Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Month: April, 2012

Hard to Keep a Good Comic Down

By Des Partridge for Courier Mail, 27th July 2000

A tidal wave of projectile vomiting provides the climax of former Young Ones comics Rik Mayan and Adrian Edmondson’s new movie, Guest House Paradiso.

“Did you know you can get vomit in seven different flavours and colours?” Rik Mayall asks.

“The special effects people offered us lots of samples to look at before we decided on something in a sickening shade of green. We passed on the one that looked like tandoori chicken,” he laughs.

Obviously, the boys are up to their old tricks.

Yet it hasn’t been laughs all the way. Guest House Paradiso was in the preparatory stages when Mayall, 42, was involved in a near fatal accident, crashing a quad bike on his 4ha property at his home in Devon.

He spent five days unconscious in hospital, and there were fears he might not survive.

Mayall and Edmondson (married to comedienne Jennifer Saunders) have been writing together since they met at university in Manchester more than 20 years ago. They had done a couple of drafts of the screenplay which became Guest House Paradiso before the accident, and it was six months before Mayall was able to resume work.

“I think we probably got a few more ideas for the screenplay because of the delay,” he says. “It was about 3 ½ hours long before, and we managed to trim half that.”

Guest House Paradiso, which also was directed by Edmondson, features the two maniacal comics as the operators of the world’s worst tourist hotel — located on the coast next door to a nuclear plant.

(The guests start their tsunami of projectile vomiting due to radioactive fish sewed at dinner.) “The vomiting was very cleverly filmed as there were little pipes around the place. The stuff that spewed out was like pudding mixture. We laughed for days.”

After shows such as The Young Ones and Bottom, Mayall promises “no vomit jokes” in the team’s next film.

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Forever Young

For The Observer, 17th December 2000

Two years ago his future was hanging in the balance after a horrific bike accident. But even that didn’t persuade him to take life seriously. Lynn Barber finds out why Rik Mayall will always be the Young One.

My role for the first 15 minutes was to sit there poleaxed, thinking maybe he is brain-damaged. He was chattering 19 to the dozen, pulling faces, switching voices, sometimes talking in camp actor tones, sometimes shouting like he did in The Young Ones, sometimes putting his face close to mine and whispering, then leaping up and pacing about, striking poses, hugging himself, then throwing himself back in his chair. And whenever he forgot a name he shouted: ‘Come on, brain!’, which certainly made me go ‘Ouch,’ thinking of the terrible brain trauma when he fell off his quadbike and was in a coma for five days. He was telling endless luvvie anecdotes, hopping from one to the other, dropping names which meant nothing to me, generally ‘wibbling’ as he calls it, determined not to let me get a word in edgeways. But gradually I was able to lob in the odd question and, even more gradually, he started answering them in his own elliptical way.

At one point he said, movingly, ‘Can’t you see? I’m frightened of interviews. I’m so frightened, I’m making you nervous.’ And it was true. Of course he is extra frightened of interviews now, because he hates talking about his accident; but he was always frightened of interviews, saying, ‘I don’t want people to know who I am.’

Ade Edmondson says he always lies in interviews anyway, to make himself more interesting. Like most actors, he thinks he’s boring; like most actors, he’s more obsessed with his career than he wants to let on. But, unlike most actors, he is terrified of sounding pretentious — he has a mental audience of fellow comedians ready to fall about laughing if he says anything serious. So whenever we approach serious ground, he leaps up and creates a diversion – once, most alarmingly, by rolling the top of his ear lobe and pushing it into his ear.

We were on the stage of the Richmond Theatre, because he was doing a play there, A Family Affair. It has been on tour, but will not come the West End, because he starts filming Harry Potter in January. He is very excited about doing Harry Potter, even though he has a small part (Peeves), because ‘ Everyone is in it!’ But he is even more excited, in fact deeply heartfeltly grateful, to be back on stage. A Family Affair is the first theatre work he has done since his accident and marks an important milestone in his recovery.

Annoyingly, though, we are supposed to be talking about his new children’s film, Merlin The Return, which comes out at Christmas, and there is a film company PR hovering about to make sure that we do. At one point, the PR pops out and Rik starts raving about the theatre, and then, as soon as the PR returns, he switches smoothly mid-sentence to, ‘…and that’s why Merlin was my happiest film experience’. But, actually, he filmed it over a year ago — it was one of the first things he did after his accident — so it is ancient history now and there is a lot of, ‘Come on, brain!’ while he struggles to remember the names. Anyway, it’s an engaging film, with lots of sword fights and battles and horses, and brilliant special effects. His own children, Rosie, 13, Sidney, 11 and Bonnie, 4, all loved it — ‘And not just because Daddy told them to.’

But he says it’s been really odd, doing this theatre tour, that so many people have come up to him and said, ‘Ah, Rik, it’s really nice to see you back,’ when he thinks he’s been back for two years. But mainly he’s been filming abroad, and some of the films haven’t come out yet. The accident, which almost killed him, happened in April 1998, soon after his 40th birthday. He had just joined his family at their holiday home in Devon and went off for a ride on his quad bike.

Shortly afterwards, his wife glanced out of the window and saw the bike upside down in the yard and him unconscious underneath it. He had suffered a fractured skull and two brain haemorrhages. There were doubts at first about whether he would live, and then about whether he would be permanently brain damaged.

He woke from his coma to see his wife Barbara, his parents, and his old friend Ade Edmondson all in tears round his bed. Over the next few days in hospital, he thought he was being held prisoner and kept trying to escape – once he asked his son Sidney, then aged nine, to bring a getaway car. When he was transferred to a hospital in London (pulling faces and mooning out of the ambulance window en route), he did escape, walked out and got a taxi home. His wife pretended everything was fine till he went to bed, then called an ambulance and got him back to hospital.

For the first few weeks, he was high as a kite, with an attention span of zero and a habit of scrambling his words – he would ask for a bike when he meant a biscuit, and (a good Freudian touch) asked his wife for some lesbians when he wanted a piece of paper. Ade Edmondson says that in the first weeks he made good progress but then he seemed to stick for a long time at a sort of eight-year-old phase, and everyone was desperately worried that that was as far as he’d get. But then he started improving again and, eventually, five months after the accident, was able to think about work.

He says that his ‘primary terror’ all the time he was convalescing was that he would never be able to act again — and acting was all he had ever done. So it was a nervous moment when he sat down with his beloved agent, Aude Powell, and went through the job offers. ‘It was really brain-shredding. I didn’t know whether I’d be able to read and be in character. And I did a little voiceover for some kids’ stuff and I had to play two frogs — which, at the time, felt demanding — because one of them talked like this [deep voice] and one talked like this [squeaky voice] and it was quite, you know, technical . So, that was making me nervous. But I went in and did it and I’ve never been so fucking happy in my life! That was September 1998 and I thought I can fucking do it! My life was back.’

He did a cameo spot in BBC1’s Jonathan Creek, then made the film Guest House Paradiso with his old mucker Ade Edmondson. Ade directed and arranged the schedule so Rik could do most of his scenes in the morning, when he was at his best, then have lunch alone and sleep. And he organised a masseuse to loosen him up for the fight scenes. ‘Ade was just really — but discreetly — caring. Well, of course he was, he’s my best mate.’ Unfortunately, the film was panned, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered them — they are now planning another excremental epic about sending shit into space. One of the great advantages of being at the Richmond Theatre, Rik says, is that Ade lives nearby and they can write together again while Ade’s wife Jennifer Saunders is off touring with Dawn French.

Ade said last year that Rik was ‘still slightly odd. Not odd, but his memory is not the same and he finds it difficult to concentrate if there is more than one stimulus in the room.’ I noticed the latter while I was talking to him – a car alarm went off in the street and he yelped, ‘Whadda fuck is that?’ and was very jittery till it stopped. Also, he suddenly started pronouncing the name of the film Merlynn , though maybe he was being funny. Once or twice, he seemed to have lost the conversational plot and started re-answering questions he’d answered earlier, but I imagine he was always pretty scatty anyway.

But obviously there are, he says, differences in his life now. He likes to spend silent time alone, drawing. ‘I’m afraid it’s not very rock’n’roll. I’d like to say to relax I steal cars and get out of my face on crack and rob banks, but I don’t – I doodle, I draw. I like expressing myself. I’m just very very interested in me , I’m afraid. Pathetic, isn’t it?’ And he likes solitude more than he used to, perhaps because of the accident, or perhaps simply because of ageing. ‘When you’re an experienced celeb – which I am – you sometimes just need a bit of space, when you’re not “on”. I’m always on! I’m walking down the high street and someone might come up and say, “Hello, Rik!” And do I want to say, “Fuck off?” No.’

Another major difference is that he can no longer drink because he is on anti-epilepsy pills, Phenytoin, which stop working if mixed with alcohol. He was a very happy drinker before – ‘I liked to get pissed, misbehave, get overexcited and mess about. But I wasn’t drinking a bottle of vodka for breakfast. I wasn’t pissed when I fell off the bike.’ And now he feels that staying sober is a small price to pay to avoid epilepsy. ‘If you’ve ever had an epileptic fit, it’s really fucking terrifying, because you don’t know where you’re going, your systems fail you. We’re in a very difficult area now, because it’s in my interests as an actor not to say that I am liable to epilepsy. Because otherwise people might say, “Oh, I was going to ask him to play Hamlet!” But I have had a couple of seizures. And it’s always when I forget to take the pills.’

The first was last year, when he was in a recording studio, luckily very near his house in Ladbroke Grove, west London, and felt peculiar. He said he’d better go home and someone walked him to his front door, and he went upstairs and got as far as his daughter Rosie’s room and lay down on the bed. Barbara was out, taking the kids to school, and when she got back, ‘She heard, “Doongadoongadoonga…” from upstairs and she goes upstairs and she realises it’s coming from Rosie’s bedroom – “Doongadoonga” – and she looks through the crack in the door and there’s me on the bed banging up and down and she thinks, “No! No ! Surely not! Wanking on our daughter’s bed? I’ll have to shoot him!” And then — she says this by her own admission – she thought, “Oh, thank God, he’s only having an epileptic fit!” [He recounts all this with roars of laughter.] So she called the ambulance boys and they came in and smacked her because she had her finger in my mouth trying to stop me biting my tongue — mustn’t do that, because these people are strong!

‘So, next time it happened, I knew what was coming. I was at Gatwick airport, flying out to Canada to do Kevin Of The North earlier this year. I shouldn’t be telling you this, really, but I will. I was by the bookstall, and I couldn’t tell the difference between colour and sound. I could see the colour of sound, and I could hear the things I could see, and I knew it was declining, my ability to understand what was going on. And I went up to a complete and utter stranger — whoever it was, thank you – and said, “You’ve got to help me.” I had to decide what to say, and think how to say it — “You’ve got to help me” sounds easy. I got it out somehow, and then I collapsed.’

Anyway, he says, ‘It turned out fab,’ because the film company paid for Barbara to accompany him to Canada and she brought Bonnie, the youngest, and they all had a good time. But, obviously, epilepsy remains an ever-present worry. He will have a three-year check-up next Easter, and perhaps slowly come off the Phenytoin, but he would rather stay on the pills and not drink than risk another fit. ‘I mean, yeah, it’s a bit of a complete fucking nightmare drag not to have a pint, but I have found a way of taking great pleasure in it. I have never woken up with a hangover, which is great. I am cleverer, fitter, healthier. I have more coherent time. I’m very very happy now.

There’s also something — whether it was my parents, or my school, or my friends — that has taught me, or bred me, to be optimistic. And combative. So that when something shitty happens, the very fact of dealing with it is good for you.’

Suddenly he breaks off irritably, and says, almost to himself, ‘I’m constantly talking about this — yayayaya. That’s my next job — to give up cowardice.’ Cowardice? ‘Because I should be nicer to myself than that. I mean, stop apologising. I’m frightened of being interviewed, can’t you see?’

I think I see — he wants to give up the cowardice of always being too nice, too obliging; he wants to gain the courage to tell people like me to fuck off. He resents being made to be serious. He was never meant to be a thinker — when he left school, he threw his satchel into the River Severn and vowed never to read a book again – he wants to go back to being a happy little airhead. But, of course, ageing is against him, quite apart from his accident – he can never be that careless innocent again.

It is very striking, reading his old interviews, to see how often before his accident he used to say he’d had a charmed life. He told The Mail, in 1993, ‘I had a very happy childhood, happy teenage years and I was famous by the time I was 22. A charmed life.’ And he told The Independant, ‘My tradge as a celeb is that nothing terrible ever happened. I’ve just had a very nice time.’ He grew up in Droitwich, Worcestershire, with an older brother and two younger sisters. His parents were both teachers — his father was head of drama at a teachers’ training college, and encouraged him to act. Aged eight, he had to come on stage as a beggar boy and rummage in a dustbin and find a bar of chocolate and smear it round his face, and he got a big laugh and everyone was pleased so, naturally, he thought, ‘This is the job for me.’

He had a happy time at King’s School, Worcester, and then he read drama at Manchester University and teamed up with Ade Edmondson and wrote The Young Ones and was a star by the time he was 22. There was one messy period when he was having an affair with Barbara Robbin, a make-up artist, while still living with his first partner, Lise Mayer, and they both got pregnant at the same time. He ditched Lise, married Barbara, and Lise lost her baby. But Lise eventually forgave him and he is obviously deeply happy with ‘my Barb’. So, yes – a charmed life.

But it is quite unusual to go round saying you’ve had a charmed life — most people who’ve had one take it for granted. But, he explains: ‘I’ve always tried not to be complacent. Because I think good lefties are not complacent or, if they were, they would try to get rid of it. Not that I am a red exactly, but…’ And he suddenly leaps up, worried that he is getting too serious, and starts shouting, ‘I am deeply honoured and proud of the fact that Benjy [Ben Elton] and Harry [Enfield] got asked to No 10 Downing Street, and they didn’t ask me. Yeah! Yeah! I’m still too fucking dangerous! The only reason they didn’t ask me is because I might be baaaaaad !’ And he leaps around the stage, strutting and snarling and sticking his crotch out like Rick in The Young Ones.

I sit there, smiling indulgently, thinking, why does he do it? This was a question that puzzled me even when he was in his thirties, and even more now he is in his forties. Why does he keep going back to this role — be it Rick in The Young Ones or Rich in Filthy Rich and Catflap or Richie in Bottom — they’re all the same, really. It seems to play the part in his psyche that, say, Dame Edna plays for Barry Humphries. It is a role — but it’s a role that he also uses in real life, as a way of being rude and aggressive without being offensive because he is ‘only joking’. Is that why he does it — as a form of release? ‘Yes — all that evil stuff, the violence and so on — you can’t just leave that bit, it’s got to come out.’

But it has another effect too — it’s a way of sort of desexualising himself. He is an extremely handsome man — in fact mesmerisingly attractive — but it is as if he doesn’t want people to know it, or as if he doesn’t want to acknowledge it. His handsomeness came as a revelation when he appeared as Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman – I remember thinking then, ‘My God, he could be a sex symbol!’ But he immediately reverted to another Rick role with Ade Edmondson as if he wanted to obliterate that idea.

Often, throughout his career, he has shown the potential to be a very good straight actor. Richard Eyre, who directed him in The Government Inspector at the National Theatre in 1985, found him ‘prodigiously gifted, intelligent’; Harold Pinter, when he saw him in Cell Mates, said he was the ‘bee’s knees’ and Simon Gray, who wrote and directed the play, said he was ‘a great actor, and a valiant man’. Time and again, he has surprised critics by being able to play serious roles better than anyone expected (he was particularly good as Mickey Love, an ageing game-show host, in his series Rik Mayall Presents), and yet time and again, just when he seems on the brink of being taken seriously as an actor, he reverts to rock bottom with Ade Edmondson.

The usual theory is that this is out of loyalty to Ade, who has never really developed a solo career, but I’m not so sure. Rik obviously loves Ade deeply and says unblushingly that their on-screen relationship is like a marriage, with him as the wife. He also seems to respect Ade as the greater intellect – Ade, he always reminds interviewers, got a 2:1 from Manchester, whereas he got a 2:2. It seems crazy that it should matter 20 years down the line, but evidently it does. Ade is brighter, he insists, and also more organised.

‘He looks after me and I look after him, but he doesn’t really need me to look after him — except to be his mate. Without being too sexist about it, he’s the bloke and I’m the girl. I’m technically incompetent but emotionally believe myself to be in command. He is technically extremely competent and actually in command, but far too wily to let me know that. But it’s a complete 50:50. He types, I pace.’ So will he and Ade go on writing lavatory humour till they drop? Yes , he roars, ‘It’s not all lavatory humour! Some of it’s violent! We’re growing older now and we need to do something about being old and violent and angry.’ And, as he has already admitted, he needs the release for ‘all that evil stuff’.

But, I told him, you are handsome enough to have had a straight-hero career — ‘Yes. Go on!’ he beams — but you seem to deliberately sabotage it. ‘Ah well,’ he says, suddenly dropping all his shouting and diversions, ‘You’ve got me all serious now because you said I was handsome. Um. I’ve only ever done what I wanted to do. And I’m not being falsely modest when I say I’m not the world’s most intelligent man. I’m much more emotional than I am cranial. And I’m probably not capable of having a plan. I never wrote The Young Ones because I wanted to be Alan B’Stard later. I never wanted people to think I’m sexy. I think it embarrassed me, actually, wanting to show off, display how gorgeous and lovely I am. I could not do that!’

Why not? Because Ade would give him a bad time? ‘Oh, damn right! But so would the audience. If I had set out purely to be attractive, desired, then I would have gone out of fashion by now. I would have been, oh, the face of 1984 — and now what I am going to do? All I really want is — fucking hell this is going to look so wanky! — but it’s true. Like Henri, in this play, [A Family Affair] is a lonely, selfish, resentful, unhappy man and — forgive me — but it’s emotional exercise, it’s like going for a run, taking your emotions for a workout. Or finding things out about yourself. Stage acting especially — the beauty of stage acting is that you don’t have a commander. There’s no one getting you up at four in the morning and saying, ‘What I want you to do, Rik, is stand on that mark, then look to the right, a little wistfully. OK?’ And that’s your fucking work for the day! But with the audience, it’s: “I think I’ll get everyone to think I’m great.” I like doing what I do, and I don’t like being told what to do. But circumstances have forced me to. No! They haven’t! I’m very fierce about my independence.’

Oh, I have got the hang of him now — he meant to say circumstances have forced him to do films rather than plays since his accident, but he won’t say it because it sounds self-pitying. And also, as he is dutifully aware, he is supposed to be publicising Merlin. As if on cue, the PR interrupts to say the photo-grapher has arrived. I try to delay my farewell by asking for a glass of water, and Rik says ‘Yes, me too, but I’ll have slightly more than Lynn. Because I am famous.’ As soon as the PR has gone, he starts raving again about having an audience — ‘It’s so sensual. You can feel what might make them sad, or excited, or scared – you sense them, you find out what they’re like. It’s intercourse! Because I give them what they want and they give it back to me.’ And then the PR comes back and he switches smoothly to talking about Merlin and then it is time for me to go — just when I was beginning to delude myself that I understood him.

Merlin The Return opens on 22 December.

Bottom’s Up!

What’s On TV? 21st October 2000

Rik Mayall wanted to make sure he was looking good for his first, serious TV sex scene, as Simon Reid, an adulterous businessman in ITV’S The Knock, which begins a new series this week.

Unfortunately, part of the episode was filmed in Ghana — and Rik hadn’t bargained for the bloating effect that the malaria pills would have on his body.

“I’d been running regularly and doind all these press-ups because I knew I’d have to get my kit off. Then I had to take these pills!” tuts Rik, 41 — one of the several guest stars in the latest series.

Luckily,Rik wasn’t too embarrassed about having to cavort around naked on a boat with beautiful actress Julie Ann White — partly becuase it wasn’t the first time they’d appeared naked together.

Julie Ann played Rik’s mistress 10 years ago in an episode of The New Statesman, which involved a bed, bare flesh, and a pair of handcuffs.

“Because I knew Julie Ann there wasn’t this thing about meeting a stranger, stripping off and going to bed with them in front of others — which is weird,” says Rik.

“It was a delicate situation though. I didn’t want to tell everyone to go away. I wanted to be more relaxed about it, like other actors. But the thing is, I’m 41 not 21, and , while Julie Ann was still looking as beautiful as ever, here was I, Mr Pot Belly!”

Apart from filming in Africa his part in The Knock offered him the chance to play the kind of role he finds hard to resist. “I’m attracted to playing weird people who don’t fit in,” explains Rik, who lives in a Devonshire farmhouse with his wife Barbara and their three children, Rosie, 13, Sydney, 11, and four-year-old Bonnie.

But it was only 2 and a half years ago that it looked like he might never work again. He lay in a coma for weeks on end after a horrific quad bike accident which left him suffering a brain haemorrhage.

Perhaps he should have heeded his fathers advice. “He told me never to get a bike,” reveals Rik “But I remember thinking, “A quad bike’s got 4 wheels —I won’t come off that!”

He still has the bike. “I wasn’t sure it was morally right to sell it,” he says. “I was going to push it off a big cliff and have a big explosion at the bottom, but then I thought, ‘I can’t do that, it’s littering’.”

So I go in the shed and look at it and I have made a bond with Barbara that I wouldnt do anything with it!”

Bottoms Up

For Inpress, 2nd August 2000

Josh Kinal got to meet his comedy heroes, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. He was very excited…

To sit in a room with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson is awe inspiring and humbling (without wanting to seem too sycophantic). They do not look like two people who make a living out of hitting each other with various implements, or making school yard level fart jokes. But then again, what are two people with those qualifications supposed to look like? The truth is, they have taken what could be considered base level comedy (which, according to the trends of comedy fashions, probably should not have lasted this long), and they still manage to make it seem like it is something new.

Something new, however, it definitely is not. Rik and Adrian have been playing characters named Riche and Eddie for almost 20 years (except in The Young Ones when the characters stayed very much the same, but the names changed to Rick and Vyvyan). It is quite a remarkable career, which has finally led to the creation of a Richie and Eddie film, written by both of them and directed by Edmondson: Guest House Paradiso.

The dynamic between the pair is quite amazing to watch. The conversation moves back and forth between them at a tremendous pace and mixture of anecdotes, information and gags. Having been friends for so long, they have a little bit of that thing that couples have when they finish each other’s sentences. This amazing relationship is, no doubt, the secret to their synergy. This is why, despite numerous works on their own, they always return to Richie and Eddie.

“I think our individual efforts are quite good,” says Adrian, “we’re quite competent. But we’re never really brilliant. But between us — unfortunately, because we really hate each other — there’s a sort of something that works. We make something better together than when we do it alone. They are, sort of, extensions of ourselves. We know each other incredibly well. I’ll fill in the bits he can’t do and he’ll fill in the bits I can’t do. So it makes one thing, not really two comedians.”

Mayall and Edmondson are so revered in the comedy community because they were part of a seminal group in Britain. There was no live comedy scene to speak of, except for a group who were called “The Comedians”. Adrian describes this group as “working men’s club people in tuxedos and frilly shirts who were overtly sexist and racist.” In the mid-70s the future of comedy was not looking very bright for Britain.

“I think we grew out of punk,” says Adrian. “There was an idea that you don’t have to do what the old people do any more. We had no interest in going to a working men’s club, because we were middle class wankers. We’d have been kicked out anyway. We started doing lunchtime theatre and fringe theatre in Edinburgh. People like Viv Stanshall in the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, they were in the sixties, really, but they had these sat of sketches within their songs, so their shows were kind of theatrical.”

Rik continues the line of thought which soon turns into the sort of bouncing back and forth of conversation which gives some insight into the way they work together:

Rik: “But, Viv Stanshall, particularly has always been a big hero of ours. There’s something about him that is non-general. Ade and I come from an area where we’re both sort of middle class boys. Not upper, not lower, but middle middle-class. We come from a sort of blank zone where we wouldn’t fit in to anything.”

Adrian: “There was no culture.”

Rik: “We were born uncool. Ade wanted to be a rockstar”

Adrian: “Should we pretend to be working class this week?”

Rik: “Well, let’s try.”

Adrian: “Ooh, let’s.”

Rik: “We were all incapable of fitting in and being groovy. So when there was a lot of political stuff going on. And then punk came along, and they couldn’t even play their guitars, so we thought, fuck it all’.”

Adrian: “We know we can only play three chords, but we can play them fucking loud. When we went to university, there was lots of people setting up theatre-work-sweat-shops, overtly political, intellectual, Edward The Second in the nude sort of thing. We actually just found it very funny. At the same time we found Waiting For Godot very funny. So we were in a kind of strange other world.”

Rik: “It’s impossible to understand, for us. But we knew what we wanted.”

Adrian: “We knew we wanted to laugh.”

Rik: “And because where we come from, we happened to be on stage doing stuff that made people laugh. We like laughing and making people laugh. (to himself) It sounds so crass and pathetic. See, I’m still trying to sound cool.”

A possible reason the Edmandson/Mayall team have stayed so strong throughout the changing trends of comedy, is because they keep it interesting for themselves. Despite having done television since the early ’80s, they both continued to perform live, most recently with the very successful Bottom  Livetours. Adrian describes it as the ultimate challenge to all aspects of being a comedian

“Touring’s kind of hell,” he says. “It’s very enjoyable for about six weeks, I find, then I get completely bored. I usually get bored of the process of touring. Sort of staying in a hotel room all day and not drinking, until you get on stage.”

“Untill you get off stage,” corrects Rik.

Adrian laughs at his somewhat Freudian Slip. “I’m always getting that one wrong,” he says. “But once the show has started, it’s fantastic. Comedy’s all about laughs. If no one’s laughing it’s not comedy. It’s a very simple business to be in because the results are instantly judged. There’s no half way house like in tragedy: ‘Did they cry, or did they just sought of look rather wry.’ YOU have to get people to laugh their bollocks off. Also, it takes a lot to get up there. It takes a lot to get two hours of material together and the nerves of finding out on the first night of whether you’ve still got any humour left in you at all, which you doubt nearly every night you go on.”

For the pair to make the move to the big screen is not as awkward as it first seems. In answer to the question many people seem to have been asking them (Why make a feature film?) Adrian replies with the very simple: “The money came along, eventually.”

“We wanted to make something kind of relentlessly jokey and funny,” he says, “which is what we always do. We were looking forward to kind of nailing physical comedy down and getting shots that we couldn’t get on TV. So that when we have a fight we get two or three days to shoot a fight rather than half an hour. So you can really inflict proper pain and get down to a cartoon beauty of violence.

“In a sitcom you’ve got a week’s rehearsal,’ says Rik, continuing the thought process, as he so often does. “But you have only got two and a bit hours in front of the studio audience. You’ve got time to keep shooting something until you’ve got exactly what you want. I fucking love the playback as well. So you can do a punch and go and look at it”

“And you can see it needs to be an inch to the left,” says Adrian.

Rik follows on, imitating Adrian as director. “Yeah, an inch to the left, or perhaps if I actually hit you Rik,” he says. “We’re very goad at it, but it is nice to be able to perfect it.”

Perfection is an appropriate goal for a pair who have achieved as much as Rik and Adrian. It fits in line with their maintenance of characters, but the change and evolution of their different projects. It is what sets apart Guest House Paradiso, from what it would have been it it was Hotel Bottom instead.

“We’ve got quite a good discipline, history wise, of stopping things,” says Rik. “We’ve kind of done it and we can’t do any better.

Adrian tries to explain the difference between this film, and having done a Bottom spin-off series. “I know it’s a knockabout film,” he says, “and the plot is merely an excuse for some routines. But everything in the frame is germane to what you want to happen, and that’s what we concentrated on. It doesn’t look like the TV spin-offs of On The Buses or Steptoe And Son.”

The mention of this concepts leads into a discussion of Tony Hancock and his foray into film, drink and suicide, which somehow brings Rik back to the initial thread of conversation. “That’s why, the point I was trying to come to, that’s why we tried not to make a Bottom film. But it is a Richie and Eddie film. That’s what we do.”

Guest House Paradiso is currently screening at selected cinemas.

Bottom Lines

By Fleur Michell,, July 2000

British comic actors Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall admit that they like nothing more than sitting down and thinking up ways to injure their various body parts. And it’s obvious that more than a little brainstorming in the ouch department went into the making of their new movie, Guest House Paradiso, which opens this week.

The pair reprise their roles as Richie and Eddie from their hit series Bottom, obnoxious owners of a disastrously run hotel. Along the way, they get into all manner of eye-watering strife, including Richie having his head slammed in an oven, two metal hooks being inserted up Eddie’s nostrils, a pencil shoved in Eddies eye, and Richie having same rubber underwear heat-fused to his bum.

“I thought the scene of my bullocks getting squashed was really well thought-out and executed,” says Rik, recalling one leg-crossing scene. “But we’ve done this kind of comedy for so long now, it’s hard to keep coming up with stuff,” adds Ade. “One reason we stopped making Bottom was that we’d already hit each other with everything in the flat.”

The pair, recently in Australia to promote the flick, say they’ve never actually been hurt by each other, although Rik did once knock himself out during shooting by walking into a camera. “It’s not so bad,” he says. “You go out, come round, and everyone thinks you’re great.”

And he laughs off the motorcycle accident where he really did damage his noggin two years ago. “Did it change my perspective on life? Yeah, because when I came to I was lying on the floor. It’s just made me the same, only alive.”

Scotching rumours of a Young Ones reunion (“it would just took like when The Monkees got back together — sad,” says Ade), the pair are content to work on more projects involving their Bottom characters, and have just released a video — Bottom Live.

“These two characters fill in the bits of each other; they’ve become bigger than we are,” explains Ade, who’s just directed the pilot for wife Jennifer Saunders’ new sitcom, Mirrorball. And what do they think of Australia? “I love it here,” says Ade. “It’s just like England — but without the bollocks.”

Bedlam and Breakfast

Uncut, January 2000

This month, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson bring their anarchic brand of slapstick humour to the big screen with Guest House Paradiso. David Stubbs reports

Rik Mayall gesticulates extravagantly. “This is not a Bottom film,” he declares. He’s talking about Guest House Paradiso, the first big screen venture for him and his long-term comedy partner, Ade Edmondson. “I’m intensely fucking proud of this movie. We’re working on such a large palate now.”

Rik Mayall is an overwhelmingly charming man — like Kenneth Williams, his voice swoops from one dramatic extreme to another, form the intimate whisper to great, arcing noises of delight or exasperation. He’s also liable to launch off on great tangential digressions till both of us have forgotten what question prompted this mental wild goose chase in the first place.

“Film is such an intellectual sensual medium. No? Yes? I don’t know, why I started this rambling point I don’t fucking know. I’m sorry! Blab, blab blab, that’s me…”

There’s an alarming amount of his character, Richie, in Rik — not in personality but certain shared mannerisms, the smile, the narrowing of the eyes, the way he says “pants”. After all this time, he’s developed an attachment to his twisted creation. He recalls a scene in the film with Helene Mahieu (the Renault Clio ad girl)

“Richie has to undo her dress and she draws her finger across his face. You know, it’s the first time he’s ever been toughed lovingly, by anyone since his mum when he was about three. It makes my eyes water to think about it…”

Doesn’t she give his a blow job later?

“Well, yes,” snaps Rik. “But technically that’s not sex, he’s still a virgin…”

Ade Edmondson, by contrast, is a great deal more contained, less obviously striving for something up and out there. Like Eddie, his worldly alter-ego, he knows what he wants and what he’s about. Which is why Ade directed Guest House Paradiso.

Rik “It was amazing to see Ade having to cope with six tasks at once on the set, where the lights have got to come down, where everyone’s positioned and where the hell is Rik?”

Rik insists that Guest House PAradiso is not a Bottom film, but lets say that if you loved Bottom, you’ll love this. The names have been changed, thought — Richie is now Richie Twat (pronounced “Thwaite”), while Eddie Hitler has become Eddie Elizabeth Ndingombaba. Essentially, however, they are honing and expanding the same two characters they’ve played since 1975 when they conceived The Dangerous Brothers at Manchester University.

Guest House Paradiso is the cheapest, worst hotel in Britain, situated precariously on the coast next to a nuclear power station. With its dark corridors, disgusting kitchen, and wormholes and peepholes built into the architecture, it’s a house of pain, rudeness, perviness, violence and, of course, chortles. The dynamic between the central characters is subtly established as Richie spins Eddie around the kitchen by his nostrils with meat-hooks and Eddie rams a pencil up Richie’s anus. Richie is obnoxious to the guest (“Have you washed this morning?”) yet in his own twisted way is determined to keep up the proprieties of a “respectable” hotel (“no wine list at breakfast, Eddie”). Fate intervenes when Gina Carbonara (Helene Mahieu). An Italian movie star, arrives at the hotel to evade paparazzi having just left her fiance,.playboy Gino Bolognese (Vincent Cassell). All this plus a rubber underwear sub-plot and copious amounts of drinking, leching and vomiting. The Battleship Potemekin this definitely ain’t. But Ade Edmondson wishes the critics wouldn’t be so embarrassed by their own bodily function of laughter.

Critics actively dislike us,” he says. “They’re scared they’ll be seen as intellectually impoverished if they like Bottom. It rankles. I went to a screening the other night, full of press. They all laughed. Then when the film company rang around for remarks the next day form the critics, the response was bad. Which seems uncharitable. I mean, they laughed…”

Rik insists he and Ade have never been critical favourites. But what about The Young Ones? Wasn’t that feted?

“Not to begin with. They thought it was shit. It was only when they talked to their kids or met some young people that they changed their tunes.”

Critics miss the point. Firstly, they forget that Bottom, far from representing some comedic nadir, is the continuing aftershock of the punk blast that took place with The Young Ones et al against the unreconstructed sexism, even racism, of Seventies comedy, currently resurrected to a number of repeats. Anybody who misses the enormous inverted commas around Bottom’s humour is irretrievably obtuse. That said, if you’re looking for “content” in Bottom or Guest House Paradiso — satire, moral stings in the tail, social observation — you’ll come up empty.

“We’re aiming, for pure comedy, like Tommy Cooper. Just trying to make people laugh their bollocks off, that’s all,” says Ade.

The real business is in the strange chemistry between Richie and Eddie and the strict delineation of the seemingly anarchic zone of unreality in which they work. That’s why the film takes place principally in indoor locations. In this world the normal “rules” are suspended. There’s no attempt to explain how Richie and Eddie came to be running a hotel. Ade and Rik’s earliest, strongest influences were Samuel Beckett and the Wile E Coyote cartoons, both of which dealt in worlds of logical absurdity, where certain things were just given. In other words, while this film is unabashedly no more than a bunch of underpants jokes, it’s not just a bunch of underpants jokes.

“Anyway, the Europeans understand it. There they’ve always had better reviews,” says Ade. “Europeans share our sense of how funny crap is, how funny dereliction is. Europe’s got the Theatre of the Absurd, Ionesco, Beckett. People make jokes about despair. You don’t get that much in American comedy. Not even with Woody Allen. When you come to the point of looking into the sky and realising how vast everything is and how minuscule you are in the scheme of things. Some people despair at that but I find it’s…funny.”

Traditionally, the curse of the comedian is that they have a mid-career crisis and decide they ought to be doing something more serious with their talents, be it as a maverick detective on a BBC drama series or Steve Martin and Robin Williams making their egregious “adult-orientated” comedies. Such a crisis has apparently yet to afflict Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson, in spite of accusations of “puerility”.

“People always use the word ‘purile’ as if it’s a plague to be avoided,” snorts Ade. “Like ‘Pathetic Sharks’, in Viz. Why ‘puerile’? Because it’s simply funny?”

As for Rik, the older he gets, the easier it is to be less adult orientated.

“Paradoxically, it would have taken more in the past to get me to put on a bra and pants and parade around the way I do in this film. But I’m an old man now. Who fucking cares? And when I got them on I thought, fuck it, it’s just me in a bra and pants and I’m a twat.”

But after that accident in April, 1998 when he crashed a quad-bike and suffered life threatening head injuries, haven’t his attitudes changed to comedy and life in general?

“No,” says Rik, without hesitation. “I mean, there’s a bit early on where Eddie has my head trapped in the fridge and he’s slamming the door on it repeatedly, which might make some people wonder, hmm, is this right? But it was tested and tested, there’s a woodblock, there was minimal danger of anything going wrong with the stunt.”

However, both Ade and Rik had qualms about scenes involving the children of the hapless Nice family. Eddie gets one of them drunk and idly pushes the other on a swing perched on the cliff’s edge, with inevitable consequences…

“What you see on the screen is about a quarter of what was written. There are certain things we consider to be correct,” says Rik. “We’re both parents and when we were writing the kids’ sequences, I thought, I wonder if I’m going soft?”

Hardly. Correctness, also went in to the details of the epic, climactic sequences involving enough gallons of vomit to sink the Titanic. It was important to get the puke just so.

It gets surreal, the serious meetings you have,” says Ade. “We’d have chaps coming to with 10 different pots of fake vomit and have to choose between green, red, Tandoori. We had a technician trying out different vomits, being sick into this pit he’s set up, checking for viscosity, the projectile effects.

“We’ve always hankered after doing a film, mainly so we could get the violence right. TV’s great but its about live entertainment, you never get the violence precisely shot, never get the nutcrackers right on the bollocks.”

They re already plannmg their next movie — set to space.

That’s what it’s about, really. Thinking up places where Richie and Eddie can have a fight,” says Ade.

“Zero-gravitational violence. Why not?”

After the Bike Crash I Didn’t Wake Up Until Easter Monday…It was My Second Coming

By Oliver Harvey for The Sun, 8th December 2000

Rik Mayall stands on the bar with his trousers around his ankles, flashing V-signs and screaming obscenities.

It is a sure sign that the star of Bottom and The Young Ones is back to his bonkers best after the accident that almost killed him.

Rik narrowly escaped death when he suffered severe head injuries in a quad bike accident in 1998.

Then last year he was back in hospital after a relapse when he blacked out during a fit.

Now on the mend, he is back in the big time after landing the role of Peeves the poltergeist in the new Harry Potter film.

Next year he will be seen opposite Naked Gun star Leslie Nielsen in the comedy movie Kevin Of The North.

He can soon be seen in the film Merlin: The Return and is currently appearing in Richmond, Surrey, touring in the play A Family Affair, where he larked around for The Sun.

Boozing

He says: “I feel brilliant. Life is great. The whole thing has given me a new lease on life.”

Despite being 42 and a dad of three, Rik still has the attention span of a five-year-old and a repertoire of smutty jokes to do a teenage boy proud.

Although he has regained his health, he is taking anti-epilepsy pills to prevent further fits which means no boozing.

Asked if he had missed drinking since the accident, he jokes: “Well, not immediately after I fell off the bike because I was f***ing unconscious.

“I actually feel really healthy without the booze but the time will come when I can get s**t-faced. I did like to party.”

Rik fell off the quad bike — a present from wife Barbara while driving during an Easter break at their Devon farm.

He now jokes about the crash which doctors thought at the time could leave him permanently braindamaged.

He says: “It was the day before Good Friday — the family now call it Cr*p Thursday.

“I didn’t come round until Monday lunchtime — so it was the second coming of Rik.

Performing

“The bike is still in a shed. I might ritually burn it.”

Rik is sure the crash won’t stop him working and says: “The play I’m doing now has some quite complicated dialogue.

“It has taken me some time to be confident of my lines. But I’ve never dried up on stage.”

Rik has become one of the country’s best-loved comics. Alongside comedy partner Ade Edmondson he has starred as grubby student Rick in The Young Ones, Bottom’s Richard and Richie Twat in the film Guest House Paradiso.

He says he has been addicted to performing since he won over an audience aged five. He recalls: “It was a school carol concert and I was told not to sing by the teacher because my voice wasn’t very nice. I was told to mime along. I did it in my own style and got a few laughs from the audience.

“The headmaster then took me into a corner, so I started making faces at the audience from there and got more laughs. I thought, ‘Hey, I like this,’ and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Born in Harlow, Essex, Rik — whose parents were both drama teachers — got a free place at fee-paying King’s School in Worcester. From there he went to Manchester University, where he met Ade and Young Ones cowriter Ben Elton.

TV’s The Young Ones, about a houseful of students, was full of slapstick violence and toilet humour.

Rik and Ade, as Eddie, continued in the same comic vein with the series Bottom.

He admits: “Yes, I’ve got a lot of mileage from bum jokes. Ade and I do what we want to do. I think our audience likes it.”

Of Ade, who was at his bedside as he battled for life, Rik says: “He is able to make me perform like no one else can. Ade is my friend, he’s my partner, we love each other.”

The pair are currently promoting the video release of the Guest House Paradiso, which carries on from Bottom.

He says the comic partnership will not be growing old gracefully. “Ade and I always looked forward to getting old. Richie and Eddie will always be together. We’ll stay the same but the gags will be about not being very well, or our eyesight going. Well be two nasty, angry, violent, horny, unpleasant men.”

Rik and Barbara live most of the time in Notting Hill, West London, with their children Rose, 14, Sid, 12, and five-year-old Bonnie.

He says: “At home if I haven’t been performing I get a bit unRik. I get bored.”

Next year he and Ade will be back on the road with stand-up. And despite his brush with death, Rik has no plans to take it easy. He says: “I can’t retire. It would be horrible.”

Adrian & Rik

Channel V, 2000

With a new film on the brink of release, Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall (a.k.a Vyvyan and Rick from The Young Ones) came to Oz to spread the good word. They caught up with our main movie man Super, and proceeded to piss fart around the entire time the camera was on them — as would be expected! Read on to find out how Rik was knocked unconscious, vomit and the tandoori special.

[V]: Hi it’s Andrew here and we’ve got a couple of great movies and videos coming out fairly soon. We’ve got ‘Hooligans Island’ which is out on video now and starting July 27 ‘Guest House Paradiso’ and starring two guys you should really recognise from a lot of great television comedy.

Rik Mayall: Are we in shot?

[V]: You’re absolutely in shot.

Rik: Hello, I’m Adrian Edmondson.

Adrian Edmondson: And I’m Ronnie Barker.

[V]: And this is the Two Ronnies!

Rik: We are the two Ronnies. Hello Ronnie!

Adrian: And from me, that’s all from him.

Rik: Right, where’s the cash?!

Adrian: Goodbye.

[V]: Tell us about your first movie ‘Guest House Paradiso’ and I believe you’re the director, it’s your debut as a director?

Adrian: I wrote it, directed it and starred in it. I did a lot of casting and after the 3rd or 4th recall, I finally gave Rik the other part.

Rik: Cause I’d learnt the line.

Adrian: Yeah. And ah… he did quite well, we had to obviously do some special FX filming afterwards to get his lips to move!

[V]: Now tell me, as an actor were you having a tantrum with the director side of your body?

Adrian: I wrestled with myself every night – which wasn’t new for me!

Rik: It was quite an easy job for a director cause everyone thought he was great, they were paid really heavily and any frustration he felt he took it out on me, which is there within the script. I don’t know how it came about, for example, there was the sequence in the kitchen that lasted for 3 days to shoot – almost entirely me being beaten up by him! I had one go at him with a jug in his face which was really good. And I did get a pencil up the arse – which was very good.

[V]: Um… Were there any accidents when you were making this film? I mean I’m sure it’s choreographed, but I mean do you ever like miss and a punch connects?

Adrian: We did this three days filming this fight that he was just talking about and… It all went pretty well and we didn’t hurt each other at all and everything missed and we finished it, so I said “Wrap, that’s great we’ve finished that scene.” And we moved to the next room and he said “Great!”. And he walked off and banged himself right on the end of the crane where they keep all the lead weights and fell unconscious. We thought, “Oh great! Insurance claim, second film!”

Rik: And then I came round.

Adrian: And then he came round.

Rik: I didn’t know where I was. I thought “Oh I’ve been injured” and I looked around and they’re all going “Tch Cor”. Obviously thinking of the more money we would have got – the complete bastards. But he let me off going down the stairs in the little cupboard thing – I don’t want give away too much of the plot you guys cause you’re gonna see it – where it’s on fire I’m inside and it rolls down the stairs.

Adrian: Yeah, we just put your kid in for that didn’t we?

Rik: Yeah, we put Bonnie in I’m cause I’m a little overweight. And of course it’s much better to have your children in a dangerous stunt than yourself. Cause I don’t want to let my fans down.

[V]: Absolutely. Now this being channel [V], I noticed there were a lot of things starting with V in your film, there’s a lot of violence…

Rik: Like that? [Gives the V finger/ up yours]

[V]: Yeah there’s some of that. There’s violence, there’s virgins and…

Rik: Vulva.

[V]: Vulva?! I missed the vulva.

Adrian: No vegetarianism is there?

Rik: No, No.

[V]: Definitely not.

Rik: Just the word vulva, it was in the first script but it was cut.

[V]: Fantastic. Adrian: There were no volcanos.

Rik: No, but there were vomit sequences.

[V]: Lot’s of vomit.

Rik: Eight. No, seven days in the vomit corridor as it was called – we called it the vomitorium. On and on and on. And I got… I love Fenella Fielding…

[V]: Carry On Screaming.

Rik: All of them. And I got to punch her in the face while she was being sick – it was great. Yeah and the kids were good, Simon Pegg was brilliant. Oh what about Vincent? A bit of a heart throb! Depends, you know, whatever sexual orientation you are it’s up to you, but if you’ve seen Vincent Cassel, he is a dog, he’s a dog! Oh – he’s like a rattle snake – once you get to know him. He came over here… Who’s that film star who lives over the boat.

Adrian: Over the boat?

Rik: Tim… Cruise. Tom Cruise

Adrian: Tom Cruise

Rik: Yeah, and his bird. What’s his bird called? Tim Cruise’s bird?

[V]: Nicole.

Rik: Lottie Nicole. Kidman, Kidman. Any way, he was in their film.

[V]: Right Yeah.

Rik: So we’ve got big names in our movie.

[V]: You do have big names. Tell me: the green radioactive vomit, what was it actually made of?

Adrian: We had a man who eventually became known as the vomit technician. Who ah… made lots of difference vomits for us to test. We’ve got some great videos he used to send us these video tapes of tests that were ongoing in this special FX studio. And he say “This is”… And he’d have seven pots of different flavoured yoghurts and sort of vomits that’d he’d mixed together, different consistencies, different splatting techniques, different guns, different stickiness…

Rik: But this little laboratory boy had to do it all for him and do this sort of trick thing. So there’s like endless tapes of this boy going, this poor little lad going “Waaaaaaaaggghh” [mimes vomiting with his hands] and then he’d duck down and pup up. “Or you could try this” and then “Waaaaagggghhhhh” again!!! The poor little lad… And then his favourite one was… Was it Tandoori Yellow?

Adrian: Tandoori Special.

Rik: Tandoori special – they all had different names. Adrian: With flecks of blood in it, it was rather….

Rik: Oh yeah it was magical. Did you see when the big ball of vomit comes out of Vincent’s mouth?

[V]: The one that gets bigger and rolls down the hall?

Rik: I would of thought that would rather excite you.

[V]: Yes, yes. Do you know, I love a vomit in a film and up untill I saw your film, my favourite vomit film used to be Monty Python’s ‘Meaning of Life’.

Adrian: Yeah, Mr Creosote.

Rik: Mr Creosote

[V]: Was the temptation ever there to make a film of The Young Ones were people offering you wads of money back in the eighties to do that?

Adrian: No it was never a thought was it?

Rik: No film wasn’t in that position then.

Adrian: There wasn’t a British film industry then.

Rik: Pretty much, no.

[V]: Right.

Rik: And now it sort of is because I think the video … I think, I dunno… The video stuff that’s going on has given films another life. You got your life in the cinema and the sort of afterlife in the video store.

Adrian: Yeah, well you look at this live tape here: [Holds up copy of ‘Hooligans Island’]. When we did the Young Ones tour we didn’t even film it. We didn’t even put it on video! It’d be worth a bloody fortune now wouldn’t it? It was a great show, the Young Ones show.

Rik: Three hours of complete anarchy. Lost. It’s all over.

[V]: It would have been great. Well guys thanks for coming, Guest House Paradiso is the name of their new film our July 27. Adiran, Rik, nice to meet you.

Rik: Thanks.

Adrian: It’s been great.

Tortured by Cardigans – and Terrible in the Mornings

By Desmond Sampson for News Of The World Sunday Magazine, 28th November 1999

In their new movie Guest House Paradiso, out next month, RikMayall andAdrianEdmondson play the owners of the worst hotel in the world. Desmond Sampson went to meet them.

What’s your worst fashion mistake?

Rik:
I once walked to school in my underpants and a soggy shoe because my shoe flew off into the river when I tried kicking a ball. My brother retrieved it, but then demanded my trousers, because his were soaked.

Adrian:
In the Eighties I wore those horrible skinny pants with monkey boots. It seemed like a good idea at the time! And I spent my youth in an army coat and round sunglasses pretending to be John Lennon.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Rik:
My dad caught me with my girlfriend when I was 15. He looked absolutely pole-axed. turned around and walked out. Even more embarrassing was that half an hour later we both went downstairs and had supper with my parents!

Adrian:
I once had lunch with Steve Martin and was so overawed that I said ‘You’re a wild and crazy guy” to his face. He let it pass, but that was truly embarrassing. I shouldn’t have said that.

Have you ever been bullied or been a bully?

Rik:
Luckily, I was spared bullying, although one kid at school, Dobson, always used to tease me about my surname. He’d say: “Look, it’s Fe-Mayall!” One time he wouldn’t stop and I thought “I’m going to have to hit him”. So I belted him and he lost his two front teeth, broke his nose and ended up in hospital. I was never picked on again after that!

Adrian:
I was both bullied and a bully myself. I think that’s true of most people.

What’s your poison?

Rik:
A pint of lager followed by a large Scotch. But since I bashed my head (in a quad bike accident last year), I’ve had to take pills for epilepsy and if I drink they don’t work. So although it’s great having the drink, the bit where I fall over, bang my head and swallow my tongue isn’t so great.

Adrian:
I’m a red wine lover. On a recent tour, instead of drinking I spent the days teaching myself about wine.

What’s the best hangover cure?

Rik:
Don’t drink the night before

Adrian:
Eat loads of mashed potatoes after you’ve been out. The carbohydrates put you to sleep until you feel better.

What would you cook to impress a date?

Rik:
I can’t cook, so I’d get someone else to do it.

Adrian:
I’m good at Mediterranean food — getting a load of vegetables, covering them in olive oil, sticking them in the oven, then covering them with rocket and Parmesan. But I gave up cooking about nine months ago when my wife (Jennifer Saunders) took it up and was immediately better than me. Story of my life, really!
What’s the worst holiday you’ve ever had?

Rik:
To be honest, I’ve never really had a holiday from hell. In fact, they’re usually so badly needed that I make sure they’re good.

Adrian:
I’ve been to a few places like the hotel in our movie while on tour, so-called “Country House” hotels run by retired captains who are very bitter and don’t like serving people. They’re the most unfriendly, vile places to stay at, even though all the bumph claims they are just like being at home!

What are you like first thing in the morning?

Rik:
I’m a tyrant, a real “wake up, get up!” sort of person. I can’t bear to waste the day, so when I wake up early I think “Brilliant, it’s only six in the morning, a whole day to go!”

Adrian:
I’m a volatile person and suffer from extraordinary mood swings, so it’s a bit of a lottery what I’m like in the morning.

Are you vain?

Rik:
There’s a scene in the movie where I’m trying to decide between two identical cardigans, and that’s me — tortured by these kind of decisions!

Adrian: I wish I could be but I’m too bloody ugly!

Who’s your best mate?

Rik:
Ade. He’s a good and loyal friend. I adore him. It’s like a marriage. We chose each other in ’75 and we’ve been together ever since.

Adrian:
Rik is probably my best friend. Without getting too lovey-dovey, when he had his accident found it very upsetting. It made me realise that I quite liked him.

The Heat Interview

By Dominic Smith for Heat Magazine, 18-24th November 1999

Just 18 months ago Rik Mayall was critically ill in a coma and his family feared the worst. Now he’s celebrating the release of a new film. “I feel very grateful,” he tells Dominic Smith

So there he is; Rik Mayall, the wild man of British comedy, playing dad in the grounds of Pasture Farm, his family retreat in the village of East Allington, South Devon. It’s the day before Good Friday 1998 and Mayall has returned home to spend Easter with wife Barbara and their three kids; Rosie, Sid and Bonnie. Eager to please, Mayall gets his quad bike out of the garage and takes Bonnie, the youngest of the three at two and a half, for a spin.

Then he feels the specks of rain on his arms and something tells him to get Bonnie off, that maybe this isn’t such a good idea. So Bonnie gets off, but Rik Mayall doesn’t. He takes the bike for one last spin round the grounds, a journey he will never complete. Moments later Barbara looks out the window and sees her husband lying underneath the quad bike. At first she thinks it’s yet another of his practical jokes. But then she notices the blood pouring from his nose, ears and mouth and realises something is terribly, terribly wrong.

It was. Mayall was crushed by the 600lb bike and suffered head injuries so severe that he had to be airlifted by helicopter to Plymouth’s Derriford Hospital where he spent five days on a life-support machine. On the third his wife was warned there was a good chance he would never wake up. On the fifth he opened his eyes for the first time.

“I woke up after five days, turned round and started talking to this bloke in the bed next to me,” recalls Mayall. “Then I conked out for another half a day. And then, when I woke up again he was… dead. And that happened twice. And that makes you feel a little worried for yourself. But… you know… I’m here.”

Today, ‘here’ is a luxury suite in London’s Athaneum Hotel where he meets Heat to promote his new film Guest House Paradiso, which once again reunites him with best mate and comic partner of over 20 years, Ade Edmondson. As he bounds into the suite it’s difficult to believe that this is a man who, just 18 months ago, was on the critical list. Today, following an eventful and often difficult period of recuperation, Rik Mayall is fit, healthy and, as he says on a number of occasions, happier than he’s ever been.

Was your accident a lifechanging experience?

Mine was life-continuing. No, I’m trying to be different, I’m trying to think of something cool to say. I’m happier. I was fucking happy before but now I’m grateful as well as happy. I don’t waste time now. Perhaps I’m more conscious of my mortality although that may be due to my age — I’m 41 now.

Do you feel 100 per cent again?

Unfortunately, when you bang your head, you’re open to epilepsy and I have suffered a couple of times. I was doing a voice-over in February and I just couldn’t get it together. I was hearing stuff the crew couldn’t hear and I was frightened. Eventually I said, “I don’t feel well so I’m going to go home, which way is my house?” We were only a few streets away and I thought, “Fuck, I don’t know my way home, this is getting frightening.” So they took me home. I got halfway up my stairs. That’s all I remember.

You blacked out?

Well, Barbie [wife Barbara] came home and she came up the stairs and heard a noise from my daughter Rosie’s room. She looked in and I was lying on the bed like this (lies back and starts shuddering). So she thought, “What the fuck am I going to do, he’s on his daughter’s bed and he’s wanking.” Then she came back in and said, “Oh thank fuck, it’s epilepsy!” Haha! And it was all because I’d been a bit slack taking my pills. So that taught me a good lesson. I can’t drink now because it counteracts the pills; I haven’t had a drink for a year and a half.

What do you remember about the accident?

The last thing I remember is the rain. I returned to the farm and the kids were into their holidays. Bonnie said “Can I come for a ride?” so we had a little ride with Bonnie and her cousin on the tank. Luckily I felt some rain on my arms so I got the girls off. Then I went for a ride and that’s the last thing I remember. But I remember that rain with real affection because Bonnie’s two and a half and had I been in a different frame of mind… I was very lucky.

You were unconscious for five days. Do you remember the first time you saw your wife again?

Yeah, when I woke up in the serious head injuries ward. Barbara was there with me the whole time. She’d been there… Some of this is slightly personal between Barbara and myself… Of course.

Is it true you couldn’t remember her name?

Well, Barbara’s the one to ask about that. I’ve been told I couldn’t remember a lot of people’s names, I knew who they were but didn’t know their names. It’s hard to remember now but I got some people confused. Ade came very early and he was very strong and very brave. But he shed a tear… I shouldn’t really say that. He doesn’t ever want to appear to be soft.

Was your wife told at one point that you were not expected to live?

Yes. I was the only one that didn’t suffer at that period because I was out. It was the day before Good Friday — my kids now call it Crap Thursday.

When it came to Saturday I still hadn’t come to and it looked like things were pretty bad. But they were very brave and patient and then daddy came round on Monday. The children were told, “Daddy’s not well but we’re sure he will be soon”, and then they were sitting at home and it was on the fucking news. But I think they grew up a lot. I think they’re a lot stronger now.

You attempted to break out of hospital, didn’t you?

I tried to escape from hospital a lot. I couldn’t understand anything. I can’t get near to explaining the levels of confusion I felt. I was thinking, “Why am I here? I’ve cracked my skull but there’s no pain. They’re obviously drugging me.”

You thought it was a conspiracy?

Yeah. I thought, “I don’t remember falling off any fucking bike.” I thought they were police for a while. I never thought that I was mad because I’m much too vain for that. I thought, “They’re pumping drugs into me and there’s some trick going on.” I was thinking Barbara must be on their side, but then I’d think, “She can’t be in their pay, she can’t be… She must be in their pay.” So I kept attempting to escape.

Didn’t you succeed on one occasion?

Yeah, I was transferred from Plymouth to a hospital in London. I had an escort because they thought I would leap out at a traffic light. So I got to the Harley Street hospital; and the poor guy who’s escorting me goes into the toilet and — bam! I’m out the fucking door, down the stairs and into Harley Street. In my pyjamas! Then I’m in a taxi and I’m off. So I get home and there’s an old friend of mine there and I’m like, “Where’s the booze, let’s get trashed.” And the clever bastard hid the booze and phoned my doctor. The doctor said she’d give me a quick shot and I woke up later in a hospital in Charing Cross. I was so disappointed — another fucking hospital!

Was that where you finished your recovery?

Yeah, but this is the big one. Two weeks later the doctor said, “There’s still some blood in your head but you can go home.” And then I started collecting all the blossom from out in the street. I thought the road looked untidy so I’d collect it all up and put it in neat piles in my front path because it looked tidier. It made perfect sense to me at the time. So I went back to the doctor and he said, “Rik, there’s a lot of blood there that should be gone and your brain has got dead areas. I can give it another two days, if it’s not gone then, I’ll have to take off the top of your head and get the blood out.” I thought, “Fucking hell.” So I went back two days later, had a scan and he said, “Rik, all the blood has gone and I don’t know why.” I was so happy.

With his recuperation almost complete, Mayall returned to the project that he and Edmondson were working on at the time of his accident, Guest House Paradiso. Ironically, the enforced delay may even help the film, its blend of cartoon violence and bodily substances arriving in cinemas in the wake of a stream of hugely successful Hollywood gross-out movies. Although Mayall seems indifferent to the suggestion.

“We’re not aware or concerned about Hollywood,” he says. “I know it sounds as if I’m feigning disdain but that’s a genuine feeling. We didn’t decide to do a film, we just had a great idea for something whose best stage would be a film. Me and Ade have got a life sentence and as times moves on we move from cell to cell. We started 25 years ago and it’s still the same gag, we just keep disguising it.”

You’ve been smacking each other around the head with hammers for over 25 years now. Don’t you ever get bored?

No. Absolutely not. If there ever was a time when we were I think we’d be very surprised. I’d hazard that we’ve never used the same weapon, that would bore us. We’d be disappointed in ourselves. But I did enjoy hitting him with the water jug. If anyone’s disappointed with the film I hope they don’t think, “Oh it’s a shame he fell off the bike, and now he’s trying to be in films. Ahhhh. Why can’t he still make The Young Ones?” That was 20 fucking years ago.

There was a story recently about a Young Ones movie.

That story’s been knocking about for ten years. I don’t see the value in that. Unless it was a swipe; a body blow at the whole nature of British comedy — if we deliberately made a terrible film. It would have to be full of self hate, kind of “Aren’t we shit” and then at the end say, “Thanks for the money, you fucking suckers.” Ha ha, that would be good, wouldn’t it? [Thinks for a moment] No, the greatest joy of my life, apart from my family, is my work and I’m not going to fuck up my career.

After the accident you were quoted as saying “I felt a great sense of loss that the old Rik had gone:” Is he back now?

That’s bollocks. If I did say that, maybe I was still… I don’t think that’s very accurate. Maybe I was still going through recovery. But I think the word ‘better’ is significant, I don’t just feel, back to health, I feel better. I think the accident has made me happier, I just enjoy my life more now.