Andrew Hunter Murray gets up to all sorts of marvellous things on a daily basis and makes us laugh a lot. He’s a QI Elf, a co-host of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast, a writer for Private Eye, a correspondent on The Mash Report AND a founding member of the Jane Austen themed improv-show Austentatious. Below he shares some wise words and a few of his favourite things.
What did you study?
I was an English student, which was extremely good practice for what I do now – frantically reading large amounts of information before trying to explain it to other people. Except now I get to make jokes instead of having to explain the themes of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which is just as well for all concerned.
Tell us a little about your journey to becoming a writer, actor and QI elf?
By complete good fortune. I got a bit of work experience at QI just after I left university – someone introduced me to the producer, comedy legend John Lloyd, and I then pestered him until he caved and told me I could work there for a month. I spent four weeks finding things beginning with G (we were working on the G series at the time) and presented him with a dossier on Giraffes, Gemstones and Gambia. We’re now on P and they haven’t rumbled me yet.
What do you love most about your work?
When I was young I desperately wanted to find a career where I could a) read and b) write, and ideally c) make people laugh. I didn’t really think that people got to do this stuff for a living, so I’m pleasantly surprised every day to find out I’m wrong.
How do you prepare prior to going on stage / in front of the camera?
I worry, intensely, about whether the stuff I’ve got is funny enough.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
For god’s sake, if you’re wearing a suit, make sure the flaps of the pockets are out on both sides. That one’s courtesy of my mother. She did tell me something else, but I’m afraid I’ve forgotten it.
Do you have a favourite Fish fact?
After 200 episodes, it’s basically whatever we’ve done most recently. But I do have a long-held soft spot for anything involving animals on parachutes. So, for example: during the second world war, the first allied combatants to parachute into Normandy on D-Day were a few German Shepherds, who were accompanying the first party of soldiers.
Do you have a favourite Jane Austen book?
I have written and deleted my answer to this one about five times. I go back and forth between Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice. The latter is just an absolute Austen blockbuster with all your favourite hits: Persuasion is like her later prog-rock phase where all the themes are being played with greater maturity, and on weirder instruments.
Do you have a favourite writer (other than Jane!)?
Douglas Adams. And P.G.Wodehouse. And Terry Pratchett. Any of the amazing tradition of British humourists who create new worlds and then spend their lives roaming around them. But then again, if it’s Christmas and I fancy a nice murder, I won’t say no to a P.D.James, as she’s the absolute master of nasty murders by well-drawn characters.
What are you watching?
I’ve just finished Detectorists. The opening premise doesn’t sound like much – two middle-aged blokes walking slowly across a field with metal detectors, talking rubbish – and it slowly unfurls into one of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, brilliantly-drawn sitcoms you’ll ever see.
What are you reading?
I’m flipping between a very weird book of sci-fi short stories called You Should Come With Me Now by M John Harrison, and some Grade A Edith Wharton (The Age of Innocence).
What are you listening to?
The background hum of a washing machine. (A couple of my friends are so cool that they probably listen to bands with names like that. Just to be clear, this is just a washing machine).
What are you drinking?
I’ll have a half of cider, please.
‘Rumble’, but only when preceded by ‘Let’s get ready to’.
My first ever pet, Lilt the hamster (1997-1999). In case you’re wondering, she’s not the answer to any of my security questions for my online banking, so good luck with that one, fraudsters!
Favourite place in London?
The water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, which is in the Embankment gardens. I frequently bore anyone unwise enough to walk past with me with stories about it, as my rapidly diminishing number of friends will tell you.
Favourite place in the world?
See above. And one interesting fact about the water-gate of George, Duke of Buckingham, is…no, wait, come back, this is good…
If you could have 3 people to dinner dead, alive or fictional who would they be and why?
I would have Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, and I would make them re-enact all their scenes from The Philadelphia Story until they got angry and left.
Parallel universe career?
If I can pick absolutely anything, I would like to be doing something very very similar, please.
At the Savoy Theatre, London: Austentatious
The podcast on tour: No Such Thing as a Fish