Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Rik Mayall



It's been a day since the news broke of comic genius Rik Mayall's untimely death and I still can't really believe it. He always seemed so full of life and energy, having already cheated death once before, following a horrific quad-bike crash, so surely he deserved a long and outrageous dotage.... but obviously that was not to be. I was at work yesterday afternoon when I received the following text from Sarah: "OMG Rick Mayall died today. We are so upset. James just saw it online." I thought it might have been yet another of those ridiculous internet hoaxes but sadly it wasn't. Only the previous night we had all been sitting in the kitchen, laughing like drains, as Sophie played You Tube clips of Mayall's greatest Young Ones moments on her phone...



The Young Ones was the TV show that made Mayall's name. I had already seen him play "investigative journalist" Kevin Turvey as well as one half of the Dangerous Brothers with long-standing comedy partner Ade Edmondson but it was his portrayal of Rick ( with a silent "P" )  -  the Cliff Richard-loving, would-be anarchist and People's Poet  -  that really kicked off his career. Vain, insecure, pretentious and acne-ridden, Rick was a brilliant comedy creation in a sitcom that was truly ground-breaking in an era of such bland, anodyne fare as Terry & June and Sorry. The Young Ones was, appropriately for the fag-end of the Cold War, a comedic nuclear blast, unlike anything else. Surreal, anarchic, political, scatological and deeply, deeply funny, it was Punk TV by any other name. And for a generation of teenagers it was uniquely ours  -  everybody watched it, everybody had an opinion on it, and everybody would be quoting lines from each episode in the playground the next morning. And the best thing was that nobody over thirty liked it. Result...



By the time I was first going out with Sarah ( late '80s / early '90s ) Rik Mayall had moved on to such shows as The New Statesman and two scene-stealing appearances as Flashheart in Blackadder as well as his attempt at "going Hollywood" with Drop Dead Fred, before again teaming up with Ade Edmondson in Bottom. Probably the most appropriately-named sitcom ever, Bottom saw Mayall and Edmondson play Richie and Eddie, the two most pathetic, witless and unpleasant characters imaginable, trapped in a violent hate / hate relationship, living in squalor and misery with only Emmerdale Farm on TV to bring them any comfort. And it was the funniest thing ever. Ludicrous situations, extreme slapstick violence, Mayall sweating like a madman, Edmondson guzzling Scotch, more violence, creative swearing, even more violence... Bottom was sublime. So, of course, the BBC cancelled it after three seasons. Luckily, Mayall and Edmondson revived the show on stage and Sarah and I were lucky enough to see them perform in Hereford around the turn of the Millennium. A hilarious show, featuring all the expected lunacy and slapstick with unparalleled invective, Bottom Live was one of the funniest things I've ever seen... although Richie's underpants were truly terrifying...



And now he's gone, underpants and all. And I still can't believe it.
So let's remember a true comedy icon and raise a glass to Sir Richard (P)Rick Richard, The Bombardier, himself. Hurrah! Bang on!

2 comments:

Mark Barnes said...

And of course who could forget Filthy Rich and Catflap?

Oh, wait a minute..
Everybody apparently.

I'm glad I'm not the only person who remembers Kevin Turvey - my first experience of Rik Mayall - on A Kick Up The 80s. I also remember seeing him at the cinema in "Couples and Robbers", a short film shown before the main feature (whatever that might have been - I don't remember).

cerebus660 said...

Hi Mark! Sorry for the stupidly late reply but I haven't been able to log in here for some time. Finally got it sorted now.
I do remember Filthy Rich and Catflap... and I also remember it being pretty awful. Which might be why it's been forgotten by just about everyone else :-)
It was good to see you at the Chinese Burn gig the other week... and that "all-star" Ramones encore was a blast! You should have come up too :-)

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