Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Category: 1994

Walden Meets his Match; Rik Mayall and Brian Walden in the Programme A. B’Stard Exposed

By John Millar for Scottish Ddaily Record and Sunday Mail, 30th December 1994

The most outrageous MP ever to be voted into the hallowed halls of Westminster returns tonight.

Rik Mayall’s devious Tory, Alan B’Stard, is back in the political whirl after a by-election victory.

But his comeback is tinged with mystery and more than a dash of deceit. Apparently his rivals were found at the bottom of a coal pit.

In this comedy special, B’Stard is grilled on screen by political pundit and interviewer, Brian Walden.

And word is that it’s the toughest telly encounter yet for Walden, who has interviewed Prime Ministers and political leaders.

This one-off means a switch of channels for the comic character Alan B’Stard.

Previously, he was seen on ITV in the hit comedy series, The New Statesman.

But this show doesn’t mean that The star of The Young Ones and Bottom has returned to the BBC fold and deserted ITV. Rik will be seen in another series of TV films on ITV early in the new year.

Rogue Mayall

For Options, July 1994

Can you be a bit of a sex god and an overgrown schoolboy with a taste for toilet humour at the same time? Tim Carroll ponders the two faces of Rik Mayall.

At public school, Rik Mayall and his friends spent mid-morning coffee breaks lounging in the graveyard of a derelict church, defiantly puffing away on Embassy No. 6 fags. Factory workers from the nearby Worcester Porcelain Works cast doleful glances in the direction of the privileged boys who pondered the meaning of life and casually flicked ash over the remains of those who might be expected to have a better insight.

One of these unlikely Midlands public schoolboys was set to become Britain’s leading exponent of toilet humour. Rik was in the vanguard of ‘alternative’ talent which burst on to our TV screens in the early Eighties with a shameless salvo of burps, farts and other bodily emissions aimed at the beneficiaries of Thatcher’s revolution. He has few rivals as a purveyor of puerile wit. ‘He is naturally funny,’ says Ben Elton, ‘whereas I have to work hard at it.’ ‘I really like Rik because his humour is just so utterly stupid,’ admits Harry Enfield.

‘Rik makes me laugh more than anyone or anything,’ says long-term comic partner Ade Edmondson. ‘Our relationship is like a marriage, I suppose. That’s why it’s so difficult.’ During their most recent TV collaboration in Bottom, Ade said, ‘We still have the facility to amuse each other in a way that no one else can.¬†Bottom¬†is the projection of the kind of people we knew we could be if circumstances failed us. We have always had a vision of what we would be like in old age: sitting at home, drinking pints of mild, and pinching people’s bottoms.’

Old age was the last thing on Rik’s mind during those midmorning sessions in the Worcester graveyard. The ‘smoking den’ generally included Rik’s soul mate Mike Redfern, along with several sporty types, a couple of hardened drug addicts and stiff-upper-lipped Peter Vyvyan-Robinson, the fuddyduddy of the group who resolutely kept his red hair neatly trimmed, unlike his peers. His reward, many years later, was a name check as the pimply-faced punk Vyvyan in The Young Ones. Unlike his namesake, Peter is a rugby-playing City highflier and a member of many distinguished clubs.

‘Rik might have taken the occasional drag on a joint if it came around, but he would never go out of his way for it,’ says Peter. ‘But he was clever enough to know that the drug culture was not about drugs; it was about posing and posturing. The smoking den was a great source of fun and games for him. It’s that sort of company, and that sort of wickedness that Rik thrived on. But it was the association with naughtiness that he liked most, not the actual involvement in it.’

The observation is confirmed by Rik’s teachers. ‘I’d love to tell you that Rik was a riot in class,’ says English teacher Peter Diamond, ‘but it was a marked trait of his character that he was a conformist. He was a warm and pleasant boy who happened to be very funny. I visited him backstage when he was starring in The Government Inspector many years later. He was kind and considerate, and treated me like an old friend.

‘`There were other boys who I felt were more likely to have a future in drama. Rik could be killingly funny in rehearsals, but he was rarely very funny in front of an audience.’

Peter Vyvyan-Robinson has his own theory about Rik’s need for recognition: ‘Rik grew up on an undistinguished street in Droitwich, the ultimate in charmless, nondescript Midlands suburbia. He had a 10-mile bus journey to school, and when he got there, there were boys like me who lived in manor houses. It was a frustrating life. So he broke out of the drab mediocrity of his world, but remained protective towards it.

On the other hand, Mike Redfern paints an idyllic portrait of an unruffed upbringing in distinctly rural surroundings that were far from drab and charmless. When Mike’s parents moved abroad to work, he spent two years sharing Rik’s bedroom in Tagwell Road.

‘`We had a record player to ourselves, and the room was stuffed with good books: great literature, poetry and plays. It overlooked a flat roof where we would sit and chat in the summer. We would make a Friday night pilgrimage down to the Farrier’s Arms near school, and we’d crawl out of bed the next day with thumping hangovers. Rik’s mum and dad were fantastic, and Rik got on really well with his brother and sisters.’

Richard Mayall was born on March 7, 1958, the second child of Gillian and John Mayall, in a village with the suitably Wodehousian name of Matching Tye, on the outskirts of Harlow New Town in Essex. There was one elder boy, Anthony, and later, two sisters, Libby and Kate. Anthony went on to become a civil engineer responsible, Rik insists, for all the chaos on the A40. Unlike his elder brother, Rik was an exhibitionist from the start. Subject to tantrums, he showed off and got generally overexcited. But at heart he was, by his own account, a cherubic little boy who always wanted to be naughty but was too scared. ‘So I used to stand next to the naughty kid and encourage him to be bad,’ he says.

The family moved to Droitwich when Rik was three. Gillian and John were drama teachers, and their love of theatre was to have some effect on their second son. ‘Rik was brilliant at working out riddles from a very early age; I suppose we should have realised then that he would be a comedian,’ recalls Gillian. ‘But the most important thing to all of the children was that they had a nice, safe, secure family background.’ Solidly middle-class, they were in Rik’s words ‘beatniky CND’, accounting, perhaps, for his ardent hatred of ‘Thatch’, yet his enviable Thatcherite ability to capitalise on his talents.

His first theatrical appearance, aged five or six, was as a little peasant in his father’s production of Brecht’s The Good Woman Of Setzuan. His role involved climbing into a dustbin and eating as much of the chocolate at the bottom as possible. Sometime between then and winning a day-boy’s scholarship to King’s School, he did the appropriate theatrical thing and changed Richard to Rik. Rik says it was after a comic-strip hero, Erik the Viking, but Peter Vyvyan-Robinson claims that it was after a boy called Rick who inspired jealousy because of his success with girls.

Rik scraped his way into the drama department at Manchester University after poor A level results, and it was there that he met Ade Edmondson. Like many others of his type, he made a desperate effort to be wacky and insane, growing his hair and allowing a suitable layer of grease to form, while friends like Lloyd Peters strove for zaniness by wearing the same pair of purple underpants day after day. Lloyd was a founder member of the 20th Century Coyote comedy group which included Rik and Ade. They performed at the Band on the Wall club in Manchester in an effort to get Equity cards.

Ade was the actor of the group, held in awe by the rest. Sporting long blond hair, John Lennon glasses and worn jeans with strategically placed rips, Edmondson cast a spell over Rik. On one memorable occasion, Ade turned up at Rik’s student digs – later immortalised in The Young Ones- and, as legend has had it, drove his envied MZ150 motorbike up the staircase.

Well, not quite. ‘Ade never drove his bike up the stairs,’ chortles Lloyd Peters. ‘We tried to get a bike through the door once, but it wouldn’t go. We’d all had too many lagers.’ Mike Redfern dispels the myth further: ‘Rik’s lodgings were nothing like The Young Ones. It was a nice converted stable block called Lime Cottage in a lovely part of East Didsbury, surrounded by trees and lawns.’

Nevertheless, Rik and Ade’s meeting was to lead to a longterm comic relationship embracing shows at the Edinburgh Festival, and TV success in The Young Ones, Filthy, Rich and Catflap, The Comic Strip et al. Rik has been branded a ‘leftie’, but he purposely avoided politics at Manchester. He recalls students selling the left-wing paper, shouting out ‘Morning Star!’. ‘Morning, love!’ he would reply.

Besides Ade, the other meaningful relationship Rik struck up was with his tutor David Mayer’s daughter Lise, a comedy scriptwriter. After a short lull post-university, Rik was soon a leading light of the new ‘alternative’ comics, appearing mainly at Soho’s Comedy Store. This led to his big breakthrough – The Young Ones- co-written by Lise Mayer and Ben Elton, another prolific talent of Manchester’s drama department.

David Mayer is happy to talk about Rik’s dramatic accomplishments. These days he is head of drama at Manchester, and proud of the talent his department has produced: ‘Rik was a phenomenally gifted student. He was serious, focused, dedicated and accomplished. Towards the end of his degree, he was absolutely single-minded. Of course, his humour was always pretty puerile.’ But there’s one aspect of his former student’s life that he’s not prepared to expand upon, and that’s Rik’s relationship with his daughter. It remains one of the most tantalising Rik Mayall stories never told, despite furious attempts to uncover the truth. One version has it that Lise, who lived with Rik for five years, was pregnant when she discovered he was having an affair with make-up assistant Barbara Robbin, also pregnant, who is now his wife. But nobody has ever spoken about what really happened. ‘Lise and I lived together for five years,’ Rik has said. ‘We are still good friends.’

Lise has since been the subject of an unflattering account portraying her as a femme fatale who has had relationships with no less than seven eligible members of Britain’s comedy clique, including Harry Enfield, Hugh Laurie and Angus Deayton. ‘Lise has a thing about comedians… They can be funny and need their egos stroking rather more than most men,’ said an anonymous source from the Daily Mail.

‘So much has been written about this which is wrong, I wouldn’t like to add anything to it,’ explains David Mayer, echoing Rik, who branded media coverage ‘obscene’. Lise has never said a word about the episode. The nearest Rik has come to commenting on his difficult domestic situation was: ‘A lot of money had to go in two different directions.’

Rik’s long-standing friends are resolutely loyal to him. Mike Redfern, now a training development officer, won’t hear a word against him. Lloyd Peters says, ‘He’s been described as single-minded. But that’s what all performers are. But although performance is an egotistical business, it is also a giving business.’ Rik spared valuable time to appear in two of Lloyd’s independent films.

Significantly, several familiar names who are rumoured to have had bust-ups with Rik, declined to be interviewed for this piece, and even the row about vote-rigging over his British Comedy Award for Top TV Comedy Actor failed to elicit much criticism. Rowan Atkinson and Ben Elton were once said to be furious that The New Statesman effectively usurped a planned series of Blackadder in Parliament; neither went on the record.

The truth is that Rik Mayall started out a pleasant middleclass boy, managed to make a career out of nauseating adolescent twitches the rest of us got over years ago, and is now a pleasant middle-class family man living in west London with his wife and their children, Rosie, seven, and Sidney, five. He takes the tube to interviews. And despite the glamorous swept-back hair and seductive blue eyes, he looks breathtakingly normal. ‘One of my colleagues saw him on the train long after he became famous,’ says his old teacher Colin Gray, ‘He was wearing a normal suit and carrying a briefcase. He looked like every other commuter. And he was wearing brogues.’

Rik is conscious of the disparity between his image and the everyday reality. ‘Angry young anarchist turns into a silly old git with carpet slippers,’ he says, adding, ‘I still go out and rave occasionally if I want to, but more often than not I just go to the pub.’ While colleagues say he works hard, Rik says, ‘I’m a dead lazy git who hasn’t been found out yet.’ He’s similarly dismissive of hero worship, not least when his debut as Alan B’Stard MP prompted one critic to say how sexy he was. ‘I never thought I looked suave; I thought I looked a dickhead. How can a man with a bouffant hairstyle look sexy? But then there are people who think Michael Heseltine is sexy…’

His main hobbies are his work and the family. ‘Being a father makes you more responsible,’ he says. ‘Once I would never run when I crossed the road, even if a car was accelerating towards me. Now I’d run. I’m also more careful careerwise. I keep thinking: “I mustn’t mess this up because I need to earn money now.”‘ This desire to become less selfish is something he’s long been conscious of. ‘I can be very sulky and moody and in love with myself. And very selfish. There has been a selfish quality in all my characters. I put it there deliberately to try and exorcise it. I hope it means I’m less selfish in real life.’

Real life for Rik is Barbara, Rosie and Sidney. By all accounts, home life in their four-bedroom Shepherds Bush house is pretty normal. Mum and Dad go out to the local for an occasional drink, and sometimes have dinner at a nearby restaurant. Mike Redfern says, ‘There was never any doubt that he’d be a good dad. Even in our student days, he was a responsible lad.’ There are cynical suggestions that Rik’s relationship with Barbara is more traditional than he cares to admit. Barbara gave up her job after they married, but Rik puts it down to common sense: he earns the most, and he’d be happy to be a homebody if positions were reversed. And he’s quick to point out that he cooks and cleans.

There is a scene in The Young Ones in which Rik says something like, ‘Let’s be really bad. Let’s sneak out late and not tell our parents when we’re coming back!’ A decade later, Rik Mayall the family man sounds as if his definitions of daring are not far removed from this. When Mike Redfern asked him to be best man at his wedding in May 1987, the stag night was a sedate drink or two at a pub in Covent Garden.

The wedding itself was in North Wales. Mike says, ‘He was very nervous before his speech. I wasn’t surprised – he always got extremely nervous before performances. But there were no below-the-belt asides and no sexual innuendo. Rik simply said that he realised he wasn’t there as a performer, but as a friend to be with friends. I was moved.

How We Met Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson

By Martyn Palmer for The Independant 20th February 1994

Comedian Rik Mayall, 36, was born in Droitwich and studied drama at Manchester University, where he formed a group called 20th Century Coyote. His TV work includes The Young Ones, The New Statesman and Bottom. He and his wife, Barbara, live in London with their two children.

Adrian Edmondson, 36, was born in Bradford, met Mayall at Manchester University and joined 20th Century Coyote. He has appeared on television in The Young Ones, Filthy Rich and Catflap, Snakes and Ladders and Bottom. He lives in London with his wife, Jennifer Saunders, and their family.

RIK MAYALL: How did we meet? Is he the one married to Dawn French? Ah yes, I remember. Manchester University from 1975 to 1978, the drama course which I nearly didn’t make. I was really looking forward to being a grown-up student, growing my hair and all sorts of things, when I messed up my A-levels. I got in on clearance – the results must have been particularly bad that year. I’m trying to remember the first time I saw Ade but there were so many odd people there, it’s difficult.

My impression now is that Ade had very long straggly blond hair and his outfit was much groovier than anyone else’s. He had a red corduroy jacket, with strategic rips in it, with little John Lennon glasses and really ripped trousers. He was totally cool as far as I was concerned – and he had a motorbike. But there wasn’t any big, dramatic, first meeting I can pinpoint now. There was so much happening. I was aware of Ade but I don’t think we spent a lot of time together at first.

There were about 30 people in each year. The third years were cool and in charge, the second years were really thrusting and waiting for their turn and the first years were wide- eyed and innocent. We really got to know each other at the start of the second year. A friend of ours, Lloyd Peters, went to this club in Manchester called The Band on the Wall and asked if we could do a residency on Thursday, Friday and Saturday lunchtimes. We formed a group called 20th Century Coyote, and the first thing we did was an improvised affair called ”Dead Funny”. The two other guys I was doing it with pulled out after a couple of shows, so I decided to ask Ade. He had a bit of a reputation in our year as the actor. He had done a couple of big roles and had lots of confidence. He said yes, and that’s how we started.

Fairly soon we were just doing stuff on our own. At college everyone was doing either real political material or heavy arts stuff and we kind of developed a don’t-give-a-toss philosophy. To take the piss, we used to sell the Morning Star on the steps of our department and do a ”Morning Star – morning, love . . .” routine.

We would perform lunchtimes at The Band on the Wall and Monday evenings at the Studio Theatre at the University. We would drink at a pub called the Ducie near the University and go to the Cavalcade Club. We used to go and watch jazz. I think the reason we both got on so well, and still do, is that we are very similar and share the same neuroses. And at that time we both wanted the same things – to have a great time and shag as many girls as possible.

We never actually lived together. In the first year I was in a hall of residence and in the second I shared a house called Lime Cottage in East Didsbury, which is what The Young Ones was based on. Ade used to come round and try to ride his motorbike up the stairs. I remember the first time I decided to go on the back of his motorbike, and thinking: ”I can either go along with this and probably die, or catch the bus.” I got on.

I think the characters we developed at that time are the basis for everything we have done since. After we left college, it was a bit of a bleak time for both of us. I did a Shakespeare tour in America for a few months but then was doing all sorts of odd jobs, like being a road-sweeper. We were both living in the Midlands, about 30 miles apart, and we used to get together about once a month and get pissed. It kept us going. And then we managed to get 20th Century Coyote on in Edinburgh.

I suppose our relationship is like a kind of marriage. It’s the longest relationship I’ve had with anyone apart from my parents. He is my closest friend. At the moment we are working out what to do next. We have never done more than two series of anything together, but maybe we will with Bottom. We have been together 17 years, and the Pythons didn’t last that long. Not that I am comparing us to them, but I am quite proud of that fact. I don’t think we have done our best work yet. That is still to come.

ADRIAN EDMONDSON: I had done Hamlet at school and always thought I was going to be a serious actor. I actually had an audition for Rada but I never went because I was too scared. Manchester University seemed easier. You just had to go and tell them you were clever. I must say, I’m glad that I did that now.

The first time I remember seeing Rik was when we were both getting off the same bus on the way to college. He had very, very long hair. This was 1975, and it was obviously still the thing to have long hair at public school in 1974. It was very greasy long hair which he obviously didn’t wash very much, and it looked to me as if he had been practising flicking it because he did it all the time. Some of the people at college seemed very grown- up; some were even smoking cannabis. One was almost 30 and he bought his own chair. Very cool. I had my motorbike: an MZ 150.

It was in the second year that we really got together. I can remember the seminar when Rik asked me if I would do some stuff with 20th Century Coyote. I said: ”Well, I’ll have to have a contract, luv.” And he wrote me out a contract during the seminar which said something like ”I promise it will be horrible and nothing will ever go right. La de da. Rik Mayall.” He was true to his word. One reason why we did The Band on the Wall was that we had heard that both the years above us had got Equity cards by playing there. But it didn’t work for us: it took years before Rik and I got our cards.

I do look back on my university days with great affection. Rik and I got on so well because we liked the same things, like drinking eight pints of lager, and found the same things funny. Rik makes me laugh more than anyone or anything. We still have the facility to amuse each other in a way that no one else can. Bottom is the projection of the kind of people we knew we could be if circumstances failed us. We have always had a vision of what we would be like in old age, sitting in a home, drinking pints of mild and pinching people’s bottoms.

When we were in the third year, Ben Elton joined our course and later co-wrote The Young Ones. The first time I was aware of him was when I was round at Rik’s house and he said: ”Quick, duck. Ben Elton is coming down the path.” Ben was incredibly prolific, he was putting on plays in his first week.

After college the future seemed extraordinarily bleak. There was real despair, but it was a time that really cemented our relationship. Rik had come back from America and was living with his Mum and Dad in Droitwich, and I was living with my first wife in Tamworth. I had all sorts of dull jobs like working in a warehouse, and in Birmingham tax office.

The only escape from the drudgery was getting together with Rik once a month. We would drink enormous amounts of Colt 45, cook chips – cooking chips is a wonderful thing to do – and just talk into a tape- recorder long into the night, working on ideas. We used to laugh ourselves to a standstill and get very drunk indeed. Those times kept us going. We hadn’t made the decision to work together in so many words, but that’s what we wanted to do. We used to send out little sheets of paper to venues all over the country saying ”20th Century Coyote – available for hire. pounds 35 for 15 minutes or pounds 50 for an hour.” I still have all the rejection slips. Then came Edinburgh in 1979, and I think that must have been the first time we made some money; after that we decided to move to London.

We still get together now and have these sessions where we just pour it all out on a tape-recorder. I find it strange that we can never be as funny on screen as we are in a writing room. There’s always the compromise between how funny things are in conception and what it turns out to be.

Our relationship is like a marriage, I suppose. That’s why it’s so difficult. We haven’t really talked about doing more Bottom. It’s a problem, because we have so much fun doing it but it gets critically lambasted. There again, we have been lambasted for everything we have ever done together. I know that shouldn’t be a problem, but everyone hates being called crap.