I’m Just So Grateful to be Alive

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Pauline McLeod for Now, 8th December 1999

Why Live is sweet for Rik Mayall after surviving a horrific accident.

He’s back from the brink of death, he’s head-banging again and he’s been kissing Kate Moss. No wonder that Rik says this is the best year of his life.

Rik Mayall’s sunshine bright smile has more wattage than the Christmas lights in Regent Street. He’s rabbiting nineteen-to-the-dozen and sounding around his agent’s London office with so much joie ie vivre and vitality, he’s positively bouncing off the wall.

That Rik is alive and kicking, rankly, is in itself a miracle. That he’s describing, with gusto, how is long-time comedic partner-in-crime Ade Edmondson had repeatedly and gleefully banged a fridge door against his head makes you wonder if, perhaps he needs it examining again.

But then, that’s Rik. Ever the ham, he’ll try to deflect the most serious of situations with a joke. Tap away at that waggish exterior and you’ll discover a considerate and thoughtful chap who’s thankful to be here at all and genuinely humbled by the public outpouring of affection for him.

Because a year ago he was still recovering from an horrific accident which, eight months earlier, had almost cost him his life. Air-lifted to hospital after falling from his quad bike at his Devon farm and on life-support in intensive care with a fractured skull and two blood clots, he was in a coma for four days. It was touch and go whether he’d survive.

‘I wasn’t aware at the time I could have died,’ he says. ‘Well, I must have been aware of it, but I never lay there thinking: “I’m going to die.”

After the coma, I was drifting in and out of consciousness and I got chatty with the person in the next bed. Then I passed out again. When I came to, he was gone and there was another patient in it. The next time I came to, that person had gone as well.’ Subdued and reflective, he adds quietly: ‘They’d both died.’

‘I’m not saying I’m a brave man. I surprised myself about how freaked out I was. For a few weeks, it was really frightening because I couldn’t get my brain to work. When I did figure anything out, trying to get the words to come out in the right order was the next problem. I was so confused.’

Barbara, Rik’s wife of 13 years and mother to their three adored children, Rose, 12, Sid, 10, and three year-old Bonnie, never left his bedside throughout those first days. ‘The kids were astonishing in the way they handled it,’ he says.

‘These last 12 months have rushed by. It’s been the best year of my life and I’ve had some bloody good years, that’s for sure. Why the best? Because it could have been a lot worse…’ and his voice trails off momentarily.

‘I’m happier. I have this glow inside. I feel very self-aware and, to put it tritely, perhaps I’m just so grateful. I was overwhelmed and very surprised by the number of cards and letters I received [there were more then 6,000] and of the comments I get from people in the street.

‘It used to be the silly faces that I pulled on screen or brickies who’d yell: “Oi, Rik. Bollocks!” But now it’s: “Good to see you back.” It’s being loved, isn’t it? Or liked very much. It’s lovely.’

In his new film Guest House Paradiso, he and Ade Edmondson have refined the dubious charms of their characters from the TV series Bottom, sinking them to even more questionable depths. Needless to say, they run the above-named hotel — an establishment that makes Fawlty Towers look like The Ritz.

‘Adrian was terribly concerned about the head-banging, but I wasn’t really nervous,’ he says. ‘Remember, I’ve been doing this sort of stuff for 24 years and Ade has never hit me. But I did check everything. There was a little block wedged inside the fridge to stop it closing. I knew it was going to be all right because I knew the door couldn’t close on my head.’

It’s been a roller coaster of a year for Rik. Head-banging again with Ade, voice-overs for two TV animated series making another Comic Strip film for Channel 4 in Spain. Oh, yes, and snogging supermodel Kate Moss for a £3 million Blackadder Millennium special called Back and Forth. It whizzes through 2,000 years of history in 30 minutes and will be screened exclusively several times daily at London’s Millennium Dome from 1 January. Kate is Maid Marian to Rik’s over-sexed Robin Hood. ‘She’s the first supermodel I’ve met and she was so normal and unspoilt,’ he says, ‘and beautiful, of course. She was very sweet, telling everyone this was her first screen kiss.’

You can’t help but think life is sweet for Rik Mayall even though he’ll be on medication for the rest of it. Being the cavalier character he is, he neglected to take his 3 pills earlier this year and had an epileptic fit. ‘It was very troubling and upsetting when it happened. I thought: “I’m not totally and utterly better.”‘ Still, a couple of tablets a day is a small price to pay for what could have been.