The MP Who Brings the House Down!

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

For TV Times, 19 – 25th January, 1991

He’s sneaky, slimy and selfish – and most of his Commons colleagues reckon he more than lives up to his name. But behind Alan B’Stard, Anthea Gerrie finds some real Mayall attraction.

Rik Mayall confesses he gets triple kicks from playing right-wing shocker Alan B’Stard in the sharp political comedy, The New Statesman. There are laughs from the studio audience, a chance to have a dig at loony politics – and a delicious opportunity to indulge the devil lurking beneath his angelic exterior.

‘The real me is not bad at all,’ he insists, batting baby blue eyes and banishing any trace of his signature sneer. ‘But there is a dark side buried within.’

He rather admires certain aspects of his Parliamentary alter ego: ‘He’s cleverer than anyone else, I’m just sorry he never seems to get any decent opposition.’

And he even admits to sharing a few of B’Stard’s traits. ‘Self centred? Yes. An opportunist? Isn’t everybody? It just means seizing the moment.’

Rik admits he’s getting more than a little wedded to evil politician B’Stard who gets nastier with every episode. ‘It’s dangerous – I’ve never played any other character three times.’

And he believes the new series has actually been jinxed. ‘The same night Mrs Thatcher fell, so did I – and broke my shoulder,’ he says, waving a pink-slinged arm from beneath B’Stard’s pinstriped sleeve. ‘And because of the political situation, some of our plots had to go or be re-jigged.

‘But B’Stard is surviving; he’s become his own man. He hasn’t fallen with Thatcher!’

Despite his wicked sense of humour and tendency to swear like a trooper, Rik is at pains to point out he was respectably raised by his drama teacher parents: ‘I was brought up to be a good boy and proud of myself so I suppress all the things about me that are bad.’

Nevertheless, he positively shrinks from playing sympathetic characters. ‘Being nice on screen deeply embarrasses me. Of course you want to play baddies. Comedy is very close to frightening people,’ he says, shouting in my ear to prove the point. ‘I find it therapeutic to play people I might become if I didn’t expunge them through acting.

‘Is there the seed of B’Stard inside me? There has to be when you play a character.’

Although he reserves his supercilious sneer, lusty tongue thrusts and rolling eyes for the camera – he’s ravishingly good-looking in real life – Rik does admit to some off-screen behaviour that has tempted members of the public to consider him a real b’stard.

His ex-landlady in Manchester, for one – in his student days, Rik and his room-mates chopped up her furniture for firewood! He also admits to shocking a crowd with a stream of blue language at a charity show. ‘That was a mistake. The booking was made by someone who didn’t know my material.’

But he seems to take a schoolboy-like relish in having outraged viewers and critics alike with The Young Ones and as the disgusting posey social climber in Filthy, Rich And Catflap.

Posing is something he was deeply guilty of in his teens, he admits: ‘At 12 I started doing school plays which made our gang the coolest in school.’

Was he badly behaved with it? ‘I never got caught,’ he grins. After passing his 11-plus, he transferred from an ‘idyllic’ country primary to a secondary school in Worcester ‘with different grades of bad boys. But I was never out of control myself.’

Rebellion didn’t hinder his progress; he got his A levels and by 17 was at Manchester University doing a drama degree with the likes of Ade Edmondson, his fellow Young One.

That’s where the bad behaviour really started – a burst of disgraceful undergraduate living that was to provide a rich vein of material for the hit show.

‘Life in our house was pretty similar to The Young Ones,’ he says. ‘We were just four boys away from home for the first time. Ade didn’t live there; he just used to come round.’ He blames his close mate and colleague, with whom he developed a stand-up comedy act while still at university, for making him play a beastly character – ‘he seems to trigger it in me’.

At home, Rik insists, he is a well-behaved husband to Barbara and model dad to Rose and baby Sidney. He acknowledges the storm of bad publicity that broke when he left his long-term girlfriend, Lise Meyer, to go and live with Barbara. But people who think this makes him a real b’stard have got their facts wrong, he insists. ‘Lise and I lived together for five years’, he says, ‘and we are still good friends.’