As he returns to TV in a Jonathan Creek special, Rik Mayall reveals his bitterness after his Young Ones chum Ade Edmondson suddenly pulled out of their latest project.
By Nicole Lampert for the Daily Mail, 22nd March 2013
Jesus wasn’t the only one to be resurrected at Easter. Rik Mayall was too.
‘And as I was technically dead for five days I beat our Lord Jesus 5-3,’ laughs the still outrageous comedian. It was the day before Good Friday in April 1998 that Rik had a quad bike accident which left him with a fractured skull and bleeding on his brain.
He was clinically ‘dead’ – being kept alive by a life-support machine – for five days. On the sixth day the doctors told his make-up artist wife Barbara they were going to switch the machine off.
There was a slim chance his brain would start working by itself, they told her, but they also warned her to say goodbye.
But then the machine monitoring his brain started beeping. ‘There was independent life in there,’ he says. That day is still commemorated by Rik, his wife and their three children with an exchange of presents. He’s not a person who likes to be serious for more than a few seconds, but he is when he says, ‘The main difference between now and before my accident is I’m just very glad to be alive.
Other people get moody in their forties and fifties – men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy.’
The theme of resurrection has been on his mind again lately. Up until a few weeks ago he believed his long-standing working relationship with Adrian Edmondson was back on for the first time in a decade as the pair worked on reviving their cult comedy series Bottom.
The duo – known as The Dangerous Brothers because of their propensity for hitting each other over the head – found fame after meeting at Manchester University.
Even when they were in The Young Ones in the early 80s it was still very much the Rik and Ade show. But since Rik’s accident they have worked on their own projects and, devastatingly, it appears that Ade no longer wants the relationship to continue.
‘We started working on something and then we realised why we’d stopped working together,’ Ade said recently of his decision not to continue with Bottom. ‘Once you get to a certain age you want to do things you really enjoy, not just things you can do.’
Rik tries to make a joke of it. ‘You want to know about my bottom?’ he guffaws. But he can’t hide his disappointment that the project has been scuppered.
‘The BBC came to us about reviving these characters and we wrote two episodes in which we were really old b******s and they were very funny and the BBC liked them,’ he says. ‘But then Ade changed his mind.
‘He said we weren’t old enough – I said that’s why it’s called acting. He wants to wait ten f*****g years until we’re older, but I won’t be able to see or walk by then. I loved working with him. I was on my knees laughing. But he wants to be a musician and he wants to talk about walls in Yorkshire.’
Edmondson has written and presented several documentaries about Britain lately, but Rik doesn’t appear to be a fan of his more serious work. ‘I’ve watched, oh, minutes of those shows,’ he says.
‘When he’s not being serious about Yorkshire walls he’s very funny. Especially when I’m beating him up. But good luck to him. Anyway, let’s not talk about that. Let’s talk about me,’ he says, grinning maniacally.
We’re actually here to talk about yet another resurrection. While he’s done lots of theatre work over the past few years, apart from a few adverts Rik has been absent from our TV screens. But now he’s back with a show that itself appears to have risen from the ashes: Jonathan Creek.
The gentle BBC comedy-drama, which stars Alan Davies as the sleuth who specialises in supernatural mysteries, has been revived for a one-off at Easter after nine years (although there have been a couple of specials in between) by writer David Renwick. Jonathan Creek has always been rather important to Rik.
He was front- runner to play Jonathan originally, ‘but I was tragically unavailable’. Instead he played Detective Inspector Gideon Pryke in the show’s 1998 Christmas Special – the first job he took on after his accident.
He was still ill – ‘It was pretty dodgy for a few years as they had to work out which pills I needed to be on to get the blood to run through the brain’ – but he was back at work.
And now Gideon has been brought back, although Rik is almost unrecognisable in the role. It was a bit of a joke for David to make Rik, known for his often violent slapstick, play someone who in this one-off episode has been paralysed from the neck down apart from his left finger, which he uses to drive his wheelchair madly.
Gideon, it transpires, was hit by a sniper while rescuing a puppy during a siege at the Chinese embassy. But Rik is up for the challenge.
‘It’s fabulous to come back to this,’ he says. ‘Gideon’s different from the other characters I play. I tend to play ego. I’ve been well known for 32 years now and there’s an expectation, so it’s good to confound that. And it was lovely to work with Nigel Planer again.’
Rik’s former Young Ones companion plays the man whose mysterious death the detectives are investigating. ‘We only had one scene together – it was just me and his severed head,’ says Rik. ‘But it was a very good head; I wanted to take it home. The wardrobe department got cross with me because I got fake blood all over my trousers.’
Jonathan Creek will be back for a series of three episodes next year and Rik says he’d love to be a part of it. But for now he’s rather pleased to be on at Easter. ‘Maybe it’s divine intervention,’ he says mischievously.