Al Murray: The Only Way Is Epic

DVD review by Steve Bennett

Al Murray has been releasing stand-up DVDs since some comedians with 2012 releases were in short trousers (Whitehall, Sloss). The Only Way Is Epic is his seventh title, by our reckoning, and still manages to find some angles for the Guv to explore – even if other parts of the show tread now-familiar ground.

His audience banter is, of course, legendary, and he doesn’t disappoint on that score. You’d almost think the box office had deliberately planted ‘chunky’ Mike, a dance teacher, on the front row just to wind him up and provide material. But the Pub Landlord doesn’t need such unusual raw material, as he can riff entertainingly on anything from teachers to policemen, portraying one officer as a rather dim-witted Plod as part of his friendly but pointed joshing.

On to the show proper, and Murray’s avowed aim this time around his to fix broken Britain, languishing under the ‘worst government ever’. Although the history buff behind the burgundy blazer is keen to explain why this is not entirely a new phenomenon, with a routine that might be more impressive than funny. But it is definitely impressive.

In compiling his bar-room manifesto, he considers the eurozone crisis which, he concedes, is very easy to summarise in terms of national stereotypes... which, of course, he does while protesting: ‘It’s much more complicated than that’. We know the cliches, but enjoy them in his hands, especially when Scottish devolution is under examination.

But, he concludes, the real problem with modern Britain is that adults act like kids and kids act like adults – exacerbated by the unrealistic expectations reality TV spreads. To combat this he makes the entire audience swear a long, convoluted pledge which is designed to be teasingly long-winded, but might have you reaching for the fast-forward button.

However, it’s the only bit of filler in on the disc. When I reviewed the live show, I wrote: ’What should be a sleek 75 minutes is presented as a flabby two-and-bit hours.’ But here it’s an even tighter 66 minutes, well-structured and cheekily opinionated, with all the more laboured parts taken out.

With that spare disc space, he’s include a whole hour-long show – a reprise of his 1998 Edinburgh offering – as a tasty extra. Murray’s recorded his own ‘DVD bed’ music which shows the repetitive can be funny, though it also encourages you to press ‘play’ as quickly as possible.

Published: 28 Nov 2012

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