A Mania for All Seasons!

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Liza Mzimba for Lime Lizard, September 1991

Liza Mzimba talks to Rlk Mayall about his first lead screen role and why the future looks vely Grimm indeed.

Rik Mayall appears to be a happy man, as he sits wearing a polo neck sweater and jacket, cracking rude jokes about Kevin Costner. He doesn’t look smug, but rather satisfied and content. Mind you, if I was a successful writer, stand up comedian, performer in an BAFTA winning comedy, winner of an Emmy ‘Best Actor’ award and singer on a number one single (Living Doll) I’d be content too. He is a man who has made a career out of his particular brand of bud, brash humour — a substantial part of which has been concerned with fart and bottom jokes. His first screen lead role as the title character in the comedy Drop Dead Fred, combines elements of the Cattish Rik in The Young Ones And the obnoxious Alan B’Stard of The New Statesman. Drop Dead Fred is the frenetic, anarchic imaginary friend of Phoebe Cates, who re-enters her life after she loses her car, her job and her husband all in one day. Whilst Drop Dead Fred is not a major disaster, it’s hardly a comic masterpiece. On the other hand, neither were the first efforts of many of Rik’s favourite screen comedians, like Steve Martin Ad Robin Williams. “A lot of stand-ups have two or three films which are okayish, until they really hit it and learn the medium, because it’s such a different thing, going out and feeding off the excitement of people, than it is to be all controlled at six o’clock in the morning and be funny from one angle and then funny from the next.”

The American writers of Drop Dead Fred, Carlos Davis and Anthony Fingleton, first came across Rik when they saw him in a Comic Relief Day episode of The New Statesman. “They saw me being whipped by Mrs Thatcher when I was wearing union jack boxer shorts. And they thought Well, he looks cheap, he’ll do anything.” Drop Dead Fred has performed admirably in the USA where it has already recouped its production costs for Working Title Films, and is expected to do just as well when it is released here in the UK. It was literally A Kick Up The Eighties which booted the young Rik Mayall into the public eye, with his relatively restrained Kevin Turvey role — a character unique in the Mayall repertoire because he didn’t scream, shout or even make fart jokes. Instead, giving rambling, idiotic monologues, delivered in a broad Brummie accent. However, he really hit the big time as Rik in The Young Ones, which has gained a huge following, not only in Britain, but also in America. A fact which came to Rik’s attention whilst he shot Droin the USA last year. “I was very pleasantly surprised by the scale of The Young Ones cult over there. We only made 12 programmes, but it was shown incessantly on MTV for about two or three years.”