We’re Closer Than Ever!

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Martyn Palmer for Woman, 6th December 1999

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson have been mates for a quarter of a century. And since Rik’s accident, they’ve both realised just how much they mean to each other…

When Rik Mayall suffered a near fatal accident and lay close to death, one of the first people at his bedside was his close friend, Adrian Edmondson.

As Rik came round, five days after falling from a quad bike and suffering terrible head injuries, both his wife, Barbara, and Ade were trying to cope with a whole range of emotions — relief that he’d opened his eyes at last and fear he’d never be the same again.

‘Ade was one of the first people at the hospital,’ says Rik. ‘It’s only on reflection, talking to Barbara about it, that I’ve thought: He was there fast. But it didn’t surprise me.

‘I remember him shedding a few tears when I came round. He looked away so I wouldn’t see him. But I did.’

The two men’s working partnership dates back almost 25 years to when they met as teenage drama students at Manchester University. Over the years, they’ve enjoyed professional success with shows like The Young Ones, The Comic Strip and Bottom, and been there for each other during their happiest private moments — their marriages and when they became proud fathers.

They’ve grown closer — although each admits he finds it hard to tell the other how much he thinks of him. But Rik’s accident 20 months ago has led them to re-evaluate their friendship.

‘He’d never say: ‘I love you, mate.’ And I wouldn’t say it to him,’ says Rik. ‘But men aren’t good at telling friends how much they appreciate them. Occasionally, when you’re very drunk, you might say it, then pretend you didn’t the next day.’

Ade, 42, who’s married to Absolutely Fabulous star Jennifer Saunders, agrees. ‘Most blokes don’t really show much feeling for each other, do they? When Rik had his accident it was very upsetting and horrible,’ he says. ‘It made me realise how much I care for him and it was a very frightening time.

‘It was terrible in those first few days, watching him and wondering if he’d live. In a way, it was even worse when he came round and he was like a baby for a week or two.

‘Then he was like an eight year-old. And you begin to wonder if the eight-year-old stage will last forever.’

Happily, Rik, 41, recovered — but for a while it really was touch and go. The accident happened at Easter last year when the Mayall family were relaxing at their Devon country home. Rik was riding his quad bike without a crash helmet over sloping fields when he hit a boulder, toppled forward and slammed his head on a stretch of concrete. He was rushed to hospital in a helicopter.

Later, Barbara admitted she didn’t know if she’d see her husband alive again. He had a fractured skull and two life threatening haemorrhages, one deep inside the brain.

Typically, Rik makes a huge joke of his time in hospital. When he finally came round, he was in a very confused state. He didn’t make life easy for the doctors and did his best to “escape” from hospital and go home. Once, he even succeeded.

‘I knew I was in hospital and at the back of my mind I knew that something had happened to me. But I couldn’t work things out,’ he recalls.

‘It was like: Right, something is going on here and they’re too clever for me. But I can get out of it.

‘I had no pain and perhaps that’s where the confusion came from. For a long time, I didn’t believe I had a head injury and I had absolutely no memory of the accident. When I got up I felt dizzy, but I thought that was the drugs.’

At the time of the accident, Rik and Ade were weeks away from starting work on a new film, which had to be postponed. But last summer, just over a year later, they eventually started filming Guest House Paradiso.

It’s directed by Ade, and written by and stars both of them as their madcap Richie and Eddie characters — first seen in their BBC sitcom Bottom. And it’s now about to hit the big screen.

‘We run possibly the worst hotel in the world,’ grins Rik.

‘It’s the kind of place any normal human would run a mile from. A complete madhouse.’

The film features the kind of slapstick mayhem Rik and Ade have made their trademark. Guest House Paradiso is the sort of hotel that makes Fawlty Towers look like five-star luxury. The chef is a drunken illegal immigrant, the waiter has been readmitted to the psychiatric hospital and the nearby nuclear power plant is leaking radioactive waste. Into this walks glamorous Italian film star Gina Carbonara, desperate to hide from the boyfriend she’s just dumped — racing driver and playboy Gino Bolognese.

What follows — including hundreds of gallons of bright green vomit — is the kind of romp only Rik and Ade can dream up.

‘I love working with Ade,’ says Rik.

‘We know each other so well, we know if we’ve done something right almost without saying it. We’re a team and I can’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t be one.’

Having survived a terrifying brush with death, Rik is anxious to enjoy his family to the full. He spends as much time as he can with his children, Rose, 13, Sid, 11, and Bonnie, who’s four.

‘I love being with Barbara and the kids. Sid and Rosie love The Young Ones. Rosie says things like: ‘Dad, look at you then. You were so sweet.’ And I say: ‘No, that’s the wrong idea — I wasn’t meant to be sweet.’ ‘But they’re great and I realise how lucky I am.

‘As far as my health goes, everything is fine. And I love working. Ade and I are already writing a new film.’ Of course, Ade is part of his family, too. Although he’d probably never find the words to tell him. Then again, he doesn’t need to.