Bouncing Back from the Dead

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Alison Slade for TV TImes, 13th-19th July 2002

Four years after he almost lost his life in a quad bike accident, Rik Mayall is back on TV in an outrageous new role. Early retirement, he says, was never an option.

Rik Mayall is bouncing off the walls. And as he launches into another verbal eruption, I can only sit in silence, mesmerised by his incessant energy. How very wrong I was…

It’s the first time I’ve met the 44-year-old, and I’d halfsuspected he’d be nothing at ail like his famous TV alteregos — such as wild-eyed anarchist Rick from The Young Ones, frying pan-wielding Richie from Bottom or smooth-talking Tory MP Alan B’Stard from The New Statesman. But in reality, he’s every bit as manic. Hand gestures accentuate every sentence, and occasionally he’ll stretch his vowel sounds la Kenneth Williams, or indulge in a rude word.

Today, he says, he’s very, very existed. He’s just finished rehearsals on the last episode of Believe Nothing, a new satirical comedy-written by the creators of The New Statesman, Lawrence Marks and Maurice Gran -which begins on ITV this Sunday.

‘It’s fantastic!’ he declares, in typically dramatic fashion. ‘And it’s playing to my strengths, which are vanity, cowardice, avarice, lust, snootiness. haughtiness, disregard, and a sense of Britishness!’

All words which could, of course, be used to describe B’Stard. But Believe Nothing, he stresses, is not The New Statesman 2. Set in an Oxford College, Mayan is Professor Adonis Curt, the cleverest man in Britain, who acts as a consultant to governments across the world, and is in need of a new challenge. The f rst is to fill a vacant seat on ‘The Council for International Progress, an underground organisation which controls and manipulates everything which goes on in the world. The second is to get the sexy, yet neurotic, Dr Hannah Awkward (Emily Bruni) into bed. Throughout all his endeavours, he’s accompanied by his faithful manservant, Albumen (Michael Maloney).

‘With The New Statesman, we attacked national politics; this is a global thing, but it can’t really be pinned down — it’ll attack several things and support others,’ he explains.

So who’s in the firing line this time round? ‘Dare I say the media? The title, Believe Nothing, is very significant because we’re learning to believe and trust no one — it’s all received information.

‘I think that’s the malaise we live in — ooo, there’s a posh word,’ and then he’s off, messing about in a mock Brummie accent, ‘I loike a bit of malaise on me salad, downtyou know…’

Rik’s enthusiasm about Believe Nothing is hardly surprising, given that it’s his first TV series since 1998, when he almost lost his life in a quad-bike accident. The 600lb machine overturned on him at his Devon farm, leaving him with a severe brain haemorrhage, and in a coma for a week.

It’s the kind of life-changing event which may have prompted others to put their career on the backburner; perhaps devote more time to their loved ones. But while Rik’s a dedicated family man (he’s been married to wife Barbara for 15 years and the couple have three children, Rosie, 15, Sidney, 12 and Bonnie, six), early retirement was clearly never an option.

‘Work gives me pleasure,’ he states, matter-off-factly. ‘Hey, I was all but dead for five days and the doctors gave me a bit of extra time, so I’m very happy. And I may as well admit it, I was born to be on stage. That is the simple truth.’

Which probably explains why, since The Young Ones shot him to fame 20 years ago, he’s barely stopped performing. Has he always been career orientated? ‘I’ve never been career orientated, no, no!’ he snaps in horror. ‘I’ve just been Rik orientated, I need to express myself and make noise.

‘That was the worst thing about the accident because for a few months, my brain wasn’t working properly and I thought, “How will I work?”

‘The first thing I did afterwards was a voiceover for a cartoon and I only had about six lines, but I was so happy, I could have wept!’