The Odd Couple

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Grub Smith for FHM, January 2000

After two decades spent multilating each other, isn’t it time Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson grew up? Thankfully this seems highly unlikely…

In the past they have drunk lighter fuel, hit each other with cricket bats, and superglued their private parts to the fannies of blow up dolls, so perhaps “first thing in the morning” is not the wisest time to interview Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson. True to form, when we arrive, the latter is lying out sparko on the sofa, nursing a hangover, and Rik — whose bad luck with vehicles can be summed up in the single word “quadbike” — is caught in traffic.

Soon enough, however, they are together and cracking gags at each other’s expense. Physically they seem… well, if not exactly fat for 41, then stocky, well-padded, comfortable. Appearances can be deceptive, mind you, and viewers of their latest project, a movie called Guest House Paradiso, will be staggered by the athletic manner in which they pummel each other for a full 90 minutes. The film is little more than Bottom writ large, with the same diet of beatings, fart gags and bodily fluids — only with more money and effort expended.

“The ‘vomit corridor’ scene is short in the final cut, but took a week to film,” remarks Edmondson, the movie’s director, with a seriousness to match any auteur. “We had all these meetings beforehand, with serious adult conversations, soberly discussing the merits of tandoori mix or creme de menthe mix, and there’s a crew member whose credit was ‘Vomit Technician’. We went for a fetching green puke in the end. As a homage to The Exorcist, naturally — they used pea soup.”

If not exactly a crowning artistic glory, the enjoyable romp is certainly no blemish on the record of a comedy team which has lasted longer than Monty Python. Both the sons of teachers, they met in the mid-Seventies on the drama course at Manchester University. “It was a very punky, experimental, left wing atmosphere, and we both took the piss out of everyone,” recalls Rik. After a few cameos on TV sketch shows, they hit the big time with the Young Ones, in which Rik played ”Rwick”, the acne laden Stalinist nancy boy, and Ade wreaked havoc as Vyvyan, the all gobbling, all-smacking punk psycho. Mayall followed this up with success as Alan B’stard in The New Statesman while Edmondson went off to direct pop videos, but they then revamped an earlier act — The Dangerous Brothers– and the cunningly named Bottom was born.

The details of their private lives have already been well-documented elsewhere, most notably that Adrian is married to Jennifer Saunders, and that Rik crashed himself into a coma (“I felt a bit of prat afterwards, frankly…”). They’ve got kids and big houses and lots of money, but as this isn’t Hello! let’s forget that stuff and get right down to the important details, the ones about woeful sexual incompetence, squeezing each others’ testicles, and driving motorcycles up the stairs.

A lot of your laughs come from extreme violence, but have you ever hurt yourselves?

AE: I’ve never broken a bone, but I did set myself very badly on fire in a Dangerous Brothers sketch. They put this special gel on my legs, which was only supposed to go up to my knees, but I must have been feeling particularly confident that day because I told them to go all the way to the groin. I said, “If the flames come too high, I’ll shout out the special emergency code word.” The trouble was I forgot the word, so they let me burn like kindling.

RM: Yeah that was nasty. My own worst injury — not counting the accident, of course — came when I was celebrating Margaret Thatcher’s resignation. I arrived at a party utterly pissed, shouting “There’s no more Thatch”, then felt down the stairs and broke my shoulder. She had her revenge for The New Statesman.

AE:Yeah, but you showed her, mate. Only took 18 years of alternative comedy to get her out of office.

RM: And it was my wanking arm…

On that subject, there’s a scene in the film where your scrotum gets viciously crushed between some nutcrackers. How much padding did you have on?

RM:None at all. Those were my bollocks and it did hurt. I was heroic.

AE:It was, in fact, a small toy ladybird. We tried it with just Rik’s pills, but the camera just couldn’t see a bulge. Not even with the zoom.

RM:Yeah, okay, that’s true.

You both attended minor public schools. Were there any gay incidents when the big boys came on to you?

AE:I don’t remember them coming on me. Rik?

RM:Absolutely none. No recollection. Apart from being buggered in the library, but that was only on Tuesday mornings. Actually, I think it helped that I never went in the big communal shower after games. As a day boy I had the option of doing my afternoon lessons caked in mud and having a bath at home.

AE: Pathetic. Just to stop getting queered up…

But as a teenager, you shared a bedroom with a pal for two years…

RM:Er… yes. He was called Mike.

AE:Mike, also known as “Cynthia”…

RM:I’m sensing that you’re looking for a mutual masturbation story here. All I can give you, sadly, happened when I was ten. There was a school trip to Norfolk, and we were all steeping in the same cabin. There was one older boy, who announced, “Right! I’m going to have a wank now.” All the others went, “Okay! Yeah! Me too!”, but I didn’t know what a wank was. I just copied them, banging the sheet up and down not having a clue what was going on. Then they said, “Are you coming, Mayally,” and I replied, “Er, but I’m already here…”

When was the last time you were in a fight?

AE:I was at some charity ball, and because I was a minor celebrity, they made me do the raffle. I was pissed and I had no material, so I swore quite a lot in an effort to make it interesting. When I came off the stage, this little fat bloke rushed over and, with no warning, punched me in the face. I was with Jennifer. She hit him full in the face and bloody well hurt him. My girl had to save me. Yeah, my ho’.

Did people pick fights with you in pubs after you played “hard nut” Vyvyan in The Young Ones?

AE:I’m not sure it was just that, because I was a very bolshy bloke in those days. I remember going round to Rik’s house and getting in a fight with two of his mates. I think I was just a mouthy bastard who enjoyed teasing people a bit too hard.

RM: He’s good at fighting.

Well, they’re mostly scuffles. One punch and then you’re both rolling around on the ground trying to rub each other’s head in the grass.

Rik, you once said, “I’m occasionally lethal if people tuck about with me”…

AE:(Laughing) Oh yeah, he “ices” people.

RM:I’ve only been in three fights. There was one in Holland Park, which I lost resoundingly, against a security man. I’d just married my wife, Barbara, and when we left a party, we found the road blocked by a huge lorry. Our driver gave a toot on the horn, and this little old man ran over shouting, “Stop making that fucking noise.” Barbara tried to explain that we were just trying to get by, but he called over the security chap who screamed “You shut your fucking mouth, woman!” I jumped out of the back seat and rolled my sleeves up…

AE:Oh dear, he had to be brave…

RM:I took one swish at him, which missed, then he started banging my face on the car bonnet. Luckily, Hugh Laurie was leaving the party too…

Is he a hard man?

RM:No, but he’s got a very loud, posh voice, which made the guy run away.

What about the time you glassed someone in a pub?

RM:There was this wanker who was saying all miners were fat, lazy, stupid northerners…

AE:Which is wrong. Some of them are from Kent…

RM:I swung at him, and being a fat drunk, I missed and fell on top of him. He landed on a glass which had somehow made its way onto the floor. Honest.

What drink do you recommend to the trainee drinker?

RM: Cider’s always been the final solution.

AE:Barley wine’s good. And Buckfast Tonic. Oh, and Thunderbird, of course, which is also excellent for catching wasps. You put some in a jam jar, and the wasps get attracted to it. Then they drown. They must get pissed first, so it’s quite humane, really.

RM:I know it’s old fashioned, but I still swear by Colt 45 Lager. If you have four cans, you’re guaranteed to be pissed out of your vest. If you have one sip more — if you even touch a fifth can — you’ll be sick.

AE:We used to go to parties with a fourpack each, which we’d hang from our belt buckles by the plastic binding. A stupid look in fashion circles, perhaps, but if you risked putting it on the table someone else would steal it.

RM:And you knew, scientifically, when you had an empty belt, you were pissed. It was time to go home.

AE:Because you hadn’t got a shag…

When you played Donnington with your heavy metal band Bad News, the fans responded by throwing urine and sheep’s eyeballs. How does that feel?

AE:It was worse at Reading, actually. Lots of people in the crowd had these plastic lemonade bottles, and they used them for having a slash in rather than going all the way back to the lavs. You’d swallow two or three cupfuls a night. And gob too. I got plenty of that on my tongue. It stops you wanting to be a pop star, believe me.

RM:The sheep’s eyeballs were my fault. I went on a radio show, and in an attempt to be amusing said, “Our fans go crazy, they’re hardcore, they even throw sheep’s eyeballs at us!” Naturally, the next time we went on stage, there were hundreds of them flying through the air. They must have cleaned out all the LocaL butchers’ shops.

Did you really ride a motorbike up Rik’s staircase?

AE:Yeah, I did get it to the top, but unfortunately the landing was too narrow to turn around. There was no terrible Eddie Kidd moment, but I remember the embarrassment of trying to get it back down. There was a lot of bravado and cheering when I went I up, but it felt a bit damp. And I must say, it happened in a low-roofed cottage, so it was a short staircase.

RM:It was still impressive.

And Rik, did you wipe a bogey on Gloria Hunniford?

AE:Or did you just come in her face?

RM:Well, not all of her face. It’s a wide face. Mostly in her mouth. Er, but the bogey thing is true, only she didn’t notice because she was looking away.

What was your closest brush with death?

AE: I spent some time in Uganda as a kid, where my dad was a school teacher, and we were involved in a sort of carjacking. We were driving behind two British army sergeants who were training the Ugandan army. They got stopped by some terrorist-type people who started pistol-whipping them. We were sat in our Little Renault 4, and then one of these guys shoved a pistol in the window. I was only 13, but I didn’t really scream because my two Little brothers were doing enough of that. Happily, it turned out that the terrorists were actually an army squad looking for terrorists, so that gives you some idea of the situation out there. Mind you, I did meet Idi Amin once. There was a great story about someone trying to kill him. He was walking along the street when someone threw a hand grenade at him, but it bounced right off his head and exploded in the crowd.

What was the worst job you had before you became famous?

AE:I worked in a pork pie factory, and there was a great list up every week, detailing all the foreign bodies that customers had complained about finding in their pies. It was very particular. There were pubic hairs, head hairs, nuts and bolts, toenail clippings, one chap even said he’d found some scissors in there… anyway, there were about 25 different named items, and then it got to something called “unidentified”, which I found very alarming.

RM:I was a roadsweeper…

AE:He did it as a hobby because he liked the fluorescent jacket.

RM:It was hot and boring and I learnt to hate schoochildren. I’d start at six in the morning and get the streets tidy, then they’d all go into the shops in the estate and drop hundreds of sweet wrappers. Little fuckers.

Apparently, you’ve both seen Tom “Lofty off EastEnders” Watt stark naked

AE: Yeah, he did drama at University with us, and he was in a theatre group called Inner Threat, whose defiant stand against society involved always doing naked shows. He played a naked tree in Waiting For Godot and he pissed on one of the actors. Then there was this girl called Fiona who had to symbolise giving birth, and the other actors slowly pulled a long ribbon out of her fanny. It must have taken ages to get up there. It was huge. They passed it through the audience.

The Young Ones was about psychotic students, but who was the worst one you met at college?

AE:There was one medical student we knew who thought these people in the pub had looked at his bird “in a funny way”. So he followed their bus home in his car, and when each one got out at a stop, he braked and beat them up.

RM: There was another medic who stole a knob from one of the corpses they were dissecting, and he took it into a public toilet. There was always a big queue there, and when he got to the urinal he stood there going, “Come on! Fucking come on!”, as though talking to his knob. This went on for five minutes, until he said, “Fuck this!”, took out a knife and pretended to slice it off. He threw it on the floor and two people fainted.

Adrian, you got done for drunk driving, and said afterwards, “I agree with everything the magistrate said.” Wasn’t that a bit wimpy?

AE: Well, you have to, don’t you? It just meant I had to ride my bicycle pissed instead. I know you shouldn’t drink and drive, but I do. Often to my cost, in fact, Like the time I was on my motorbike. It was one of those old BMWs with the cylinders that stick out the side, and I was overtaking some people, unaware that there was a car coming the other way. It was a very narrow gap, and I ended up on the ground. It was obviously my fault, but I didn’t have any insurance, so I went to the first bloke and said, “Look, I’LL just pay for it, eh?” He was fine with that but sadly the second man turned out to be a policeman. I took my helmet off expecting to be nicked, but as soon as he saw me, he went, “You’re that Vyvyan! From The Young Ones!” Not only did he let me off, he even gave me a lift home. I sat there trying not to look drunk, not even breathing in his direction, and I got away with it right up until the very end when I got out of his car. That’s when I slammed the door on my thumb. So I’m going, “Awfff… furrr… eaaargh,” and he winds down the window and says, “You could make that into one of your skits, couldn’t you?”

Talking of skits, is it true you once got two huge nylon bags and performed a theatrical piece entitled “God’s Testicles”?

AE: Yes, it was meant to be God’s bollocks, but we couldn’t work out how to hang them from the ceiling. So it became the somewhat less spectacular “Man Getting out of a Nylon Bag”