Rik (As in Sick)

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Nina Malkin for Interview, May 1991

A Harvey he’s not. As Phoebe Cates’s make-believe friend in Drop Dead Fred, Rik Mayall is hateful, destructive, and mercilessly visible to the audience — a far cry from James Stewart’s endearing pooka pal. But then obnoxiousness has made Mayall — the manically prissy, obsequious Rick in The Young Ones — a major television star in his native Britain. Now his dubious charms take on the big screen, and America.

INTERVIEW: What drew you to the part of “Drop Dead Fred”?

RIK MAYALL: The fact that he’s an imaginary person. If you’re Clint, raising an eyebrow says a million things. But because I’m not that kind of actor, I need the freedom to just go apeshit.

I: Do you play him with an American accent?

RM: NO, no. They said, “Do you see him as English or American?” and I said “English” and they said “Why?” and I said, “Because I can’t do an American accent.” It turned out to be a joke I didn’t realize was there. When I’m saying rude things like “Piss off, snotface” in what Americans consider –I mean, if anything, I’m lower middle-class — to be a posh accent, it makes them laugh.

I: Well, Americans think anything British is automatically classy. Do you note other differences in our comedic tastes?

RM: Generally, your comedy is more like, one comedian gets up and says, “Come laugh with me at this,” whereas we’re saying, “Laugh at me.” We’re much more . . . We’re assholes.

I: And proud of it.

RM: Absolutely. All the Pythons, all the Young Ones. We’re idiots. That’s part of the culture.

I: What cracks you up?

RM: Oh, the simplest things. People losing control of themselves. People trying to be cool . . . and failing. You know, someone walking around In a nice, groovy pair of trousers and then falling over into the snow.

I: You’re so mean!

RM: No, not when it’s people who deserve to fall over. Obviously, I don’t laugh if it’s a little old person –well, no, actually, that’s pretty funny.