“The French have always been very cross about the way the English treated Napoleon after the Battle of Waterloo so we visit Napoleon’s tomb in Paris and Antoine also takes me to the French Science museum which is full of every day inventions the French claim as their own.”
WOTV: Did that spark a debate?
AM: “Yes, Antoine is absolutely adamant it was the Frenchman, Barthelemy who invented TV whereas I’m absolutely adamant that John Logie Baird invented it in London. That’s the Anglo French relationship for you. Two people going, ‘No, it was OUR idea, you idiots!’ to eachother.”
WOTV: What other historical events have riled the French?
AM: “Another huge beef the French have with the English was the Battle of Agincourt where Henry V had all the French knights he’d captured murdered rather than ransomed. If you’re a proud French patriot that’s a huge source of grievance. It was only 600 years ago but whatever! We talk about the archers at Agincourt while having a go ourselves. I have to say Antoine didn’t seem that fussed about the Battle of Agincourt but he was very bothered that I beat him at archery.”
WOTV: What else do you get up to?
AM: “I tried hurling in Ireland and in Scotland we did the Highland Charge where you take your kilt off and run down a hill in just your shirt. That provided a refreshing breeze where normally there isn’t one. I also visited the Lyn Celyn reservoir in Wales, which was created in the 60s and was a huge bone of contention. An entire Welsh village was deliberately flooded to create a reservoir that would provide water for Liverpool. All the residents were kicked out and you can now have a fun time white water rafting on the reservoir which seems a bit wrong.”
WOTV: What was one of your highlights?
AM: “In Germany, we filmed a scene where I had to parachute out of a plane. I wasn’t so worried about jumping out of the plane, I was more worried about getting my lines right because I was filming myself on camera while jumping. I thought, I really can’t screw this up or we’ll have to do this all over again. Luckily it all went ok. When I landed I was high on adrenaline and felt indestructible having fallen 15,000 feet and managed to stay alive.”
WOTV: What did you learn from the series?
AM: “That if people want to be angry about another nation they don’t need a tangible reason. You can just latch onto things that happened a very, very long time ago and that’ll do the job for you!”
WOTV: What else have you got coming up? Will we be seeing you back as The Pub Landlord any time soon?
AM: “Yes, he’ll be back. I’m doing some dates at the Leicester Square Theatre in London in the run up to Christmas: The Pub Landlord’s Christmas Show so that’ll be fun.”
Al Murray: Why Does Everyone Hate The English? starts on History on Monday 8th October, 9pm