Comic Rik’s wife is Jewish

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Grant Rollings for The Sun, July 2002

COMEDIAN Rik Mayall says he can’t be anti-Semitic – because his wife and children are Jewish.

The former Young Ones star was criticised last week for his spoof portrayal of Hitler in a £1million anti-euro cinema advert.

Dressed as the Nazi leader, Rik rants: “Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Euro!” (One people! One empire! One euro!).

The Board of Deputies of British Jews, which represents Jewish people here, claimed the three-second clip of Rik in uniform “belittled” the memory of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust.

Yet the dad-of-three says he doesn’t need any lectures about Judaism and the sensitivities aroused by references to Hitler.

Rik, who has been married for 17 years to Barbara, explains: “My wife is Jewish, so my children are Jewish, too, as the Jewish race goes through the mother’s line.

“And I suppose that if the SS were to march in, I’d be in the concentration camp for collaboration simply for marrying Barbara.”

The No Campaign commercial, that will be seen in 200 cinemas from July 12, also features Sir Bob Geldof, Vic Reeves, Harry Enfield and Johnny Vaughan.

All urge voters to oppose plans to replace the Pound with the euro.

But it is Mayall’s performance in the 90-second advertisement that has particularly rattled the pro-euro camp, with the European Commission describing it as being in “appallingly bad taste” and “insulting”.

And Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy describes the commercial as “offensive”.

However, the funnyman insists the Yes camp has missed the point of his skit, which he says is meant to be satirical.

Rik, 44, says he is against the euro because he wants Britain to remain independent of Brussels.

He says: “In essence, the argument we in the No camp wish to get across is that it is possible to be a European but against the euro — and able to use national stereotypes to laugh at Europeans.”

But his use of Hitler as a stereotype has failed to raise a laugh among leading members of the Jewish community in Britain, many of whom have branded it as tasteless.

Labour peer Lord Janner, who is chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, described the portrayal as “crass, distasteful and totally inappropriate”.

He added: “Those responsible should withdraw this offensive advert immediately.”

But No Campaign director George Eustice argues: “It is a harmless comedy sketch for three seconds in a 90-second film.”

When Tony Blair was questioned about the ad in the House of Commons last week, he played down its significance by saying: “A joke is a joke.”

The Prime Minister added that economic arguments would win the day on whether the UK adopted the euro — not celebrities or pop stars.

Rik believes passionately in the serious message behind his Hitler spoof.

In an interview in yesterday’s Sunday Times, he said: “It’s satire. Look, I’m saying what I say because if Hitler tells people to support the euro then surely they won’t — that’s the point of it.

“I’m not a joiner. So that means no to joining the euro.

“So on the euro it’s really that I’m an independent sort of person.

“If we join the euro the people in Brussels will take even more decisions on our behalf.

I don’t trust the financiers of Europe.Britain resisted the Armada and, yes, Hitler too.

“I like this distance we in Britain have. A little island between mainland Europe and America.”

Rik is not the first comedian to make fun of Hitler.

John Cleese, Spike Milligan and Mel Brooks have also sent up the German dictator.

Last week Jewish stand-up comic Ian Stone insisted Hitler should not be off-limits to comics.

Ian, 38, who performs regularly at London’s Comedy Store, said: “The whole point about this is that it is a joke.

“I didn’t think it was particularly funny but that doesn’t mean Rik shouldn’t have done it. Just because people have done appalling things doesn’t mean that you can’t make a joke out of them.”

Rik, who is about to appear in his first major television series since recovering from the 1998 quad bike accident that almost killed him, is well known for his digs at Right-wing politics.

He is famous for mocking the Tories in his Eighties TV series The New Statesman, in which he played lying, cheating Conservative MP Alan B’stard.

Rik claims he wanted to “destroy Thatcher” because cutbacks made by the former Conservative Prime Minister led to the closure of the collegE where his father worked.

Rik, who was born in Essex and brought up in the Midlands, considers himself to be British.

He says: “I’m not really English. In fact, I’ve got bits of Irish and Scottish blood in me.

“When I was in Edinburgh last year I went into a kilt shop and told them my name was originally Meall, not Mayall.

“The shop assistant looked up Meall and told me my family had come from Angus. He found the right kilt.”