Rik Mayall in Conversation

by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog

Expose, November 2004

Martin Vaux went along to hear Rik Mayall in conversation with Paul Jackson. Here’s that he made if it…

There’s something universally amusing about a man being testicles. It’s one of the undeniable facts of human existence. You will die, taxes will rise and if someone gets kicked in the balls you’re going to giggle. Rik Mayall, one of Britain’s comedy legends, came to Exeter University last Thursday to talk about his life, the ups and down, ins and outs, and how he made a career out of being kicked in the testicles. I expected the clips of his shows and I expected to laugh, but I did not expect to actually learn anything. But you know what? I did.

To give you a bit of an overview, Rik didn’t manage to get into Exeter University. He got DDC in his A-levels and got into Manchester on clearing. It was there her found himself surrounded by the same pretentious drama students that we all know and love today. It was in this hellish Drama department that Rik met up with long time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson, and where things got really interesting.

Their reaction to all the crap theatre around them was to do the kind of performing that they found funny. Taking the ethics of punk rock with them, they set out to bring down the establishment. This started with such simple sketches as Talking Bollocks, where Rik and Ade suspended themselves from light-rigging in pink sleeping bags and did a bit of role play. It soon grew however to a stage act, and soon in came the sadism. They went down a treat, after all who would you rather watch: an hour long piece of performance art, or Rik getting twatted with a cricket bat? Sorry? The performance art? Oh right, you’re joking! Good one. But seriously now, Rik and Ade were so successful that they managed to play clubs and make money with their act, dubbed “The Dangerous Brothers”, all while still in university.

It was playing in clubs that Rik’s interviewer for the evening, Paul Jackson, now CEO of Granada USA, saw The Dangerous Brothers and got them on the telly. At Manchester Rik also met Lise Meyer, his partner in many things, and Ben Elton, who used to be funny, remember? Anyhow, Paul Jackson set Mayall, Meyer and Elton up with one of the first shows on BBC 2. They cast their friends, one which was of course Ade, as well as such comedy dignitaries as Alexei Sayle and Nigel Planer, who were at the time a couple of mates from their Comedy Club. And all of a sudden The Young Ones, Britain’s most ground-breakingly anarchic comedy series ever, was born.

Rik’s story continued with the return of the Dangerous Brothers, into The New Statesman, Bottom, and his time in film. On each of these he was charming and forthcoming, often willing to talk about more than Paul Jackson felt comfortable with. Unlike many interviews set up by the Creative Art’s Programme, Rik Mayall was happy to be honest, and did not veil his answers in promotional guff or pretentious waffle. He was down to earth, and also very, very funny. Most refreshingly however he was happy to really let you know the score.

Because of course to talk of Rik’s successes is to only get perhaps two-thirds of the story. That would involve skipping out the affair that lead to his marriage, bugger ups onstage, shows that were not so successful (such as one at this very university) and of course being at the whim of Television Executives. He wasn’t afraid to tell us about his rejections, and about the critical dressing downs, or about how he managed to make a career out of fucking things up. And all the while he was making us laugh, because he, himself, found the whole apparent farce of his life a point for much amusement.

Tickets for this event were, as the English Department will attest, like gold dust, and I can easily understand why. I expected the evening to be fun, but I didn’t expect it to be bloody brilliant. Right down to the question and answer session, which is usually a dead end in any interview, Rik stood strong and kept the facts flowing. If you ever get the chance to see Mr. Mayall doing a similar thing, please go. You will enjoy it, it’s that simple. And I can assure you, you’ll both learn and laugh about a hell of a lot more than some guy getting kicked in the bollocks, as well as perhaps learning how to make a career out of it yourself.