Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson interview

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Julie Goodhand for Virgin.net, 9th October 2001

Celebrity couples, don’t you just love them? Posh and Becks, Madonna and Guy and, one of our most long-standing institutions, Rik and Ade.

Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson have been breaking wind and trouncing each other with blunt instruments in the name of comedy for 25 years (yup, a whole quarter century). Since teaming up at Manchester University, the pair went on to give us 20th Century Coyote, The Dangerous Brothers, The Young Ones and Filthy, Rich and Catflap. For their silver wedding anniversary (if you like), the pair are now on the road with a celebratory tour of latest creation Bottom. But how have they stayed so faithful to toilet humour and each other? We found out…

So guys, 25 years! How do you keep the excitement in your relationship?

[Adrian]: “The secret is that we’re out for a good time. On stage, we just want to generate hysteria. We don’t care about looking cool or posing. We don’t have any agenda, apart from ‘Please laugh your bollocks off’. There are no rules — we just go from moment to moment trying to crank up the excitement.”

You’re on the road with Bottom 4; 2001 An Arse Oddity. For anyone who’s been living in a cave, what is Bottom all about?

[Rik]: “Bottom is just a stupid, stupid cartoon full of stupid jokes told with tremendous panache. It’s absolute bollocks told in perfect rhythm. People have trouble with it because comedy’s been intellectualised about an awful lot during the last 15 years, but when you get down to it, all you’re watching is a couple of guys being stupid and hitting each other. The French love us, of course. Its attraction is complete escapism. It’s like ‘forget about the day’s work and just laugh your tits off’.”

You get beaten about the head, the audiences laugh. Seems like a rough deal?

“We adore the slapstick. It’s everything everyone has ever wanted to do to other people. Richie and Eddie are acting out the way we’d all like to behave if only we were allowed to. It offers a fantastic escape from reality.”

[Adrian]: “We all laugh when we witness other people’s pain. It’s called schadenfreude. What we’re doing is wish fulfillment. Twotting someone with a spade without any consequences is something we’d all like to do. How many times have you sat fuming in a car, thinking ‘I wish I had a machine-gun now’?”

I presume there’s still plenty of trademark toilet humour?

[Rik]: “Journalists ask me why we keep telling the same old fart joke — which is utter bollocks because we wrote a new one 15 years ago. Also, critics say we always do fart jokes, but that’s absolute rubbish. There’s a brilliant piss joke in the show.”

[Adrian]: “Some snooty people have a natural antipathy to toilet humour. But for me, it’s always funny. If, for instance, the Queen were to fart during Trooping of the Colour, I’d laugh my head off. I don’t mind not knowing why. I try not to analyse what we do too much. You’re entering dangerous land when you start theorising about comedy.”

Let’s face it, your characters Ritchie and Eddie in Bottom are pretty repulsive guys. Why have they become so popular?

“People like them because they reflect aspects of their own lives. In all our lives, there’s not a lot to do, no one will achieve very much and we end up with someone we just about manage to get on with. No one else would have Richie or Eddie. That’s representative of a lot of people’s existences. Bottom is not as far-fetched as people might think.”

That’s a bit worrying. Let’s move on… Any chance either of you will ‘go solo’?

[Adrian]: “Richie and Eddie couldn’t exist without each other. They’re two halves of the same person. I’m not Eddie and Rik isn’t Richie, but we certainly have those leanings. When we met at University we found that we’d been the same person at different schools: we’d had the same rebellious attitude, done the same plays, cooked a snook at sport in the same way. Our mums had even sent us to university with the same dressing gown, a Marks & Spencer tartan number if I remember rightly.”

[Rik]: “Ade’s my partner. I may go off and have other adventures, but my greatest pleasure, my raison d’etre, has always been my double act with him.”

[Adrian]: “Double acts are just so much more exciting to watch. It may just be me, but I find stand-ups boring after 15 minutes. There’s never any dynamic. But with a double act you always know that there will be something going on. They just spark off each other so brilliantly.”

What about retiring? After all, you are both in you forties now…

[Rik]: “We’ve always been rockers. That’s our generation. And rockers never give up. They just keep rocking and expressing themselves and doing their thing. It’s like that great line from Tom Stoppard — ‘What happens to old actors?’ ‘Nothing, they’re still acting.’ We’ll never stop. We wouldn’t know how to retire!”

[Adrian]: “We’ll carry on doing Richie and Eddie as long as people keep coming to see them. Audiences still seem keen to watch the show. We’re always surprised by how many young people flock to see the show. I suppose the idea is, ‘get em young, brainwash em and then they never leave’!”