Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Month: March, 2012

Rik’s Back and Getting Physical

By Michael Owen for The London Times, 26th May 1999

In his first interview since the accident that nearly killed him, Rik Mayall talks to Michael Owen

In possibly one of the filthiest kitchens created by man, the abundance of cooking pots, saucepans and ancillary equipment begins to look threatening. Rik Mayall casts an eager eye over the scene and says: “That’s where we are going to have our first fight tomorrow. There’s going to be a lot of head clattering. Can’t wait.”

These words from the actor who, a year ago, lay in a neurological ward, where his family had been told he was not expected to live, announce not just the completeness of his recovery but also his return to the world of mayhem he has been creating with his sparring partner, Adrian Edmondson, for the past 20 years.

The pair are bringing the television characters they created in Bottom to the big screen. They have cooked up a film called Guest House Paradiso, in which they are the co-owners of the worst hotel in the world. The film is currently shooting at Ealing Studios with Edmondson as director.

They embarked on the screenplay two years ago, but progress was interrupted by Mayall’s accident when he turned over a quad bike in the garden of his Devon farm. He was flown by helicopter to a Plymouth hospital and for three days remained on the danger list. On the fourth day the doctors indicated the first sign of a possible recovery and on the fifth day he woke up. “I opened my eyes and saw my wife Barbara, my parents and Ade. They were all crying. I didn’t know what had happened.”

This is his first interview since his near-death experience. Sitting in his dressing room, he looks fit and vigorous with his long fair hair swept to the back of his neck. He reviews the event in the cheeriest terms, regularly breaking off for laughter and blaming himself for all the concern he had caused: “What a prat!”

He has no recall of the accident and only knows he was discovered beside the machine with blood pouring from his ears, nose and mouth. “Barbara saw me lying there in the garden from the window. She thought it was another of my silly jokes at first.”

In hospital, a massive brain haemorrhage was diagnfive days. “When I woke up my first thought was: ‘Oh no, I haven’t gone out and got drunk and fallen down in the street or something?’ I was totally confused. It was very spooky and I was doing some very strange things.

“I could not remember names, not even my wife’s. I could not work out what was happening. I wanted to break out. I tried to pick up nurses, asking them to come for a walk so I could make a run for it. They managed to talk me out of it.”

He was transferred to a private hospital in London and made another break for freedom. “The doctor excused himself, saying he was going to the loo for a moment, so I grabbed a dressing gown, ran down to get a taxi and went home. I was given another injection. Whack, that put me out again and I woke up in another bloody hospital.”

For six weeks the haemorrhage lingered while he went through continued brain scans. “They put you through this huge machine. It’s like something out of Star Trek. Then the doctor told me the blood had to come out so they would take the top of my head off. For two days I panicked. Then they ran another scan and it had gone. I have been as happy as Alice ever since.”

There was a self-inflicted relapse a few months later when Mayall took himself off the medication he was prescribed. “I had an epileptic-type fit. My wife found me having a convulsion, sort of jerking around on the bed. So I went back on the pills.” Life returned to normal as he re-embraced his family, including his children aged 12, 10 and three. He says: “I’m magnificently proud of all of them. Not only Barbara for her stoic quality, her inner bravery, but also for the strength and patience of my kids.”

But he became nervous as he approached his return to work. “That was a complete new terror – would I ever work again?” He eased himself back with a simple voice-over which he accomplished as if nothing had ever happened. Since then he has appeared in a Jonathan Creek special on TV at Christmas, and played the title role in another film called Merlin 2000, while deliberately avoiding publicity. Now, however, he feels confident about discussing the past year.

Apart from punch-ups, the new film includes voyeurism, radioactive fish, drunken chefs, an exotic beauty, naked waiters, projectile vomiting and, of course, a series of explosions. Mayall has no fear of submitting himself to the most extreme physical stunts.

“Ade has been shockingly careful to make sure I’m all right on this film – and I am. We’ve always prided ourselves on not using stuntmen, unless it is something they do better like jumping off a cliff or falling downs tairs. There has been quite a lot of head-battering over the years but I can honestly say Ade has never hurt me. Alexei Sayle knocked me out with a shotgun once and I think it was Nigel [Planer] who hit me with a real brick rather than a plastic one, but overall I’ve been lucky.”

After the film, he will be reunited with the writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, who wrote The New Statesman and created the memorable Alan B’Stard, MP, for a new television series called Dirty Work. It features Mayall as a cynical ex-detective involved in the underworld of drugs and crime.

But there will be no return to The New Statesman, even though the current spin-doctoring political climate might be ideal for B’Stard’s machinations. “Alan is away licking his wounds, or someone else’s wounds. I think we carried on with him longer than we should but we couldn’t leave him alone. It was a mistake really and it would be a shame to go back to him now.”

Have people’s attitudes changed towards him? “Yes. Before the accident people used to say: ‘Do something crazy, Rik.’ Now it’s genuine affection. It’s not ‘Hello, darling, how are you?’ but more straightforward. ‘You all right, Rik?’ ‘You better now, mate?’ That’s great.

“See, I’ve grown up and turned nice.”

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Rik Mayall – My Accident Could Have Been Worse – I Could Have Killed My Daughter

For Bella Magazine, 19th October 1999

But for a few drops of rain, Rik Mayall’s daughter might have been on his quad-bike when he crashed

Rik Mayall is older – witness the strakes of grey in his long dark blonde hair – and a lot wiser. “I’ll never ride a quad bike again,” he vows.

However, despite his close call with death in the freak accident on his Devon farm last year, Rik has yet to junk the dangerous machine.

“I regularly go into the garage where it’s stored,” he confesses. “I walk around, growling and occasionally kicking it.

“I should have known better,” he continues. “When I was about 17, my father had a motorbike. I was always asking if I could ride it and he always refused. I even asked for one of my own, but he absolutely put his foot down.”

“When I asked why, he said: ‘Because you’ll fall off it at some point’.

“Well, I thought: ‘I’ll show him’. And of course, years later, I bought a quad bike and, to fulfil his prophecy, fell off it… and nearly died of head injuries as a result.”

Rik claims now to be back on good health, with new projects springing up all over the place. But the near-death experience has caused him to think a great deal about life, about what he really cares about.

“I think a lot about how near I came to killing my little daughter, Bonnie, and her friend,” he reveals. “A quad bike has four wheels and is large enough to take passengers, so they wanted a ride. As I took it out of the garage, three spots of rain fell on my arm and I thought : ‘I don’t want the kids to get wet.’ So I refused them.

“I’d just got down to Devon after a lot of work, finishing a film with Stephen Fry, and I wanted to get out in some fresh air. I knew the rain wouldn’t hurt me, but I didn’t fancy the kids getting soaked. My decision saved their lives.

“I remember nothing about the accident. My mind is a total blank. I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life, I know that now. But what are a few pills if they keep me stable and adjusted?

“Not so long ago, I foolishly thought I was doing well and could maybe give up the pills. Then, one day, I was in the recording studio doing a voiceover for something when I had a seizure – a minor epileptic fit. I bit right through my tongue!”

This was a month before Rik was due to start recording his comeback TV project, Guest House Paradiso, in which he teams up once again with his co-star from The Young Ones and Bottom, Ade Edmondson.

“The basic idea is that Eddie and Richie, the central characters from Bottom, are now running a guest house,” explains Rik about the drama the BBC will be screnning this Autumn.

Rik remains ‘deeply impressed and moved’ by the amount of sympathy and affection that poured in from friends and public after the accident.

“It was all heartwarmingly affirmative and I’m very grateful for that,” he says. “When I finally got out and about again, I got shouts in the streets from complete strangers of ‘Good luck, mate!’, which was very touching indeed.

“I come from a generation who thought it was very cool to be cynical, and to have that amount of very genuine love directed at you, well… I just thank God every day that I’m so bloody lucky to be alive.”

He adds quietly: “I think that, in a way, I was very spoilt before and didn’t realise what I had going for me. Since the accident, I’ve become far more appreciative than I ever was before.”

Redirected Mayall

By David Allsop for The Express Saturday Magazine, 27th November – 3rd December 1999

Meeting Rik Mayall for the first time, anyone might be forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive as he bursts into the room, cursing loudly and apologising for his late arrival. This, after all, is the man who is synonymous with a new genre of scatological comedy — the manic, wild-eyed comic actor who has developed a definitively British variation of Tom & Jerry-style violence on both stage and screen.

Find him within arm’s reach of a saucepan, and you can be fairly sure that it will shortly be bouncing off someone’s skull. Give him an opportunity to spit a venomous personal insult and your ears will be scorched with a blast of vitriol that could strip industrial paint.

So when he seizes an ashtray from a table, and hefts it thoughtfully in one hand, the situation looks momentarily bleak. “I’m going to smoke. Is that all right?” he asks, stretching out in a chair and inhaling luxuriantly Anything other than an enthusiastic assent would, you feel, be somewhat reckless. Mayall’s repertoir of infamous TV characters — Rick in The Young Ones, Richie Richard in Bottom, Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman, Flashheart in Blackadder — makes it hard to envisage a side to his personality that is not dangerously volatile or absurdly vainglorious.

This impression is reinforced by his late dramatic persona, Richie Twat, in Guest House Paradiso, the film he has co-written with Ade Edmondson, his professional partner since thc were both drama students at Manchester University in the mid Seventies. Twat (pronounced ‘Thwaite’, as he constantly demands in the film’s longest-running gag) is the owner of the worst hotel in the world.When he isn’t roundly insulting his guests with Fawltyesque relish he is either assaulting them, robbing them, stealing their erotic undergarments, poisoning them, or otherwise subjecting them to a catalogue of immoderate abuse, which also includes voyeurism and nuclear irradiation.

It comes as something of a surprise to discover that the real Rik Mayall is a pleasantly mannered, family loving, affable sort of character. Happily married for 12 years, he is the father of three children — Rosie, 12, Sidney, 10, and Bonnie, four — and remains in close contact with his parents in Worcestershire, his elder brother Anthony (a civil engineer), his sister Libby (who works in the music industry) and his younger sister, Kate, who is a doctor of psychology “She’s very quiet about what she thinks of me,” he conlides about his youngest sibling.

But he does share a few of the characteristics of the abrasive alter egos that he has developed over the past 20 years. His conversation is liberally peppered with expletives, his upper lip occasionally curls with impressive elasticity; and his body language — even seated — reflects and amplifies every utterance.

Sometimes it is impossible to distinguish him from the ‘Richie’ character who, over the past two decades, has thrived on a mutually destructive relationship with ‘Eddie’ — played with equal rancour by Ade Edmondson. At one point, eyeing me balefully, he asks: “Are you speaking to Ade? No? Good. Then I can slag him to hell.”

Instead, though, he goes on to describe, his partner’s directorial debut on Guest House Paradiso in glowing terms. “He’s strong, captain-like, tactical, and optimistic. He’s not a bastard, though he can be if he wants to be.”

So was it easy to be directed by his old sparring partner? “Yes,” he answers after a moment’s thought. “If you’re good. Which, of course, I am.” The biggest surprise is not just in discovering that Mayall is a very much milder man than one might have expected, but in finding that there is a vulnerable, even God-fearing side to the enfant terrible of British comedy. A recent glimpse of mortallty has caused him to reflect sobeily on the things he cleaily values in life.

Last year, shortly after his 40th birthday, he fell off a quad bike at his south-Devon farm and suffered a massive brain haemorrhage. His wife, Barbara, found him lying on his back staring sightlessly at a stormy sky, blood seeping from his ears, nose and mouth. He was taken by air ambulance to hospital, then dipped in and out of a coma for a week as his life hung in the bal-ance. “I fell off at Easter,” he recalls. “It was Maundy Thursday, which my kids now call Crap Thursday They call Good Friday ‘Worse’ Friday”

His family was told that I was not expected to live. He recalls Ade Edmondson standing at his bedside, one of the few people he recognised, and then he stops mid-sentence and has to collect himself, swallowing hard. “He was the first one there — apart from Barbara. I remembered his name, which was unusual, because other people came in and I kept getting them confused. And he was very affected. Shed a tear or two, and knew it was pretty hairy.”

Over the next two months he made a remarkable recovery — not helped by his persistent attempts to break out of hospital. “I went through a period trying to rationalise why I was there. I thought that someone was playing a really elaborate trick — but if it was a trick it’d be funny by now, and it wasn’t. I couldn’t understand this, so thought I’d better escape.

He goes on to recount the first of a number of instances that could have come straight out of an episode of one of his sitcoms. “In a clumsy slyness, I’d say to the nurses: “I think I’ll go for a walk and stretch my legs. But I noticed that wherever I went they were always with me. I’d say: “Really, I’m just going for a walk You don’t have to come. And they’d reply, “Oh we like you Rik, we just like your company You don’t mind, do you?”

“So I’d start walking a bit faster, suddenly changing direction like a loony, and they’d still be with me. God, those girls were great. Occasionally I managed to make a break for it, and I’d get to a locked door, and they’d gently take me back to bed.” But it was during a transfer to another hospital in London that he finally managed to give his nurse the slip. “We’d just got to the room, and the poor guy who was looking after me wanted a pee. He’d just closed the toilet door, and I was gone. Poor devil. I was down the street, and a taxi came by and I jumped in. It was fantastic! I couldn’t believe I’d escaped.”

He made it back to his west London house, and was let in by a perplexed family friend. “Jeff was there, he’s a theatre director so he’s used to actors, and I wanted to open a bottle of champagne to celebrate being home. Or Vodka, or even beer. Strangely enough, Jeff couldn’t find a bottle of anything anywhere. He’d been running around furiously stashing everything.”

Promptly returned to Charing Cross hospital, protesting that he’d never felt better, he was told he faced major brain surgery because of the residue of clotted blood still clogging his head. “Excuse me touching you,” he says to me, leaning forward and tracing a finger around my forehead. “The surgeon told me that if the blood didn’t disappear in two days, he was going to have to take the top of my head off like this. Like an egg. And he wasn’t joking.”

On the final brain scan before surgery, Mayall was ‘alone with God’ in the scanning machine. “I was in there longer than the last time. When I came out, the surgeon had a kind of smile on his face and said, ‘It’s gone!’. He said he’d checked and rechecked, and that it was a mystery. But it had definitely gone. And I was so happy to be alive, and happy that I’d been let off death and let off having the top of my head removed. What damage would have been done then? Not that he wasn’t the best in the world, but it could have been ‘Oops-a-daisy! I’ve knocked over his knob nerve. He’ll never have an erection again.'”

Required to take anti-epileptic drugs to assist his recovery, Mayall suffered a seizure last February after he “got bored taking them” and nearly bit off his tongue. Now he acknowledges that he must be more circumspect about his health, and that he will probably be reliant on medication for the rest of his life.

“Of course, I’m grateful to be alive and I take a joy in it. It sounds pathetic, but it happens to be true. I enjoy myself just by being alive. Going to the lav and doing the washing up. And working with Ade, and being creative, and finding out that after the blood disappeared I could still act.”

Earlier in his recovery he had constantly been beset by fears that he would never be able to work again. “I couldn’t string a sentence together. Words were jumbled around and I didn’t know what was going on. My brain was full of blood. Then after it went, I started dipping my toe in, doing little bits, beginning with a voiceover. The real tester was doing Jonathan Creek, which wasn’t difficult but there were a lot of lines to learn. It was a joy to do. They were very gentle and nice. In fact, people were relentlessly nice to me.”

He pauses, and draws heavily on a cigarette. “Gratitude? I don’t know what I should feel. What have I done to deserve this? What am I needed for? If I was a more religious man…” His voice trails off uncertain whether he should be sharing such spiritual reflections.

“Perhaps I’m getting nearer that way,” he continues after a moment. “But I don’t know how to be religious. I often ask myself what am I being kept for? Is it for a particular deed that needs doing? I don’t know what that is, yet, but I shall know when the time comes.”

Mayall is now back writing and performing full-time. In the past year he has completed another film Merlin 2000 The Return, been in constant demand for cartoon voiceovers, and become the convincing face of corporate arrogance in the Virgin Trains television advert.

He has no current plans to resurrect any of his former roles, although he concedes that he might one day make an exception for Alan B’Stard (“I lurved him”) and Kevin Turvey — the engagingly deluded, pizza-faced teenager from the Black Country who made his TV debut in the early Eighties. “He’s my Dad’s favourite. I’ve been thinking of doing him becoming religious and wearing a dog collar”.

He will doubtless continue to play characters like Richie Twat, rooted in timeless adolescence, for the rest of his career, but Mayall acknowledges that his near-death experience has made him grow-up in ways he is still only beginning to fully appreciate. And he’s not alone. “I feel maturer, stronger and happier. But the kids have matured, too. They went through almost as bad an experience as Barbara. Even Bonnie, who’s only four, has a saying if I lose a slipper or something: ‘Daddy. There’s no emergency we can’t handle.”

Mayall Tells of Epilepsy Battle

By Luisa Metcalfe for The Daily Telegraph, 29th July 1999

RIK MAYALL, the comic actor, will have to take medication for the rest of his life to stave off the chances of life-threatening seizures after a serious head injury last year.

The star of such television programmes as The Young Ones, Bottom and Blackadder had an epileptic seizure in February after he got “bored” taking the pills. Mayall, 41, who is currently narrating the new pre-school children’s television show Jellikins, said: “There was a little relapse, only a little one. If you smack your head there’s a chance you might get epilepsy, a seizure, and I did.”

Mayall had an accident on a quad bike at his home in Devon in April last year which left him with serious injuries and in a coma for several days. Mayall remembers nothing of the accident but he said that he was now feeling “very good”.

He said: “I was supposed to take pills for a year until I knew it was safe, but I took them until Christmas and I got a bit bored.” He suffered a seizure while doing the voice-over for an educational programme. Thankfully, I bit my tongue. That’s the worst thing, if you have a seizure and you swallow your tongue, you’re a goner.”

His tongue had recovered sufficiently after six weeks to carry on working, but he now must continue with the treatment indefinitely. “I just keep having to take the medication, but it has no side-effects, which is great. I was very lucky. If the worst I have to do is take a couple of pills at bedtime, it could have been a lot worse.”

Mayall does all the voices for the animated series Jellikins, on which he worked both before and after the accident. The series is to be screened every Saturday at 6.50am on GMTV, starting this weekend. Mayall was particularly pleased with the show which has a cast of jelly characters.

He said: “There’s a whole world where these people can fall out of trees and not even hurt themselves.” He said it was a great antidote to imported American shows for children which contained more realistic violence.

The Interview: Rik Mayall

By Michael Owen for You, 21st November 1999

Staring death in the face and surviving has not only made Mr Sneery feel lucky to be alive, it’s made him all nice and happy as well

On the Thursday before Easter last year, Rik Mayan arrived from London at his Devon farmhouse home to find his wife Barbara busily making curtains and his three children Rosie, now 13, Sid, 11 and Bonnie, four, happily playing around her. So he went out into the garden to find his 600lb quad bike. Within minutes the comedian lay unconscious, bleeding from the ears, nose and mouth, with the bike overturned beside him. His head injuries were so severe, his family was warned he could not be expected to live. After five anxious days he regained consciousness, then spent weeks in treatment for a brain haemorrhage that refused to go away.

Today the 41-year-old comedian is fully recovered and back at work with his partner Adrian Edmondson on a new film called Guest House Paradiso at Ealing Studios. In a tiny dressing room, he speaks for the first time about his near-death experience and the effects it has had on him. ‘The last memory I have of that Thursday is going into the garage to get the bike out,’ he says. My youngest daughter, Bonnie, followed me in with her cousin and asked for a ride. As we slowly drove out of the garage, I felt a few Spots of rain so I sent them back inside.’ He sits in silence, unable to articulate the significance of that decision. ‘If I had not felt that rain…’ His voice trails away.

When Rik failed to return to the house, Barbara looked for him from a window. ‘She saw me lying there and at first thought it was one of my silly jokes. Then she ran out and saw how serious it was,’ he says.

Because of the holiday traffic, the ambulance could not get through quickly enough so he was helicoptered to a neurological unit at Plymouth Hospital. ‘For the first three days they didn’t think I’d make it. On the fourth day they found the first sign of improvement and the next day I woke up. I didn’t know where the hell I was. I saw Barbara and my parents and Ade was there. They were all crying.’

For several days he remained confused, while doctors warned his family that further swelling in his brain could be fatal. ‘It was very spooky and I was doing some very strange things. I couldn’t remember names, not even my wife’s, or work out what was happening. I wanted to break out. I tried to pick up nurses, asking them to come for a walk so I could make a run for it. They managed to dissuade me.’

He was transferred to a private hospital in London but absconded. ‘The doctor excused himself saying he was going to the loo for a moment so I grabbed a dressing gown, ran down to get a taxi and went home,’ Rik says. ‘My own doctor came round and gave me an injection. Whack, that put me out again and I woke up in another bloody hospital.’

The blood failed to clear from his brain. He was told an operation would be necessary. ‘They said they were going to take the top of my head off. I panicked for two days. Then they did another scan and it was gone. I don’t know if this was a clever doctor’s technique but they must have scared the blood out of my brain. I’ve been as happy as Alice ever since.’

He returned to his London home in Ladbroke Grove and resumed life with his wife and children. But he was still prone to moments of irrational behaviour. ‘Sid found me in my pajamas in the street,’ he says. ‘l was trying to sweep up the blossom because it was making a mess, and was very cross because it kept blowing away. I could see Sid looking at me thinking, “That’s my mad dad.”‘

He had a temporary relapse after six months when he took himself off the medication prescribed: ‘I had an epileptic-type fit and Barbara found me jerking about on the bed at 10am. So I went back on the pills.’

Work was the next challenge: ‘A complete new terror. It was a miracle I was alive; I could talk and I could remember people’s names. The next stage was to become my old self again at work. I went to do a simple little voice-over. It was easy and yet I was terrified. But I did it. I knew I could function again.’

Rik recounts the episode in his usual cheery style, full of loud laughter and expletives. But he soon becomes serious again when talking about the support he has received from his family. ‘I’m magnificently proud of them,’ he says. ‘Not only Barbara for her stoic quality and inner strength but also for the strength and patience of my kids. Particularly Rosie and Sid, who are the older two. Bonnie was only two when it happened. She was too young to know.’

Has the ordeal changed him? ‘I think it has matured me. It’s made me happier. I wasn’t unhappy before but I’m more relaxed about everything now. To be acting again; it’s one of my greatest pleasures, like sex and drinking. I don’t want to sound like a softie saying how grateful I am for everything; but I bloody am.’

The one sacrifice, though, is no alcohol. ‘I said, “What, nothing at all?” so they allowed me one lager a week, but I haven’t bothered with that — I’ve not had a drink for a year now.’

He has also noticed a change in the way people approach him. ‘Before the accident, people would say, “Do something crazy, Rik!” Now it’s genuine affection: “You all right, Rik? You better now, mate?” It gives me a really warm feeling inside. See, I’ve grown up and turned nice,’ he adds with a wide grin.

He was also touched by the letters, cards and flowers that flooded into his hospital ward. ‘There were flowers everywhere. It was fantastic. I’m almost tempted to claim I’m not better so they keep on sending them,’ he says.

In his new film, he and Edmondson play the joint owners of the world’s worst hotel. They indulge their taste for violent mayhem, just as they have done for the past 20 years through The Young Ones and Bottom. Rik has no fear of re-entering the fray. ‘No, I’m fine with it Ade has been shockingly careful to make sure I’m all right on this film,’ he says. ‘We have our first fight tomorrow. It’s a major punch-up in the kitchen and there’s going to be a lot of head clattering. I can’t wait.’

Guest House Paradiso is released on 3 December.

I’m Lucky to be Alive

By Phil Penfold for Best, 7th December 1999

Back on form as a Basil Fawlty for the Nineties in his new film Guest House Paradiso, Rik Mayall says he’s just grateful to be around to star in it.

Rik Mayall.is slowly rebuilding a career shattered by his serious motorcycle accident in April last year, which left him with two brain haemorrhages and a fractured skull. For four days he lay critically ill in a coma, until he miraculously awoke on Easter Monday and started to rip out the wires and tubes that were keeping him alive.

Although he’s vowed he won’t ride a bike again, he hasn’t junked the machine on which he nearly sped to his death in a freak accident at his Devon home. “I go into the garage, where the bike is stored, quite regularly. I walk around the thing, growling at it and occasionally kicking it. I should have known better!” confesses Rik, who wasn’t wearing a helmet at the time of the accident adn his injuries have left him with a mild form of epilepsy.

“When I was about 17, back in the early Seventies, my father had a motorbike and I was always asking if I could ride it, and he consistently refused. I even asked for one of my own, but he put his foot down.

“When I asked why, he said, ‘Because you’ll fall off it at some point.’ Well, I thought, ‘I’ll show him’ and of course, years later I bought the bike and, to fulfil his prophecy, I fell off it and nearly died as a result.”

Although 41-year-old Rik is back in the work saddle again — his wacky new movie Guest House Paradiso is out this week — his accident has given the father of three pause to reflect.

“The one thing I think about a lot is how near I came to killing my three-year-old daughter Bonnie and her friend. They wanted a ride on the bike — a quad-bike arrangement, which means you can take passengers for a spin. I was just backing out of the garage and three spots of rain fell on my forearm, so I thought, ‘It’s going to rain and I don’t want the kids to get wet’, so I refused them a ride. The girls survived because of that. As for myself, I don’t remember anything about the accident. My mind is a total blank. It was me being very stupid.

“I’ll be on medication for the rest of my life — I know that now. But then so what? What are a few pills every day if they keep me stable and adjusted? But not so long ago I foolishly thought that as I was doing quite well I could give them up. I didn’t heed the warnings of the doctors who told me I’d experience side effects if I stopped taking the pills.

“They were right. I was in a recording studio doing a voice-over for something — I forget what that was as well – and had a seizure, a minor epileptic fit. Nothing too serious, but it was enough to serve as a reminder of what I’d been through, and to make me more sensible in the future. I bit through my tongue, and this was just a month before we started filming Guest House Paradiso. But I guess I was lucky again in that I didn’t swallow my tongue and choke to death.

“The voice-over was abandoned and the contract quite rightly went to someone else. But I was well enough to take part in the movie, which I think is going to be brilliant.”

Rik, who’s married to former make-up-artist-turned-painter Barbara Robbins, has lost none of his black sense of humour, particularly when he describes the film in which he plays Richard, the proprietor of he cheapest hotel in Britain.

The movie reunites him with long-time pal Ade Edmondson. “The basic idea is that Eddie and Richie, the central characters from Bottom, are now running a guest house and, of course, they’re not doing it very well,” explains Rik. “We had a wonderful time making the film. There are a lot of gloriously funny ideas and it opens with a speeding motorbike — certainly not me — going at a hell of a lick along a cliff top. When you get a close-up of the rider, it’s Ade, and he’s fast asleep.”

Rik is clearly delighted he’s working again and touched by the response from the public. “My memory was very badly affected by the accident and I couldn’t recall things that had happened earlier in the day, or what I’d been doing, which does make you panic a bit. Acting is all about memory and if you lose that, your career’s gone. But slowly it’s all returned.

“When I finally managed to get out and about again, I got shouts of ‘good luck’ from strangers walking down the street, which was very touching indeed. It gave me a lump in the throat all the time.

“I come from a generation who thought it was cool to be cynical, and to have that amount of genuine love directed at you, well… I just thank God every day, I’m so bloody lucky to be alive.

“In a way I think I was very spoilt before the accident and didn’t realise how fortunate I was in what was going on for me and around me. But it’s taught me to enjoy my life more. I’m definitely far more appreciative I than I ever was before!”

Guest House Paradiso is released on 3 December.

I’m Just So Grateful to be Alive

By Pauline McLeod for Now, 8th December 1999

Why Live is sweet for Rik Mayall after surviving a horrific accident.

He’s back from the brink of death, he’s head-banging again and he’s been kissing Kate Moss. No wonder that Rik says this is the best year of his life.

Rik Mayall’s sunshine bright smile has more wattage than the Christmas lights in Regent Street. He’s rabbiting nineteen-to-the-dozen and sounding around his agent’s London office with so much joie ie vivre and vitality, he’s positively bouncing off the wall.

That Rik is alive and kicking, rankly, is in itself a miracle. That he’s describing, with gusto, how is long-time comedic partner-in-crime Ade Edmondson had repeatedly and gleefully banged a fridge door against his head makes you wonder if, perhaps he needs it examining again.

But then, that’s Rik. Ever the ham, he’ll try to deflect the most serious of situations with a joke. Tap away at that waggish exterior and you’ll discover a considerate and thoughtful chap who’s thankful to be here at all and genuinely humbled by the public outpouring of affection for him.

Because a year ago he was still recovering from an horrific accident which, eight months earlier, had almost cost him his life. Air-lifted to hospital after falling from his quad bike at his Devon farm and on life-support in intensive care with a fractured skull and two blood clots, he was in a coma for four days. It was touch and go whether he’d survive.

‘I wasn’t aware at the time I could have died,’ he says. ‘Well, I must have been aware of it, but I never lay there thinking: “I’m going to die.”

After the coma, I was drifting in and out of consciousness and I got chatty with the person in the next bed. Then I passed out again. When I came to, he was gone and there was another patient in it. The next time I came to, that person had gone as well.’ Subdued and reflective, he adds quietly: ‘They’d both died.’

‘I’m not saying I’m a brave man. I surprised myself about how freaked out I was. For a few weeks, it was really frightening because I couldn’t get my brain to work. When I did figure anything out, trying to get the words to come out in the right order was the next problem. I was so confused.’

Barbara, Rik’s wife of 13 years and mother to their three adored children, Rose, 12, Sid, 10, and three year-old Bonnie, never left his bedside throughout those first days. ‘The kids were astonishing in the way they handled it,’ he says.

‘These last 12 months have rushed by. It’s been the best year of my life and I’ve had some bloody good years, that’s for sure. Why the best? Because it could have been a lot worse…’ and his voice trails off momentarily.

‘I’m happier. I have this glow inside. I feel very self-aware and, to put it tritely, perhaps I’m just so grateful. I was overwhelmed and very surprised by the number of cards and letters I received [there were more then 6,000] and of the comments I get from people in the street.

‘It used to be the silly faces that I pulled on screen or brickies who’d yell: “Oi, Rik. Bollocks!” But now it’s: “Good to see you back.” It’s being loved, isn’t it? Or liked very much. It’s lovely.’

In his new film Guest House Paradiso, he and Ade Edmondson have refined the dubious charms of their characters from the TV series Bottom, sinking them to even more questionable depths. Needless to say, they run the above-named hotel — an establishment that makes Fawlty Towers look like The Ritz.

‘Adrian was terribly concerned about the head-banging, but I wasn’t really nervous,’ he says. ‘Remember, I’ve been doing this sort of stuff for 24 years and Ade has never hit me. But I did check everything. There was a little block wedged inside the fridge to stop it closing. I knew it was going to be all right because I knew the door couldn’t close on my head.’

It’s been a roller coaster of a year for Rik. Head-banging again with Ade, voice-overs for two TV animated series making another Comic Strip film for Channel 4 in Spain. Oh, yes, and snogging supermodel Kate Moss for a £3 million Blackadder Millennium special called Back and Forth. It whizzes through 2,000 years of history in 30 minutes and will be screened exclusively several times daily at London’s Millennium Dome from 1 January. Kate is Maid Marian to Rik’s over-sexed Robin Hood. ‘She’s the first supermodel I’ve met and she was so normal and unspoilt,’ he says, ‘and beautiful, of course. She was very sweet, telling everyone this was her first screen kiss.’

You can’t help but think life is sweet for Rik Mayall even though he’ll be on medication for the rest of it. Being the cavalier character he is, he neglected to take his 3 pills earlier this year and had an epileptic fit. ‘It was very troubling and upsetting when it happened. I thought: “I’m not totally and utterly better.”‘ Still, a couple of tablets a day is a small price to pay for what could have been.

I Didn’t Just Land on my Head the Day of the Accident… I Landed on My Feet

By Esther Wheelan for The Mirror, 23rd November 1999

Rik Mayall bounces into the room with the manic energy of a 41-year-old going on 12.

He looks magnificent for someone who, 18 months ago, clung to life after a quad bike accident. And who, a year later, was back in hospital after a brief but terrifying relapse.

But Rik is a testimony to the power of positive thought.

The comedian, who first found fame in the cult comedy The Young Ones, is so optimistic, so full of life, he can only see the good that has come out of near tragedy.

“It has affected my family very positively,” says Rik. “My children — especially the older ones — have matured. They’ve handled it. They are fantastic, very calm and strong.

“I certainly don’t get depressed about what happened. I feel very lucky to have been given a second chance at life.”

Rik also makes light of his relapse — he had a fit and blacked out — but it was a frightening reminder of what he had been through.

His wife, Barbara, found him thrashing around in the bedroom and called for an ambulance. “When I woke up I thought. ‘Yeuch, what a drag.’ Here I am in hospital again,” he says.

“I was swamped with disappointment because I was so recovered, so grateful for being alive and then something comes along that I don’t understand. It wasn’t serious. I was very lucky, but I was frightened.

“But fortune was looking down on me again because I could have swallowed my tongue and died.

“The thought of that is unbearable, having survived everything else.”

After suffering a fractured skull and two massive brain haemorrhages, Rik had been given medication to reduce the risk of epileptic fits, but he didn’t take them. So he ended up back in hospital.

“I became over-confident. Things were going so well,” he says. “Possibly I was a little bit lazy. It was a case of, ‘Where are my pills? Where are my pills? I can’t be bothered to look for them.’

“I take them religiously now; they take away the fear of it happening again. The drag is you have to take them for two years, but after that everything should be fine.”

Emotionally unscathed by the accident, he seems to have shrugged it off as a minor scrape — “a little bang on the head”. But you wonder if it has been quite so easy for Barbara and their children, Rosie, 13, Sid, ten and Bonnie, four, to erase the terrible image of Rik lying so close to death.

“Barbara is very strong, she looks at everything positively which is how we have managed to dance through life,” he says. “She is very wise. “If there has ever been a time when it all became too much for her, she has never let me see it.

“One of the reasons I’m in love with Barbara is that she is wiser than I am. She thinks more clearly than me.”

He has no memory of the accident, which happened on his Devon Farm just before Easter last year. The quad bike remains in the garage.

“It hasn’t been touched. It’s been looked at and walked around, I’ve had some very spooky moments with it,” he says.

“I look at it and it looks at me. It sounds stupid, but that’s what I do. Maybe I’ll push it over a cliff one day.”

He recalls climbing onto the quad bike — a Christmas present from Barbara — for a quick jaunt around the farm.

“The last thing I remember is the rain. Bonnie had said, ‘Can I come for a ride?’ so we had a little ride with her and her cousin on the tank.

“Luckily I felt some rain on my arm, so I got the girls off. Then I went for a ride on my own.”

After that he remembers nothing. Barbara, 43, his wife of 13 years, found him lying unconscious next to the upturned bike. For five days she did not know if he would live and, if he did survive, whether he would be permanently braindamaged.

Doctors had warned Barbara that many people who’d suffered the same injuries died.

“I was the only one who didn’t suffer in that period because I was out,” says Rik. “It was the day before Good Friday — my kids now call it Crap Thursday.

“By Saturday, I still hadn’t come to and it looked pretty bad. But they were very brave and patient and then Daddy came round on Monday.” He remembers seeing Barbara again for the first time. “She was there with me the whole time. She’d been there…” He falters. “Some of this is personal between Barbara and me…

“I’ve been told I couldn’t remember people’s names, including Barbara’s. I knew who they were, but didn’t know their names. It’s hard to remember now but I got confused.”

Ade (his best friend and comedy partner Ade Edmondson) came very early and he was very strong and very brave. But he shed a tear. I shouldn’t really say that… he doesn’t want to appear soft.”

Rik couldn’t understand why he was in hospital — and tried to escape. On one occasion he hopped into a taxi and turned up at home — where he started ordering pizzas for the children.

He was confused, he says. And paranoid.

I was thinking, ‘Why am I here? I’ve cracked my skull, but there’s no pain. They’re drugging me’.

“I never thought that I was mad because I’m too vain for that. I thought, ‘They’re pumping drugs into me and there’s something going on.'”

He even began to believe that Barbara was part of the conspiracy.

“I was thinking Barbara must be on their side, but then I’d think, ‘She can’t be in their pay, she can’t be… she must be in their pay.’ So I kept trying to escape.

The haemorrhages amazingly disappeared by themselves — and the old Rik slowly began to re-emerge. “The doctor said, ‘There’s still some blood in your head — but you can go home.’

“And when I got home I started collecting the blossom in the street. I thought the road looked untidy so I’d put it in neat piles. It made perfect sense at the time.”

But Rik knew it wasn’t entirely rational.

“So I went back to the doctor and he said, ‘Rik, there’s a lot of blood there that should be gone and your brain has got dead areas. I can give it another two days, but if it’s not gone then, I’ll have to take off the top of your head to get the blood out.’

“I thought, `F*****g hell!’ So I went back two days later, had a scan and he said, ‘Rik, all the blood has gone and I don’t know why.’ I was so happy.”

Soon he was back at work, more in demand than ever, narrating a new cartoon project, Jellikins and working on a Jonathan Creek Christmas special.

After that, Rik landed the title role in the TV movie, Merlin 2000 The Return.

“Here I was, in recovery, flown like a film star down to South Africa where they had rebuilt Stonehenge for a massive battle.

“But Merlin didn’t have to sweat, grunting around in leather and armour. He spent most of his time hanging around with beautiful young Guinevere and her fairies!

“Luck or what? I didn’t land on my head, I landed on my feet.”

Meanwhile, much of this year has been taken up with filming his new movie Guest House Paradiso and the new Blackadder film, Robin Hood. He couldn’t be happier.

He and Ade Edmonson had started working on a script which puts their Bottom characters Richie and Eddie on the big screen — before the accident. While Rik lay in intensive care, Ade carried on with Paradiso, refusing to accept that the film might never be made.

“I love him.” says Rik. “He’s so tough, so hard, he’s my man. He’s like a Viking. He saw I wasn’t dead, and said, ‘I’ll do the third draft …'”

And when Rik was well A enough they just got on with it. “We know each other so well, he doesn’t need to verbalise his feelings,” says Rik. “Men don’t say, ‘Rik, I’m so glad you’re alive because I care for you.’ They just don’t. With women, you open up — but you and your mate stand together.”

A cross between Fawlty Towers and The Exorcist, Guest House Paradiso features bucketloads of the violence and the sick humour for which the pair have become famous.

Some of the scenes had to be cut after test audiences were heard moaning: “Oh, no, oh no, oh no.”

Despite cheating death, Rik did not shy away from doing his own stunts for the film.

“I thought, `If you’re going to pussyfoot about, there is no point in doing it. If you’re going to do it, do it.’

“Ade would say, ‘Look, there is a stunt man if you want it.’ But he also knows I’m vain enough not to allow myself to be hurt.

“Ade was more protective of me than he was before the accident, but it manifested itself discreetly.

“Sometimes he’d say, ‘Look Rich, you are not in this bit — why don’t you go and lie down?”

Before the accident Rik and Barbara would marvel at how charmed their lives seemed. Now, despite his ‘smack from God’ their lives again seem remarkably fortunate. He smiles as he talks about Robin Hood.

“I play Robin and Kate Moss plays Maid Marian. And I got to snog her. It was fantastic!”

Lives don’t come more charmed then. that.

From Hell to Paradiso

By John Millar for OK! TV Guide, 10th December 1999

Rik Mayall chuckles when OK! ask, about the inspiration for Guest House Paradiso, the movie comedy in which he and sidekick Adrian Edmondson run the world’s worst bed and breakfast establishment. Most people’s first guess would be that the idea was born from the duo’s B&B experiences when they toured the country’s theatres with their madcap brand of humour, and that Rik and Ade wrote the script in comic tribute to some of the disastrous places in which they had spent the night. ‘It would be great if that were the case, but it isn’t,’ says a still-grinning Rik.

The truth is that the seeds for their big-screen venture came about because the two funnymen were bored. Rik and Ade, who have been close pals ever since they met at university 25 years ago, were on the Manchester leg of a stage tour of their hit TV comedy, Bottom. After a couple of days they started to get bored during the afternoons when they had time to kill before the evening’s performance.

‘We went shopping the first day,’ says Rik, who is relaxing in jeans and a light blue T-shirt. ‘Then it was a case of what shall we do now? No we can’t get drunk, we are not going to do that.’ So we started this game in which you had to order the most obscure thing on the hotel room service… like do you have any lizards or can you get any? We hadn’t decided what we would do if the lizards turned up! The game didn’t last long because one of us said wouldn’t it be fun if we ordered two pints of lager and Eddie — the character Ade plays in Bottom — turned up with them, and of course the glasses would be empty.

‘From that we started talking about what might happen if Richie– my character — was the hotel manager. And on we went. That was the beginning of the script. It became our hobby when we were on the road. We spent our afternoons laughing and thinking up different ideas. There was never a plan to make a film, we were just having fun. Then we realised that our fun had turned into something good and we were suddenly making a film.’

He stresses that although there are lots of similarities to the humour in the Bottom TV series. Guest House Paradiso was never intended to be a film version of Bottom. ‘That’s because those films don’t work. I’ve seen enough and been disappointed by enough to know that. I’m sorry to have to say it but Steptoe and Son, Dad’s Army or any sitcom that tries to make itself into a film simply doesn’t work.’

Apart from the movie. Rik is soon to be seen by visitors to the Millennium Dome in a special featurelength episode of Blackadder. ‘I get to snog Kate Moss because I was Robin Hood and she was Maid Marian. I snogged her three times — then asked for another take,’ he says as a cheeky smirk appears.

Forty-one-year-old Rik is ultra-enthusiastic about finally making a movie with his pal, Ade. One reason for all this delight is obvious — the comedy star is simply happy to be alive and well. Because, as he admits with a nod of the head, he could easily have been killed after a near-fatal incident at his Devonshire farm last Easter After a freak accident on his quad bike. Rik suffered extremely serious head injuries which might have proved fatal. Even when he pulled through after the accident, the star admits that his worries were not over. He was uncertain whether he’d still be able to act after the trauma that he had been through.

‘I was really worried,’ says Rik, his voice quieter. ‘So I didn’t start acting again until last September and even then I dipped my toe in really quietly. That was because if I was going to discover that I couldn’t act any more then I didn’t want anyone else to find out. So I did a lot of things like voiceovers for cartoons and a guest part in Jonathan Creek.’ To everyone’s relief, Rik realised he could still do all things he had taken for granted since his success in groundbreaking comedies such as The Young Ones and The New Statesman. ‘I found out that yes I can still act. I can read, I can put in emotion and remember stuff, which is vital. It was a real joy to discover that I could still do it. But Guest House Paradiso is my real return,’ says Rik. ‘And I’m doing this with Ade, my partner, my best friend for 25 years.’

Naturally, his wife Barbara and their three children went through a terrible ordeal as a result of the accident. ‘But they have strengthened because of it,’ he says. ‘It has helped make the children more mature. So yes, I am happy just to be alive. I am happy and I am going to enjoy being happy. I’m astonishingly lucky. I have got another chance. Someone said to me, if I had the time over again what would I change. And do you know; I’m not sure, which means I’m winning.’ Which is also something that all of Rik Mayall’s legion of fans will be very glad to hear.

We’re Closer Than Ever!

By Martyn Palmer for Woman, 6th December 1999

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson have been mates for a quarter of a century. And since Rik’s accident, they’ve both realised just how much they mean to each other…

When Rik Mayall suffered a near fatal accident and lay close to death, one of the first people at his bedside was his close friend, Adrian Edmondson.

As Rik came round, five days after falling from a quad bike and suffering terrible head injuries, both his wife, Barbara, and Ade were trying to cope with a whole range of emotions — relief that he’d opened his eyes at last and fear he’d never be the same again.

‘Ade was one of the first people at the hospital,’ says Rik. ‘It’s only on reflection, talking to Barbara about it, that I’ve thought: He was there fast. But it didn’t surprise me.

‘I remember him shedding a few tears when I came round. He looked away so I wouldn’t see him. But I did.’

The two men’s working partnership dates back almost 25 years to when they met as teenage drama students at Manchester University. Over the years, they’ve enjoyed professional success with shows like The Young Ones, The Comic Strip and Bottom, and been there for each other during their happiest private moments — their marriages and when they became proud fathers.

They’ve grown closer — although each admits he finds it hard to tell the other how much he thinks of him. But Rik’s accident 20 months ago has led them to re-evaluate their friendship.

‘He’d never say: ‘I love you, mate.’ And I wouldn’t say it to him,’ says Rik. ‘But men aren’t good at telling friends how much they appreciate them. Occasionally, when you’re very drunk, you might say it, then pretend you didn’t the next day.’

Ade, 42, who’s married to Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders, agrees. ‘Most blokes don’t really show much feeling for each other, do they? When Rik had his accident it was very upsetting and horrible,’ he says. ‘It made me realise how much I care for him and it was a very frightening time.

‘It was terrible in those first few days, watching him and wondering if he’d live. In a way, it was even worse when he came round and he was like a baby for a week or two.

‘Then he was like an eight year-old. And you begin to wonder if the eight-year-old stage will last forever.’

Happily, Rik, 41, recovered — but for a while it really was touch and go. The accident happened at Easter last year when the Mayall family were relaxing at their Devon country home. Rik was riding his quad bike without a crash helmet over sloping fields when he hit a boulder, toppled forward and slammed his head on a stretch of concrete. He was rushed to hospital in a helicopter.

Later, Barbara admitted she didn’t know if she’d see her husband alive again. He had a fractured skull and two life threatening haemorrhages, one deep inside the brain.

Typically, Rik makes a huge joke of his time in hospital. When he finally came round, he was in a very confused state. He didn’t make life easy for the doctors and did his best to “escape” from hospital and go home. Once, he even succeeded.

‘I knew I was in hospital and at the back of my mind I knew that something had happened to me. But I couldn’t work things out,’ he recalls.

‘It was like: Right, something is going on here and they’re too clever for me. But I can get out of it.

‘I had no pain and perhaps that’s where the confusion came from. For a long time, I didn’t believe I had a head injury and I had absolutely no memory of the accident. When I got up I felt dizzy, but I thought that was the drugs.’

At the time of the accident, Rik and Ade were weeks away from starting work on a new film, which had to be postponed. But last summer, just over a year later, they eventually started filming Guest House Paradiso.

It’s directed by Ade, and written by and stars both of them as their madcap Richie and Eddie characters — first seen in their BBC sitcom Bottom. And it’s now about to hit the big screen.

‘We run possibly the worst hotel in the world,’ grins Rik.

‘It’s the kind of place any normal human would run a mile from. A complete madhouse.’

The film features the kind of slapstick mayhem Rik and Ade have made their trademark. Guest House Paradiso is the sort of hotel that makes Fawlty Towers look like five-star luxury. The chef is a drunken illegal immigrant, the waiter has been readmitted to the psychiatric hospital and the nearby nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive waste. Into this walks glamorous Italian film star Gina Carbonara, desperate to hide from the boyfriend she’s just dumped — racing driver and playboy Gino Bolognese.

What follows — including hundreds of gallons of bright green vomit — is the kind of romp only Rik and Ade can dream up.

‘I love working with Ade,’ says Rik.

‘We know each other so well, we know if we’ve done something right almost without saying it. We’re a team and I can’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t be one.’

Having survived a terrifying brush with death, Rik is anxious to enjoy his family to the full. He spends as much time as he can with his children, Rose, 13, Sid, 11, and Bonnie, who’s four.

‘I love being with Barbara and the kids. Sid and Rosie love The Young Ones. Rosie says things like: ‘Dad, look at you then. You were so sweet.’ And I say: ‘No, that’s the wrong idea — I wasn’t meant to be sweet.’ ‘But they’re great and I realise how lucky I am.

‘As far as my health goes, everything is fine. And I love working. Ade and I are already writing a new film.’ Of course, Ade is part of his family, too. Although he’d probably never find the words to tell him. Then again, he doesn’t need to.