A Right Little B’Star… Er…Jolly Nice Chap!
by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
For Number One, 25th January 1989
Eek! Lock up the budgie! Hide the silver! Don’t let him near the crockery! It’s that rough boy Rik Mayall, famed for making rude noises and silly faces in such things as The Young Ones and Filthy Rich and Catflap. He’s back on our telly screens on Sunday nights dressed smarter but no less obnoxious playing the devious Conservative MP Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman. Interview by Andrew Panos.
What do you expect when you meet someone like Rik Mayall, the jolly prankster who became a household name five years ago by portraying the spotty, ‘right on’ student Rick in The Young Ones TV series? You’d expect him to tell lots of jokes, swear at you, stick two fingers in the air and generally wiggle his bottom about and be funny, wouldn’t you? Ha! You’d be completely, wrong.
In person Rik Mayall is a rather thoughtful, serious but charming chap who rarely does interviews at all, because he doesn’t like people knowing too much about him and because he feels “it detracts from the comedy”.
So Rik, why aren’t you very funny in person?
Well, I can’t be funny 24 hours a day can I? I’m not the sort of person who can sit at a pub table like Robbie Coltrane or Ben Elton and be brilliantly funny, telling witty stories for half an hour. My humour is more to do with performance, I have to think it out. I’ve seen some comedians, especially Americans who try desperately to be funny all the time, even when they’re off stage and you can tell the strain on their faces. The pressure eventually gets to them.
Did you get sick of all The Young Ones fans who’d wander round quoting large chunks of the show to unfortunate listeners?
Well, it was quite flattering in a way. I used to get a lot of people coming up to me in the street saying, ‘go on Rik, swear at us, say something horrible,’ and I’d say ‘get lost you bunch of gits’ and they’d go away quite content. I don’t tend to get that so much nowadays though.
Your latest screen creation is the Tory MP Alan B’Stard, who, has just returned to television in the comedy series The New Statesman. Is Alan B’Stard based on a specific Tory MP?
Yes he is, but I can’t tell you who. He’s a mixture of different characters. When I was studying him I went to the library and got out books on murderers, cheats and liars. They all helped.
Are you still chums with the Comic Strip lot (Nigel Planer, Adrian Edmondson, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Sounders and Dawn French)?
Yes. Adrian is one of my closest friends. We went to university together, that’s where we first started practising our acts like The Dangerous Brothers. The Bad News Tour we did recently was really just an excuse for me, Adrian, Nigel and Peter to get back together because we’re all mates.
Did you get any reaction from Freddie Mercury to your cover of Bohemian Rhapsody?
Er, no. Freddie was silent on that. But the other chaps from Queen helped us out and of course Brian May produced it. It was a bit scary playing Castle Donington as Bad News. I didn’t mind it so much, I thought it was a good laugh but the other three were s…ing their pantsl We played the Reading Festival, too, and I pretended it was a reading festival and I got up on stage and read some French literature. That didn’t go down too well with the headbangers. Now every time a heavy metal act comes on on stage my little daughter Rose (2 ½) thinks it’s me!
What music do you listen to at home?
I tend to listen to music less and less nowadays. I prefer classical music and rock and roll to anything else. My all time favourite is Little Richard, just because he had so much energy on stage. I must say I’m not a big Bros fan. I hardly listen to pop music at all. I think I’ve outgrown the phase of worrying what to wear and what music to listen to. I mean I’m a married man of 30 with two children (a daughter Rose and a six-month-old baby called Sidney). I’m much happier curled up in front of the telly with my pipe and slippers…ha ha.
Did you find yourself being funny at school to get yourself out of tricky situations like being bullied or trying to attract girls?
No, not really. When I was at school I was always trying to be supercool. I went around with some blokes who always wore really groovy flares and long hair. I always knew I wanted to get into comedy though.
Did you have any pin-ups?
I used to — and still do — go for very glamorous, sexy women like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield (’50s Hollywood actress). I remember having a terrible crush on Stefanie Marion, she was topless model!
Were you popular with girls at school?
It wasn’t something I worried about really. I remember in primary school that, for some reason, all the girls used to love to play kiss chase, but the boys didn’t. I was the only one that was interested. The girls would come up to me every playtime and say ‘fancy o game of kiss chase?’ Of course I was dying to play it, but I’d act really cool and say… ‘oh, go on then, why not?’
Who are your favourite comedians?
I’m a big fan of good sit-coms. I love Hancock’s Half Hour, Steptoe and Son, Til Death Us Do Part. I think the funniest comedian in Britain at the moment is Billy Connolly. Steve Martin is my favourite American comedian and I love Laurel And Hardy. Adrian and I based a lot of our ‘Dangerous Brothers’ act on them.
Do you think you’ll ever see the day when you play golf with Jimmy Tarbuck?
I doubt it. He’s a really awful comedian. So is Bobby Davro. As long as they continue to be so bad I think I’ll keep on working.
RIK MAYALL: A POTTED HISTORY
1979: Rik leaves Manchester University after studying dramas and trying desperately to get an Equity card. Initially it is Rik’s intention to become an actor.
1980: After trying unsuccessfully to gain an Equity card Rik starts up a cabaret actr with pal Adrian Edmondson called The Dangerous Brothers. Rik also performs his own stand-up routine and one character in particular called Kevin Turvey.
1982: After two successful years playing stand up routines at The Comedy Store club in Soho, London, the nucleus of the Comic Strip — Nigel Planer, Adrian Edmondson, Peter Richardson, Dawn French and Jennifer Sounders branch out into films and mark the launch of Channel 4 with the first ever Comic Strip film, Five Go Mad In Dorset. 1982 is also the year of the first Bad News film.
1983/4: The Young Ones starts its run on BBC TV, written by Ben Elton and Lise Mayer. Lots of people start impersonating Rik in the streets running around shouting ‘Right On’ and that sort of thing.
1985/6: Ben Elton comes up with a new idea for a sit-com starring Rik, Adrian and Nigel Planer. Entitled Filthy, Rich and Catflap, it’s all about, as Rik says, “how being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be”.
1986/7: More Comic Strip films follow, including one written by Rik, Mr Jolly Lives Next Door. There is also Strike, and the two most recent films Eat The Rich and The Yob.
1988: The first series of The New Statesman begins on telly.
1989: Rik does a second series of The New Statesman and is now planning a new stand-up comedy routine which he’ll be touring with shortly.