You’ve Got Mayall

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Michael Daniels for Beat, 26th July 2000

Meeting at university some twenty-five years ago, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson went on to become some of the corner stones of British comedy; producing such cult viewing as The Young Ones, Filthy, Rich and Catflap, Bottom, and The Comic Strip Presents. The guys have both hit the big screen before (Mayall with his attempt at breaking the U.S. market with Drop Dead Fred and Edmondson in the indie flick The Supergrass— which also featured his wife, Jennifer Saunders, and fellow Young One, Nigel Planner) — but it’s only now, with the release of their unofficial film continuation of Bottom, in Guest House Paradiso, that the guys are really causing such a stir in Oz, not seen since The Young Ones was compulsory viewing.

I caught up with Rik Mayall in person one very drizzly afternoon while he and Edmondson were out here doing the publicity thang — it was initially supposed to be with both the guys, but Edmondson got whisked away on business elsewhere.

I told Mayall that I had done nothing but watch The Young Ones, Filthy, Rich and Catflap and Bottom for the past few days — he was most impressed with the mention of Catflap at all, something he thought wasn’t even heard of in Australia, “I miss Catflap, and so do many fans in England. It got so hammered, because it wasn’t The Young Ones— which was so hypercritical… The Young Ones got hammered when it came out as well. So we were well and truly used to critics shit by the time we were on our next project after The Young Ones.”

Mayall talks about the run of Guest House Paradiso in the U.K., “it was originally supposed to have only a two week run, it came out just before last Christmas. Before we knew what was happening, it had a two week run, then three, four and five! Which is great! Especially at Christmas time; because we were up against really grown up, American flms. It did a bit of a run in Europe, after England… but Oz is really the only place of significance Guest House has come out in since. I have always thought, and still do, that we share a sense of humour. I’m not suggesting that the Brits and Aussies are all ‘common’, but we all share an ‘ordinary’ sense of humour. Its what Ade and I have always had, and it has always gone down well in our two (pointing to me) countries. Ade said something good this morning, he said ‘Australia is just like Britain, but without all the bollocks!’. And I don’t think I’m saying that in a purely business sense because I’ve been here, and toured here with The Comic Strip back in ’86… and its been since then, I’ve always loved here!”

I asked Mayall what he thought was the signifcant differences between the material he and Edmondson wrote, compared to the material they used to perform written by fellow comic Ben Elton (who wrote Filthy, Rich and Catflap and Blackadder, amongst others), “Definitely the dialogue. Ade’s and my wordplay is a little more particular, and a little more surreal. Ben’s sort of draws on more examples of things and current affairs. He (Elton) was more political in a small way — he wasn’t like ‘Pro Labour!’ sort of thing, but ours is definitely more insane.”

Mayall explains his and Edmondson’s relationship when writing, something like Guest House Paradiso or Bottom, “When we work, Ade sits at the computer and types — and I pace up and down and smoke, and churn out ideas. He sits and types and churns out ideas. I’ll suggest something, and he’ll top it… but we end up spending so much time laughing. We had the idea for Guest House Paradiso when we were in a hotel room on our last tour. Things grow — as much as The Dangerous Brothers grew into The Young Ones, which grew into Filthy, Rich and Catflap, which grew into Bottom; and Bottom grew into the live show, which grew into the film. Anyway, when you’re on tour, there’s a lot of waiting in the hotel; because you can’t drink before you go on. You just can’t! Because you can’t remember your words and act properly. So you’re lust sitting around — and we thought wouldn’t it be funny if our characters in Bottom were running this hotel. If Richie (Mayall’s character) was manager, and Eddie (Edmondson) came to the door with your drinks, and they were empty, because he’d like drunk them on the way. And it all just kind of grew from there… And it just seemed obvious that it had to be film, instead of stage or telly — because you want the camera in there. There are things you can do on stage that you can’t do on telly, there are things you can do on telly that you can’t do on film, and there are things you can do on film that you can’t do on stage! Like, you can run over Eddie’s head with a truck, for example!

I asked Mayall why he thought that British comedians in particular seem to stick together, as apposed to U.S. — eg: in one episode of Filthy, Rich and Catflap, other than Mayall, Edmondson and Planner, there was Gareth Hale (of Hale and Pace), Hugh Laurie (Blackadder), Stephen Fry (Peter’s Friends) and Chris Barrie (Red Dwarf). The yanks are more likely to do their obligatory Saturday Night Live thing where they rely on a team, then go off and pretty much do their own thing. Mayall theorises, “We all started when there was nothing. There was no British touring line of live comedy, and there was nothing on telly at all, except for nice, sickening sitcoms. So we all kind of formed a ‘club’ together. It’s the way to get on, was to gel together; it was the way we had to look after ourselves, was to form a gang! If you look back at British comedy, its exactly what the Monty Python team did; and The Goons — even though there were only three or four of them, they were inseparable. If you work together in a gang, its great! Ade and I were always a double act…we shared a sense of humour; its substantial.”