Holding Out for a Hero

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Steve Clark, Hold The Front Page, 2001

There comes a time in every reporter’s life when they have to interview one of their heroes.

And for Burton Mail trainee Chris Watson, it was a nerve-wracking experience when he spoke to comic actor Rik Mayall, due in the area in his new stage show A Family Affair.

Chris knew him mainly from TV appearances in The Comic Strip, The Young Ones and Bottom.

Given the chance of a 10-minute phone interview with Rik, Chris jumped at the chance to pose the questions.

He explained “Since I began working on the Mail, I hadn’t really been fazed by any interviews I’ve had to do.”

But the Rik Mayall interview was a different story.

He said “It was the first time I’d had to interview someone who I admired. In the back of my mind I kept thinking about what they say about how, when you meet your heroes, it can sometimes be a big disappointment.”

Chris collected his nerves, made sure all his notes were in front of him and dialled the number.

But things didn’t go to plan.

Chris explained “I rang the number right on the dot. It rang for ages and ages but nobody answered. I was a little bit disappointed because I’d been excited about talking to him but I was also a bit relieved because I hadn’t had to go through with it.”

He waited a few minutes before trying the number again.

Once again, it rang and rang but this time, somebody answered.

It was Rik!

“As soon as he answered, I could tell it was him because he’s got such a distinctive voice. He asked me if I could ring back in 90 seconds. I think he had to move from a rehearsal to his car or something.

“I just sat there, watching my second hand go round for 90 seconds and then I rang him again.”

This time, Rik was ready to talk and it wasn’t long before his trademark shock humour came to the fore.

Chris said “I said to him ‘Was that long enough’ and he replied ‘Just ask my knob!’.

After such a crude start, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill interview and Chris found it easy to chat to Rik in such an informal manner.

He said “We just chatted like a couple of mates down the pub. I think sometimes people forget that famous celebrities are still normal people.”

For much of the interview, Chris wasn’t sure if he was talking to Rik the actor or Rik the comedy character.

“I got the feeling that for some of the interview, he was making a real effort to be this larger-than-life wacky character. Maybe he thought it was what people expected of him.”

Chris also had the problem of trying to get usable quotes out of the comedian.

He said “So much of what he said was just really dirty. I started wondering if I was going to have anything I could put in the paper.”

And Chris seemed to touch Rik when he brought up the subject of the quad bike accident that nearly killed him three years ago.

“I asked him if the accident had changed the way he looked at life and he went all quiet on me.

“My first thought was, ‘oh no, I’ve said the wrong thing’ but then he spoke up. He sounded really moved and he told me that normally reporters tended to skirt around the accident.

“He said that it had made him more determined to do what he wanted in life and to live it to the full.”

The pair clearly struck up some sort of rapport.

Chris explained “We just chatted to each other. In the end, what was supposed to be a 10-minute slot ran well over and ended up lasting nearly half an hour.”

Now that he has been through such a pressurised situation and handled it well, he feels more confident about being asked to take on a similar job in the future.

He said “I think in future, it’ll be easier for me just to relax and enjoy the conversation. I’m sure Rik has forgotten all about me, but I like to think we got on pretty well.”