Rik Mayall and Ben Elton – Edinburgh Playhouse

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Neil Perry, 1984 (maybe)

Alternative humour seems to have reached an important crossroads. After several years of TV exposure, the underground laughter makers are now accepted as the comics for the ’80s. Still, that’s their problem, not ours: whatever, I’d say they’re the funniest people around now.

Ben Elton, co-writer for The Young Ones, didn’t forget the most vital rule of stand-up humour – if you’re going to ridicule the world and everything in it, don’t forget to include yourself. He took the piss out of the audience and himself. And out of the whole trendy liberal Edinburgh Fringe Festival ethos.

Targets that were pulverised under the Elton hammer were varied and topical. Dogs fouling the pavements, alcohol, fast food, the BBC – “If M15 have been vetting people, how the hell did Little and Large slip through?” – and my personal favourite, bouncers. “The human race has descended from bouncers, you know. Ever since-the first one crawled out of the Neanderthal slime and socked a Brontosaurus for wearing jeans.”

His routine was sprinkled with healthy stabs at Thatcher, and here lies my only criticism. What about the other lot? I refuse to believe that life will be any better under Kinnock and Co until it happens. Ben Elton finished his slot with a clenched fist salute and shouted “Support The Guards!” A pity that personal politics left a sour taste after so much laughter. Still, he did come out with the most relevant point of the whole evening: “Heroin may be a life sentence, but so’s unemployment and that’s why a lot of kids do it.”

Rik Mayall, introduced by Elton as “the funniest man in the world”, played three roles: Rik, Kevin Turvey, and a short slot at the end as himself. Kevin Turvey was the highlight of the performance for me – the ridiculous rambling monologue is pure comic genius, and it’s impossible to tell whether it’s rehearsed or made up as he goes along.

Mayall’s comedy seems to revolve largely around his bottom, but at least he’s getting his anal fixation out of his system. This man is surreal, to say the least. When he was called back for an encore, he muttered “Hey, I’ve never had an encore before. I hope my knob doesn’t explode or anything like that.” Guess what happened…