Flushed with Success
by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
IC Newcastle.co.uk, 27th October 2003
Comedy duo, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, spoke to Will Mapplebeck ahead of their visit the North-East with their new show.
As relationships go, Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson are enjoying a comedy partnership that has already outlived most marriages.
It might seem hard to believe, but the fresh-faced comedians have been writing gags together for almost 30 years.
They met as drama undergraduates at Manchester University and went on to help change the face of British comedy when they co-starred in The Young Ones.
But Rik, lounging on a sofa in a chic London hotel, believes their best work lies ahead. Taking precious time out from their new show, Bottom: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts, which hits the North-East next weekend, he says: “It has been 28 years since the first joke, and I think we are writing better than ever now.”
Rik and Adrian have forged a fruitful relationship, producing some of alternative comedy’s finest moments.
As well as The Young Ones, the show that made their anarchic brand of comedy mainstream, they were part of the Comic Strip team and have collaborated on a whole host of other projects.
These days, Rik and Adrian are best known for Bottom – a bizarre comedy of errors and explosions featuring misfits Richie and Eddie.
They bill themselves as two brawling, boozing, bungling bickerers who bring a new meaning to the phrase low life.
And, like The Young Ones, Bottom is all about hands-on, violent comedy. The pair promise “full on destruction” when their show reaches Sunderland Empire and Newcastle City Hall.
And the plot is typically bizarre, featuring a time-travelling toilet, called The Turdis, and an elemental battle between good and evil.
Rik says: “Eddie has always been an inventor of ridiculous machinery. But this time he has turned the lavatory into a laboratory with the aim of making The Lager of Mass Destruction.”
He and Ade travel back to the dawn of time in their toilet, only to discover to their horror that essentials like Emmerdale Farm and handguns have not been invented yet.
Along the way there are a host of explosions and a lot of physical comedy.
“Last time out, both Ade and I ended up in casualty after a performance in Liverpool,” Rik adds. “I opened the bridge of his nose with a metal jug and in retaliation he sliced my forehead open with a spade.
“If you can believe it, this year’s show has even more danger in it. There are a lot more explosives and violence. In that sense, it may be our last ever tour.”
If the comedy duo’s previous live performances are anything to go by, Bottom’s army of devoted fans will be rolling in the aisles when the bangs begin. But what is it about those violent stage antics that attracts audiences?
“It is because watching the show is a sudden release from the usual constraints of polite society,” Rik states.
“When you watch that happening to someone else rather than yourself it brings a tremendous feeling of relief.
“When you really get into the rhythm of the show it brings a real rush.
“You can reach this plane of pleasure where laughter and speed and noise all collide. It is a kind of visual music.”
And despite almost three decades in the comedy game, and a near-fatal accident in which he spent a week in a coma after crashing his quad bike four years ago, Rik doesn’t show any signs of losing his passion for making other people smile.
“We are not doing it for the fame or the money, but for the deep satisfaction of making people laugh,” he says thoughtfully. “What better way is their to spend your life?”
Adrian meanwhile admits that the pair are not “urbane wits”, but says their strength is “performing to the hilt”.
He adds: “That is why it is such an enjoyable live experience. It depends on the audience. It doesn’t work without them being there.”
And according to Adrian, he and Rik are carrying on that great British comedy tradition, finding anything to do with the toilet or bodily functions absolutely hilarious.
“There is a lot of rubbish written about toilet humour – people saying it is childish and pretending its beneath them – but there is no doubting the effectiveness of a really good gag,” he snorts.
But after nearly 30 years, are Adrian and Rik growing tired of each other’s company? Do they get jealous when they team up with other people?
“It only works because we still amuse each other,” smiles Adrian. “After we’ve been off working with other people, it is so refreshing to laugh unreservedly when we are back together again.
“I’m 46 and there are occasions when I am performing Bottom and I think, ‘Is this lacking dignity’? But the answer comes back, ‘Yes, thank God!'”
Rik agrees. While he still gets a buzz out of comedy and out of working with Adrian, there’s no stopping him.
“We’re realising that Bottom is where our hearts lie,” he says. “We may go off and do little jobs elsewhere, but we keep coming back to this partnership. It is a road that just keeps on going.
“We still feel dangerous and we still feel we are breaking new ground. I suppose we like being in control of what we do. I’ve always had a little problem with doing what I am told.”