You’ve Got Mayall
by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
By Emma Perry for Time Out, 10th-17th July 2002
Rik Mayall returns to television – for the first time since his quad bike accident – as an evil scheming B’Stard. But no, it’s not another series of The New Statesman, although Believe Nothing is penned by Statesman writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. This time Mayall plays a professor – a genius – set in the mahogany world of academia. And in a nod to continuity, the new character is called Adonis C’nut (pronounced Canute).
‘It was tempting to continue Statesman and have Rik as a New Labour minister denying he’d ever been in the Conservative Party, but Rik didn’t really want to go over old ground,’ says Gran. ‘I think it would have been fun for a special but I’m not sure you could have gone on and on with it.’
There are similarities to the two characters, partly in the way Mayall plays them, but essentially where do B’Stard and C’nut part company? ‘Adonis is supposed to be brilliant whereas Alan was cunning. He’s more generous than Alan but it’s very hard to persuade Rik to play a part in which he’s not allowed to hit anyone. It’s the unwritten law,’ explains Gran.
And there’s plenty of violence in the first episode, particularly in the sadomasochistic relationship between C’nut and his manservant Albumen (Michael Maloney), who is not as idiotic as the Baldricks of this world but does get things wrong.
The set-up isn’t slick like American sitcoms, but actually, after some initial frustration (what’s the relevance of the Council For International Progress? What is C’nut a professor of and where is he based?) it comes together. And there’s a lot packed into 23 minutes. Gran explains they weren’t looking for neatness: ‘There’s not a story arc as such, I think we’ve become overly restricted by the worlds we create. In the same way that Kenny dies in South Park every week, this series is called Believe Nothing, and that means you should take everything you’re presented with as a desperate attempt to entertain.’
Mayall provides the physical slapstick while Marks and Gran are keen on a bit of word-play. And there are some great incidental bits (which Gran says he’s most fond of), like when Albumen is faced by the press after a quiz show appearance, and gets a word jumble question from Dave Short of Puzzle Week. It would spoil the joke to quote him. Believe Nothing is a sitcom that avoids being formulaic, but retains its own logic.