Red Devil

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

By Debbie Waite for This Is Oxfordshire, 5th May 2006

Rik Mayall comes on the phone. He’s backstage at the Bristol Hippodrome.

“Debbie right?” he asks, in that unmistakable clipped tone. “From Oxford?

“Right. That’s where we’re coming next – and we want to sell loads of tickets.”

And then he’s off, talking 10 to the dozen – about the show – The New Statesman: Episode 2006: The Blair B’Stard Projectthe writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, and the return of the notorious Alan B’Stard, now Tony Blair’s right hand man in the Labour cabinet.

My carefully crafted list of questions is soon in a scrunched-up ball on the floor.

As I scrabble to write down his erratic quotes and juicy soundbites – it’s a bit like talking to a real politician, on acid.

“When they came to me and said they were bringing back Alan, I said $%&*off, that was 15 years ago!” he shrieks.

“But it’s absolutely fantastic and the audiences are loving it.”

In the play, B’Stard has switched from the Conservatives to New Labour. Explaining the defection, Mayall says: “They (Labour) are much more right-wing than the Conservative Party.

“Alan’s now Tony’s (Blair’s) leading adviser. He’s made a load of money out of the war and the sex industry and he’s right in there. It’s all about depravity in British politics.”

Writers, Gran and Marks, say they originally thought they would be writing a comedy about B’Stard shamelessly changing his spots to shift from Tory to Labour.

But now they say they realise the MP fits seamlessly into the current Labour Party.

Gran says: “We never thought they would be quite so ghastly quite so quickly and that they would give us so much ammunition.

“We wondered about Alan changing sides a long time ago but New Labour was popular then.

“Now the time is right.

“You can’t do something as beastly as we are unless the party is lying on the floor with a big ‘kick me’ sign on it.”

When I finally manage to slip a question in, I ask if it’s true that the show is constantly changing.

“Yeah, the writers are travelling with us and adding bits all the time,” he says. “The Queen’s birthday gave us some great material, and with Prescott, well, we should have another 20 gags by the time we get to you in Oxford next week.

“I love the theatre,” he continues, before I get chance to ask another.

“With television you’re surrounded by a load of middle class people saying things like “Oh, it’s best you don’t tell that kind of joke there,” and “Oh we couldn’t possibly do that!”.

“But theatre is all about free speech – it’s the best.”

One of the first and foremost ‘alternative’ comedians in the UK, Mayall was born just outside Harlow in Essex to drama teacher parents.

His acting debut was at the age of seven when he appeared in one of his father’s stage plays.

He met his comedy partner and friend Adrian “Ade” Edmondson at Manchester University in 1975.

They soon began performing together as a comedy act called Twentieth Century Coyote at the now legendary Comedy Store in London, before moving their act to a venue called The Comic Strip.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Mayall wrote The Young Ones(1982) with Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, and at only 24 years of age became one of the most popular comedians in Britain.

Bottom, again a huge hit, saw him team up with Ade Edmonson again.The show only ran for three series but became such a cult hit that they toured it in theatres for years afterwards.

He played Alan B’Stard in four series of The New Statesman, winning several awards, including a Bafta and an Emmy.

“B’Stard is now 50”, I say. “Has he calmed down any?”

Mayall replies: “If anything he’s even worse!”