Al Murray might strike you as an unlikely choice to front a new two part documentary on Germany’s cultural history when he is best known for his alter-ego the Pub Landlord. Yet that’s precisely what the stand-up comedian’s doing in Al Murray’s German Adventure, a new two-part documentary beginning tonight on BBC Four.
In a brand new series the award winning comic embarks on a journey to discover the real Germany. Putting aside preconceptions, Al discovers two centuries of stunning arts and culture which, undoubtedly, have profoundly influenced the Britain we know today.
“What we really wanted to do was look at Germany without mentioning the war,” says the 42 year-old, bringing to mind that other great comic creation from the hospitality industry, Basil Fawlty. “It’s not just Germany that was hijacked by the Nazis; it was our view of the place. It began to get on my t--s that we weren’t looking at it from any other perspective.”
The documentary, part of BBC Four’s Germany season, sees Murray travel through Hamburg, Hamlyn, Lübeck, Leipzig and Berlin during the country’s worst winter in 20 years. Along the way he explores the world of Brahms, the Brothers Grimm, Bauhaus, Brecht and Thomas Mann and finds a “nation of dreamers”, one that he says has had a palpable influence on British culture.
It’s illuminating stuff and Al is engaging company too: funny and erudite, although he admits he was forced to do “a lot of cramming” beforehand.
Murray’s switch to presenting a serious documentary is not a complete surprise, though. Despite the ease with which he can mimic and parody ill-informed rants as the Pub Landlord, in real life he is a very different character. Plus, this isn’t the first time he’s explored German history either: in 2004, he fronted the 10-part Discovery series Al Murray’s Road to Berlin, about the Second World War.
What does amuse Al are British stereotypes about the Germans: “mullets, sausages, humourlessness, efficiency”. That, and the notion that we, as a nation, are so wrapped up in our past that we can’t even think of Germany without picturing the Second World War, as Nick Clegg claimed in 2002. Al even has a theory about this: “I think our problem is that we won it. It’s like the World Cup in 1966. All other England teams are measured against it. I think if you lose something you probably turn your back on it, whereas if you win it you hold it dear."
Catch Al Murray’s German Adventure tonight, on BBC Four at 9.00pm
Copyright Speakers Corner 2016