AL Murray gets straight into it: careering on stage out of nowhere, wildly sloshing his pint over the front row and bellowing incomprehensible greetings to the huddled crowd. 

It is made all the more dramatic by the circumstances we find ourselves in: not the pandemic, but the soddening downpour - one of the unfortunate realities of hosting an open-air event in England in October. 

But it is worth the wet backside.

Murray does not shy away from the elements in his hastily-arranged gazebo, standing in the rain like a drunk in a smoking area, too busy setting the world to rights to notice his trademark maroon blazer has soaked through.

He's had a bit of a refresh and sports a Tim Martin of Wetherspoons-type mullet.

His act too has evolved. While it has that same common-sense thundering national pride, he seems less nasty, more oddball, and has concocted his own conspiracy-laden take on the virus: "Who benefits? Think about it!" he says, with a wide-eyed grin. 

This being a work-in-progress gig, some gags land better than others, but the energy he brings to this character of 25 years is remarkable throughout.

Times have apparently caught up with the landlord, and his schtick sometimes feels a little too close to the type of nonsense world views one might actually hear at a Wetherspoons, or from a populist Nigel Farage-type in a suspect corner of YouTube.

But it's not all patriotic bluster. There's a warmth to Murray's character, and some of his best moments are the sharp and spontaneous interactions with the crowd.

He affectionately ribs the front few rows, with a “God bless you” all round, passionately beating his chest whenever he comes across a family, in those exaggerated estuary vowels. 

Finn Scott-Delany