Al Murray asks "Why does everyone hate the English?" in new series
How long have you got, Al?
It turns out there's no easy answer to Why Does Everyone Hate the English?, but that hasn't stopped comedian and history-buff Al Murray taking it upon himself to find out in the History Channel's new series.
Murray visits Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Germany to meet up with a native comedian and ponder the question that has reverberated through the generations, starting in Paris tonight at 9pm.
According to the man himself, if you drew up a quick table of hate with regards to the English, it would look as follows (from most to least amount of hatred towards us):
- Wales and Ireland
Surprising, perhaps, that ze Germans (one of four awful jokes that make up Jeremy Clarkson's entire back catalogue) are so relatively amicable and the Scots so hate-fuelled. In fact, the latter isn't that surprising.
But it isn't all about football/fitba/fußball you know. It's about much more than that.
— HISTORY UK (@HISTORYUK) September 20, 2018
During half an hour with the man known for his lager-fuelled Anglophile caricature 'The Pub Landlord', it couldn't be clearer that Murray himself is as far removed from the publican as could be. A shame then, that the character still catches some unsuspecting - how do I put this delicately - gammon, we'll go with gammon, off-guard as an authentic person.
So authentic, in fact, that Murray has had two separate men both claim that the Pub Landlord was stealing their identity. Then there was the time Murray first meticulously assembled his iconic attire before a pub gig. Unfortunately for him, his wardrobe ransacked just before he was due on. Not to worry, that particular venue's beer baron had a full collection of exactly the same clothes for the comedian to borrow for the performance.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Murray famously came up against seven-time UKIP failure Nigel Farage as the founding member of the Free United Kingdom Party (FUKP), running as The Pub Landlord for the seat of South Thanet.
He describes a distraught UKIP party table reacting to the news that, shockingly, Farage did not win the seat yet again as "like a scene from Downfall... He said if he didn't win he was going to quit and he's their great leader". Similarly, Murray tells me that as the candidates stood onstage awaiting the official read-out of results (which they already knew, but typically act as though the), Farage turned and whispered: "I bet I've been in more pubs than you have."
"I doubt it, Nigel. I don't think so," Murray replied, before admitting to me that he wished they had been granted a real opportunity to thrash out their differences together like a modern-day Frost/Nixon.
There was also the conspiracy theories that followed Murray's candidacy, with some people believing that Murray was an EU-funded, BBC 'leftie-comedian' put up to it to "distort the electoral process", whilst the UKIP messageboards ran with the fact that Murray and former PM David Cameron - who is presumably currently somewhere in Nice with his trotters up - are very, very, very distantly related.
— JOE (@JOE_co_uk) September 28, 2018
There was a serious message at the heart of Murray's short but sweet stint in local politics - he garnered 318 votes, only around 600 less than actual Liberal Democrat candidate Russell Timpson, on the strength of policies such as 'free dogs' - that Murray repeats throughout the course of the interview. It's as simple as "You've got to vote".
I asked Murray why he thinks that young people in Britain have become so disillusioned with politics and meaningful political engagement.
"It's because they've been told their vote doesn't change anything. You only have to look at the Brexit referendum to see that it has changed everything... that will change everything. Even if somehow we remain in the EU, the simple business of it, the convulsion its caused, the change it has caused shows that if you're engaged you will be part of the result.
"It's fine if you don't vote. You just can't moan about the situation afterwards," he explains.
Murray also brandishes Russell Brand's decision to use his platform to tell young people not to vote as a form of protest was "wildly irresponsible", a stance the presenter has since performed a U-turn on, but believes that as a comedian, he should never attempt to reprimand younger generations into voting simply by saying "Hey kids, you ought to vote!"
— JOE Politics (@PoliticsJOE_UK) September 26, 2018
Of course, none of this explains why everyone does hate the English, a question that Murray believes that will only be solved with a few more series of the show, venturing to "Australia, India... Where couldn't you go? It'd be nice to go somewhere where they didn't have an opinion. Holland. They all watch Eastenders over there, they must have a view. "
When I put it to him that any number of Spanish holiday destinations that have since been invaded by Brits sick of all those foreigners coming over 'ere would make an interesting episode he agrees, saying that'd it'd be a great place to go but "out of season, when everyone's not eating fish and chips."
Why Does Everyone Hate the English? was probably never designed to solve the puzzle, and instead provides moments of genuinely fascinating history juxtaposed with routine international stereotype-based moments of silliness. The episode set in Ireland is especially timely, given the current talk of a hard border in Ireland should a no-deal Brexit eventually rear its ugly head from under the bed sheets. The episode in Scotland is probably less so but contains a wonderful segment concerned with the deep-frying of watermelon and various other fruits in response to the country's proclivity towards battered Mars bars.
Englishness, whatever that is, or was, or will be, remains a concept very much caged within our tiny island-nation mindset. Maybe simply asking the question, jabbing a pudgy patriot finger into the chests of the rest of the world and demanding answers, is the only thing that ever reminds people of their mild, vague dislike of England.
What about all the wars we won, or when we ruled over half the world? What about all the great things we've given you: like the English language, and, er, football?
Al Murray believes it's something to do with a nationalistic denial, that "you'd rather tell yourself pleasant stories about yourself than unpleasant stories." Maybe the loaded gun should be turned about face.
In these dark, Brexit-voting times, conducted by the ghoulish puppets of May, Rees-Mogg and Johnson and xenophobic vitriol now justified as patriotism, maybe the serious question to ask should be something else entirely.
What reason do they have not to hate us?
Why Does Everyone Hate the English? begins tonight at 9pm on the History Channel.