by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
By James Rampton for Daily Express Saturday, 8th-14th November 2003
Despite one brush with death and another with the law, the eternal Young One, Rik Mayall, has no intention of growing old gracefully.
As an extrovert comedian, Rik Mayall is known for shouting a lot and joking about farts and bums. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be serious when he wants to. And now is one of those times, as he rasies the subject of his recent brush with the law.
“I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about the ban, but, in reality, I know that’s never going to happen!” admits Rik, who this summer was fined £1,000 and banned for three months after being arrested for driving at 113mph down the M5. Launching into an extravagant mea culpa, he says: “I don’t want to sound like I’m moralising, but speeding is stupid. I’m not embarrassed to talk about it, because I admit I’ve been reckless. I was an idiot. It was my first offence, but I can safely say I’ve learnt my lesson. From now on, I’m going to drive like a pensioner – at 20mph!”
The 45-year-old funnyman, who’s married to Barbara, and is the proud father of three children, Rosie, 16, Sidney, 13, and Bonnie, 7, is currently touring the country with Ade Edmondson, his double-act partner of 30 years, in their hit show Bottom: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts.
“I’ve thought about buying a horse to get me around while I’m on this tour, but maybe I’ll just get my kids to ferry me about on a combine-harvester. Or perhaps I’ll go out on a quad bike – except mine doesn’t work because it’s all bent!”
This last gag is typical of Rik, who is best-known for playing mad, Cliff Richard obsessed student Rick, in the ground-breaking 80s comedy, The Young Ones. He can make a joke out of even the bleakest events from his own life. Five years ago, after a horrific quad bike accident, he lay in a coma for a week with a fractured skull – doctors said he had a less than 50 per cent chance of making a full recovery Thankfully he defied the medics and is now fighting fit.
Stretched out on a divan in a swanky hotel suite, like Cleopatra expecting to be fed caviar, Rik is on splendid form. Wearing khaki shorts and a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, he showers the room with colourful bursts of wit. But even so, he admits that the traumatic accident has not left him unchanged. For a start, he is not permitted to drink any more. “I am aware I’ve got another chance, so I value stuff more. It’s made me much more appreciative. It may sound cliched, but now I see every day as a new opportunity. I could have been dead, but someone up there said, ‘OK, you can have an extension.’ It’s like being allowed to stay in the pub after hours! Before the accident, half the day was spent drinking and half was spent hungover. Now I can’t drink, I’ve got more time.” He is also, if anything, more exuberant than before. “Since I smashed my head, I feel like I’ve got a lot more freedom.”
Rik’s unique brand of inspired lunacy comes into its own in the live arena. There, he is a stranger to self restraint; he hurls himself into stage routines with a wince-inducing disregard for his own safety. “Last time out, both Ade and I ended up in casualty after a performance in Liverpool. But, if you can believe it, this year’s show has even more danger in it,” says Rik, looking gleeful at the prospect. “There are a lot more explosives and violence. In that sense, this may very well be our last ever tour!” But he and Ade obviously get a kick out of knocking seven bells out of each other. “We adore the slapstick – and so do our audiences. It’s everything everyone has always wanted to do to other people. Our stage characters are acting the way we’d all like to behave, if only we were allowed.”
Snootier critics have dismissed the act as juvenile, lavatory humour. “We’ve got to the stage now where we realise the heavyweight press have got it in for us,” sighs Rik. “But you have to surrender to Bottom in order to fully enjoy it. You have to say, ‘Oh, well, what the hell’ and just dive in. If you don’t, it just looks like a collection of fart jokes, but if you immerse yourself in it and go with the flow, it’s there for your pleasure.”
Although he’s not as young as he once was, Rik shows no sign of losing his appetite for high-energy stage antics. “I love working. It’s what I do best, and if I didn’t work and tried to slow down, I’d just become a boring old fart.” He and Ade still get the same rush from performing as they did when they started out, after meeting at Manchester University 28 years ago. “Our reward is to hear people laughing -that’s why we keep doing it. We’re not doing it for the fame or the money What better way is there to spend your life?”
Despite many years in the business, Rik is proud that he has never ‘sold out’. He still cultivates his status as an outsider, a man with something to prove. “We’ve always tended towards extremism. As we see it, there’s mainstream comedy, then there’s us. We still feel dangerous and we still feel like we’re breaking new ground. We like being in control of what we do. I’ve always had a problem with doing as I’m told – hence my recent little difficulty with the police!” Unable to resist one last gag, he adds: “I’ll always be a rebel, but now I’m a rebel without a driving licence, a rebel without a legal defence, a rebel without a leg to stand on.”
And, leaning back on his divan, Rik Mayall roars with laughter once more.