Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Month: May, 2012

Interesting New Work with Fart Jokes

By Bob Gordon for X-Press, July 2000

“You’re the first interviewer we’ve had… and the nicest.”

It wasn’t one of these serious film interviews, frankly. And thank God for that as Rik Mayall (he of the above) and Adrian Edmondson indulged in a battle royale of fact and underpants talk on the campaign trail for their new film, Guest House Paradiso.

The pair again join forces as Richie and Eddie, the proprietors of a rundown hotel somewhere in England where the only thing exceeding their extreme behaviour to their guests and to each other is the 15 minute vomit frenzy that makes up the film’s closing sequence.

By this time of course, Mayall and Edmondson are dab hands at comic extremities. The pair met some 25 years ago at Manchester University and while they both have found success doing individual projects, their jointwork has been their most successful from the seemingly unforgettable The Young Ones to Filthy, Rich and Catflap, The Dangerous Brothers and Bottom.

Co-written by the pair and directed by Edmondson, Guest House Paradiso is their first film together and is every bit the punch-throwing, piss taking, bottom-burping rollercoaster that has characterised all of the pair’s previous work. This week’s X-Press Interview was conducted down the line to Melbourne a few weeks ago. Chockful of banter, it seemed Edmondson would often open the line of answering, with Mayall coming in secondly to take the joke just one step further. Kind of like everything they’ve ever made, really.

Guest House Paradiso opens in Perth cinemas today, Thursday, July 27.

When did the concept for Guesthouse Paradiso come up and what were the seeds of the idea?

Edmondson: It came up during the last tour, we do these Bottom tours, two hours of live sitcom. We tour around Britain and we stay in a lot of hotels. We’ve stayed in a lot of crap hotels and the idea sort of grew from that.

Yes, you’d both be quite au fait with hotel life. What would be the worst you’ve stayed in?

Edmondson: It was actuary one in Scarborough. It wasn’t actually a really bad hotel but the week after we left it, it fell into the sea. That s actually true (laughs).

Mayall: They had this nice sort of wing sticking out the side and we were there. The Scarborough Theatre was a bit odd, the dressing rooms were a bit pokey, it was like getting changed in a cupboard. We thought ‘things should be better than this’. We went to the hotel and stayed there and thought ‘this is a bit crap actually’. We left and a week later the fucking hotel fell into the sea! The bit we were staying in as well.

Edmondson: I think it was because Rik left his pile of porn mags in the room (laughs).

Mayall: I’m just laughing modestly… but I had a couple of my Fiestas with me.

The initial thinking that people have about the film is to draw co with it to Fawlty Towers, but beyond the hotel based scenario it’s a whole different frenzy…

Edmondson: I think that’s right. There obviously are similarities… you know, its a hotel (laughs). He treated guests badly and so do we. But he didn’t ever catch anyone’s nipple ring on a fishing rod.

Mayall: He didn’t get blown up in the oven like that.

Or wear 10 foot wide red plastic underpants for that matter…

Mayall: No (laughs). I don’t mean to badmouth John Cleese at all…

Edmondson: But he was crap wasn’t he?

Mayall: Well no, no… he did hit a car with a twig. Very quickly.

In the area of underpants humour John Cleese was sadly lacking.

Mayall: Yeah. He never put a chef’s hat on his knob.

Is creating such an energetic and physical brand of comedy a funny process in itself, or is it simply too demanding to be like that?

Edmondson: It’s very good fun. To get a look of anarchy on screen you have to be very organised, ’cause real anarchy is just deadly dull. When you try and film it it just doesn’t work, you can’t catch it properly. One of the reasons we wanted to make a film is that we could properly film and get the proper framing for, you know, kicking the knackers.

All the kind of violence we do, we do in a hurry, normally. We wanted to film it like a cartoon, like a Roadrunner cartoon. This gave us the opportunity to do that. Not to say that it’s not very funny, take after take of trying to get Rik’s testicles in a pair of nutcrackers (Mayall laughs uproariously) is a rather amusing way to spend the day.

How long did the crushed nuts scene take to film?

Edmondson: Well actually that scene took about two-and-a-half days. The whole scene with the fight in the kitchen.

Mayall: One of the things I’m really proud of is that fight in the kitchen. T’was fantastique. It was done with such care and such precision. Three days, a total fight and a big one as well. Ade was directing and he was very careful and everything was great, never touched each other, didn’t even hurt once. Then he goes ‘okay we’ve got it, fantastic that’s a wrap’. I said ‘fantastic, turned around and walked into the camera and knocked myself out. It’s true! (laughs)

Adrian, as a director for the first time, was the world on your shoulders?

Edmondson: It was in a way, but it’s probably like childbirth — there’s some kind of drug in your body that makes you forget the horrible bits. I love doing it, it’s a fantastic thing to do. It’s like being given a huge box of paints and being allowed to paint on the walls. It’s a childish joy.

Rik, did he wave the big stick, or the big paintbrush for that matter?

Mayall: Well, he was so disciplined, not on himself…

Edmondson: Are you talking about my S&M fetish?

Mayall: Oh God, that was marvelous! (laughs). But he did run a very tight ship. He brought it in on time, and brought it in slightly under budget as I remember it.

Edmondson: (Assumes arty arty voice) It was a real artistic success, it was under budget (laughs).

Mayall: (Laughs) I was quite happy with the film, because he cast Ed very well and he pointed the camera at me a lot. So basically, he knows how to direct.

In reference to the much discussed closing sequence, the film’s production notes allude to a ‘tsunami of vomit’. That’s possibly the first time the words ‘tsunami’ and’vomit’ have appeared together in the same sentence. That’s probably a good thing.

Edmondson: We’re very proud of the fact that we had this little man from the special FX department who kept sending us videotapes of different kinds of vomit, different colours and different textures of vomit. Instead of being a special effects coordinator or whatever his title was on the film we gave him the credit ‘Vomit Technician’. I think it’s the first film ever with a Vomit Technician (both laugh).

Did you originally imagine the scene to be such a crescendo of bile or did it just keep building upon itself?

Edmondson: No, it was written a lot longer, and a lot larger (laughs). It was a written with Titanic-like corridors of vomit, but it was a low budget film. So we ended up doing a parody of the Harrison Ford film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, with the ball of vomit. It was actually a lot funnier.

So if the nut crushing scene took two-and-a-half days to shoot, how long did it take to film the ‘tsunami of vomit?

Edmondson: That was a week, I’m afraid. A week in the vomitorium.

Mayall: It went from the vomit it corridor to the vomitorium.

A week of wading though all that gunk?

Edmondson: Oh, it was fucking horrible. There was this poor grip, who pushes the dolly along, he was running up and down the corridor all week long and he had this sort of yellow plastic bag with a couple of eyeholes (laughs). He kept getting stuck in the vomit because there was bits of foam in it to give it texture.

And no one to blame but yourselves…

Edmondson: I know. Although we very cleverly wrote it that we didn’t get any vomit on us (laughter). Which is just such a great idea.

Mayall: The nearest to angry my director ever got — ’cause we were under the gun a bit and we had to get it shot in only a week — was when I ran down, running away from the huge ball, turned left to get down the stairs, slipped over and got a load of puke up my arse. It was all in my costume. So he was a bit grumpy because I had to change my costume, which cost valuable time. I had to wash my hair and then dry it.

What are your writing sessions like? It seems quite easy to imagine you both sitting around a laptop gesticulating quite madly, unlike most writers who just sit there plodding away …

Edmondson: Well that’s exactly right, that’s what we do. It’s not that we don’t enjoy making them and performing, but I think the writing process is when we laugh more than any other time. We laugh at our own jokes endlessly, you know what I mean? They’re fantastic times, it’s when the jokes are born, really. So we hear them for the first time.

Mayall: That’s the best part.

Edmondson: People around the house… I mean I’ve had builders in my house for it seems like 10 fucking years, but they’re always coming up and complimenting me on how funny my writing must be. ‘I was coming downstairs and all I could hear was this laughter all day Iong’.

ou’ve commented that Richie and Eddie are the only two characters you can play and you’ve been playing them since the ’70s. Are they good to return to when you’ve both been off doing your individual projects?

Edmondson: Yeah they are, because they are part of us. I don’t mean a part of us because we play the characters, I mean there’s a lot of us in them.

Mayall: But we’re both actors as well. In as much as we’re interested in acting. So sometimes we go away and pretend to somebody else for a while and earn some money. The basis of our ouevre — that s the right word isn’t it? — is Richie and Eddie. Ooh-er-vre!

We alluded before to underpants. Can you expand on the recurring presence of underpants humour in your work?

Edmondson: They’re just the funniest thing in the world. The very word, ‘underpants’, is a word that seems to avoid the detail of what they do. They should be called…

Mayall: Penis drip catchers! With knocker holders (laughs).

Edmondson: (Laughs) A lot of our comedy is about embarrassment. And people avoid embarrassment. Underpants seem the pinnacle of people involving the issue.

Mayall: And it’s so fucking English. You guys love the English so much over here, that I think there’s some kind of connection.

I’m not sucking your knob, I mean I’d like to (laughs), but I think that’s why the Aussies understand it so well, because they understand what arseholes the English are. What tossers they are. They understand the embarrassment and the pretension which is what Richie and Eddie are all about. Failure!

Is the key to your partnership’s longevity attributable to years of near violent behaviour? Not so much venting spleens as rupturing them?

Edmondson: No, it’s mostly blackmail that’s kept us together (laughs).

Mayall: Um… there is a terrific pride in our work. I mean there is. We are constantly exploring new ways of doing some gag that we have not done before. Sure, there’s always the punch in the face, but that’s the baseline.

Edmondson: It’s our stock and trade.

Mayall: It’s our stock and trade. There’s other ways of doing things, I thought the nutcrackers was really masterpiece, but also the pencil up the arse isn’t bad.

Edmondson: The nipple ring was a new horizon in British slapstick I thought.

You’ve each done a great deal of work but especially in Australia one of the first links always made is ‘Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson from The Young Ones’. Could you have imagined that the series would have such a long-lasting impact?

Edmondson: Not really, although it depends what day you wake up. I mean some days you wake up and it doesn’t seem very long ago and some days it seems like years ago. There’s no problem with it at all, I’m very proud of The Young Ones and it’s fantastic that people still watch it. I wish they’d pay (laughs). I wish we’d been paid properly when we made it.

Mayall: Whatever strange deal the BBC did — of course I know nothing about it — but Bottom didn’t get released in a bigger way in Australia. But then I think it takes a bit of time for our stuff to catch on, which is why The Young Ones over here is the main thing.

Nigel Planer recently appeared in a Castrol as Neil, could you imagine donning the togs again this far down the track?

Edmondson: Well it’s easier for Nigel isn’t? ‘Cause he is a fucking old hippie (laughs).

Mayall: Donning the togs (laughs), for one more time… its like strapping the guns on isn’t it?

Edmondson: You know Richie and Eddie are really Rick and Vyvyan older. It’s the same relationship and the same impetus behind those two characters. So it’d be harder for us because there aren’t any kind of 43 year-old punks. Not that I know of.

The Sex Pistols are still out there somewhere…

Edmondson: Well exactly, I’d look like Johnny Rotten does now (laughs). Some fucked old windbag, endless complaining and getting into limos.

Mayall: (Laughs) Poor darling tosser!

Edmondson: The strange thing about Nigel’s character is that that hippie does still exist exactly like that. There’s 70 year-old hippies like that.

Mayall: That’s true, down in the West Country in England there are a lot of Neils about.

On the internet there was talk of asequel to Guest House Paradiso, is that on the cards?

Edmondson: I don’t think there’ll ever be a sequel to that story, but I think there’s acres of potential for another film with Richie and Eddie in it. Not Guesthouse II, but in some other situation.

Mayall: Laurel & Hardy would stride onto the screen and sometimes they’d be in a policeman’s uniform, or they might be in foreign legion outfits or convicts, you know? So definitely.

What about Hollywood.

Edmondson: Well… we’re not really very popular there. So we don’t think about them.

Mayall: (In a dramatic saving of face) No! We’re enormously popular there. Almost too popular. We’re surrounded by autograph hunters who normally work as film producers.

What’s up for the future?

Mayall: Mainly trying to clear the space to write with Ade. I think it’ll be the beginning of next year when we start getting together. We have got a very funny title for the next one and it does involve the word ‘shit’. We’re beginning to worry about that (laughs).

There won’t be any 15 minute dosing sequences we should be worried about?

Mayall: (Laughs) With shit? There is the possibility. We’ve done vomit now, excrement is quite wide open.

Slapschtick

By James Madden for The Weekend Australian, 22nd-23rd July 2000

It’s late afternoon and Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson are preparing for their umpteenth photo shoot of the day. They seem a little tired of all the attention. But as soon as the photographer starts snapping, it’s a different story. The performance begins.

Mayall. wearing a cowboy hat and a shirt so awful it would make Ken Done cringe, drops his pants. Edmondson draws the attention of bemused onlookers to his exposed friend.

Edmondson picks Mayall’s nose. Mayall jumps atop a pylon on the wharf and Edmondson does his best to push him into the harbour. Mayall tries to strangle Edmondson. Edmondson simulates giving Mayall oral sex.

And so it goes on. Sure. it could be a well-rehearsed routine but their reactions to each other’s fresh poses seem spontaneous. They’re like an old — albeit exhibitionist — couple who know what the other one is going to say before they’ve said it. Which is not surprising really, given that they have been writing, performing and directing together for more than 25 years.

Their marriage of violent slapstick and toilet humour has aged well and has continued into their new film, Guest House Paradiso.

Mayall and Edmondson play Richie and Eddie, proprietors of possibly the worst hotel in the world, a scenario that lends itself well to the kind of chaos that has been their fertile ground for the best part of their careers.

The film’s best scenes involve extreme violence, projectile vomit, burnt rubber undies and nipple abuse. It’s gross, totally over the top, gratuitous and… well, it’s pretty funny.

The plot is as ridiculous as you would expect but it does allow the two to do what they love best — that is, repeatedly beat each other up.

Over a very English snack of tea and biscuits, Mayall, 42, and Edmondson, 43, try to explain their unique brand of humour.

“Yeah, we do enjoy beating each other up,” says Edmondson, straightfaced. “The way we do it has never been done before, actually. Sure, people have always hit each other, but they’ve never done it with the same malice as we do.”

So there’s an art to the madness? “Oh yeah,” says Mayall. “We’ve got the beatings down to an art form. It’s a kind of dance and to get the timing right is a delicate thing. But that’s one of the great things about what we do we have the freedom to expunge all this frustration, onstage or on screen, in a way not many other humans do, except maybe a wrestler or a boxer.

“There may be a lady, for example, who might come up to me in Wool worth’s and say, ‘Oh, Mr Mayall, I saw you on the telly and I didn’t think you were very funny.’ And that may stay with me — the emotion it evokes inside for a year, until I get the chance to smash Ade around the face with a kettle or something. And then that negative emotion has gone,” he explains, only half-joking.

Edmondson agrees, although he paints a less violent metaphor. “Our performances are cathartic. It’s like a Greek tragedy in that sense.”

Tragedy of another kind almost struck just before the shooting of Guest House Paradiso was due to begin. Mayall was involved in a serious quadracycle accident and was in a coma for several days. The film was delayed for four months to allow him to recover, although the way the pair refer to the incident, you’d hardly know it was a near-death experience.

“The script was too long anyway, so my accident was kind of fortuitous,” Mayall says facetiously. “So while I was lying in hospital dying, the director himself [Edmondson] cut out most of my jokes, most of my lines!”

“I also set about recasting him,” Edmondson says, laughing.

“Yeah, Tom Cruise was on stand-by for the part, although I hear Mel Gibson was fighting hard for it,” retorts Mayall. “In fact,” he continues, “Ade’s written a script about my accident, but it’s mainly ‘ha ha ha, Rik’s dead, hooray hooray’. And then he dances off with all my birds.”

“All your birds?” queries Edmondson. “All right, all right — he dances off with my half can of lager and my porn mags — or my collection of vintage media, as I prefer them to be known.”

Mayall and Edmondson met at Manchester University in 1975, where they both went to study drama. (“We just clicked,” says Mayall of the first time they met.) There they formed Twentieth Century Coyote, a partnership that exists to this day.

It was their university share house in Manchester that spawned the cult hit The Young Ones, the worldwide success that launched their careers, in which Mayall and Edmondson played Rick and Vyvyan respectively.

Asked about their experiences in their true-to-life Manchester bachelor pad, Mayall thoughtfully sips on his tea before responding. “It was four blokes without any money and lots of masturbation,” he says, drawing laughter from Edmondson. “And definitely no birds. Which is exactly the same as how we live now, except we have wives and they have all our cash.

“Ade used to like to drive his motorbike up the staircase. [A scene that was later recreated in The Young Ones.] He’d come home, kick the door in, and drive upstairs. And of course the house was owned by a nice little old lady, so it didn’t really matter.”

Like many classics, it seems The Young Ones was around for longer than it actually was. In fact, only two series — comprising a total of 12 episodes — were made.

So does it bother them that 16 years after it ended, people still constantly refer to their first cult hit, despite the fact that they have been constantly working on other projects since?

Not at all, says Edmondson.

“In fact, it’s rather a refreshing change. Back home we don’t have it referred to much at all. It’s because in Australia I don’t think you got Bottom on the telly, which is what most people know us for in England,” he says.

“It’s like only knowing the Beatles for Twist And Shout— except we’re better than the Beatles,” Mayall boasts, with a broad grin.

“I think Bottom is our White Album,” says Edmondson.

“Which is their best work, in my opinion,” interjects Mayall, continuing the Fab Four analogy. So what’s Guest House Paradiso?

“Abbey Road?” offers Mayall.

“Oh, Abbey Road’s a bit sad though, isn’t it? That was their break-up record, so that can’t be us,” says Edmondson. “We’re not finished yet!”

Just before leaving, I ask them how they have managed to maintain such a successful professional partnership into a third decade, in an industry that generally doesn’t foster bonds of such longevity.

“We are each other’s other half,” says Mayall simply, and quite genuinely. “He’s everything I need, and I’m everything he needs.”

A brief silence hangs in the air, long enough for me to be surprised that an affectionate comment has been made from one of the halves without immediately drawing a quick put-down from the other.

I need not have been too surprised, though.

“I’d never ever have sex with him, of course,” Edmondson adds soon after.