Rik Tries Some Really Sick Humour

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Simon Collins for The West Australian, 26th July 2000

Welcome to Guest House Paradiso: the worst hotel in the world. It’s a crumbling Victorian Gothic ruin perched on a cliff top, next to a nuclear power station. The chef’s drunk, the rooms smell and the hosts – manager Richie Twat (pronounced Thwaite) and partner Eddie Elizabeth Ndingombaba – are rude and incompetent. It makes Fawlty Towers seem like the Ritz. Guest House Paradiso is the setting for the feature film debut of Richie and Eddie, the violent, nasty characters inhabited by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson since they met at Manchester University in September 1975. The film also marks the directorial debut of Edmondson, who revels in the relative freedom of the big screen by making this comedy climax in a tsunami of projectile vomiting.

Mayall – barely surviving a marathon interview session in Sydney – says his constant collaborator took these puking scenes seriously. “He had lots of colours to choose from,” he explains. “They sent him videos of people being sick in different colours.” Edmondson settled on bright lime green.

The offensive vomiting scene is the culmination of 25 years of Mayall and Edmondson portraying basically the same violent characters on television in The Young Ones (as Rick and Vyvyan), Filthy, Rich and Catflap (as Richard and Eddie), Mr Jolly Lives Next Door (Richard and Eddie again) and Bottom (Richie Richard and Eddie Hitler).

Mayall states that Guest House Paradiso is not the Bottom  film, nor is it the Young Ones film, explaining the movie is just the beginning.

“For whatever failings it may have – of which it has none, in my opinion – this is now regarded by us as a pilot,” he says. “Not that there will be a Guest House 2 and 3, but there will be other films of ours with Richie and Eddie. Just like Laurel and Hardy, they set them in prisons, or the foreign legion…different stories, but the link will be Richie and Eddie.”

Laurel and Hardy were a common love that bonded Edmondson and Mayall when they met all those years ago, along with the Road Runner and early Tom and Jerry cartoons. The latter’s influence is especially easy to spot in Guest House Paradiso, with the duo attacking each other with frying pans, skewers and other kitchen items.

Mayall has enjoyed some film and theatre success without his offsider, most notably in 1991’s Drop Dead Fred. The 42-year-old comedian says he got involved in theatre because he “couldn’t be bothered” with sports and the lessons were “too straight”. Mainly, he trod the boards because he’s a “very vain person”.

“I’d be up onstage and there’d be a huge amount of people sitting in the dark, looking at me,” Mayall says. “I liked that a lot.”

How does his pride handle some scenes in Guest House Paradiso, especially when he creeps around the wretched hotel in red rubber underwear?

“It doesn’t matter as long as someone is looking at me,” he laughs.

“I’ve always played thoroughly unpleasant people and I like that. It’s probably something to do with expunging all the things you disapprove of about yourself.

“I tried to be a nice, normal bloke… but when you’ve got this mass of things you’ve suppressed in yourself – vanity, violence, selfishness, lust – you’ve got a garage full of high-octane emotions.

“When I’m in character, I get rid of all the things I disapprove of about myself.”

Recently, Mayall has had cause to take stock of his life. A four-wheeler motorbike accident in April 1998 left him in a coma for several days and it’s pretty much a miracle that he survived – let alone made a full recovery. Apart from conceding that the accident delayed the film “a bit”, Mayall refuses to become serious about his neardeath experience.

“I love that because it makes me sound even more interesting,” he says with mock arrogance. “What’s even more interesting was that I fell off the bike on the Thursday before Good Friday. My daughter Rosie now calls it Crap Thursday.

“I was going to die on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and then on the Sunday the doctor said, `I think he’s going to pull through’. Guess what day it was when it was announced I was going to live. That’s right – Easter Monday.”

Mayall holds back from claiming, a la John Lennon, that he’s bigger than Jesus, but he does quip: “I’m younger and I have a slimmer tummy”.

And he also announces: “There’s a sense of celebration in this film, the fight in the kitchen especially. There’s a glee in the violence.”