Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Category: 1995

Will the Real Rik Mayall Please Stand Up!

By Jane Bawden for What’s On TV, 28th January – 3rd February 1995

Rik Mayall is a man of many parts. He calls himself a ‘blank canvas waiting to take on an identity’.

He’s played a pretentious student in The Young Ones, an outrageous flatmate in Bottom, and sleazy MP Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman.

And, this week, Rik, 37, returns to TV to play the first of three more contrasting characters in his latest trilogy of dramas, Rik Mayall Presents.

‘One of my hobbies is people-watching,’ says Rik, who lives in west London with his wife Barbara and children Rosie ad Sid, ‘ I love to sit outside a cafe watching people go by. I use things that I see in different characters that I play.’

In this week’s drama, The Big Ones, Rik plays Louis, a compulsive liar who takes the identity of a dead gangster and falls for two women (Saffron Burrows and Phyllis Logan).

In next week’s one, Dirty Old Town, he plays Raymond, a down-and-out who is mistaken for a scriptwriter after an accident and, in the third week’s drama, Clair de Lune, Rik is a minicab driver who becomes involved with a mysterious woman.

‘The Big One is funny, Dirty Old Town is tragic and Clair de Lune is romantic,’ says Rik. ‘Each role is completely different.’

Like the last series, Rik is supported by a host of TV stars, including the Crystal Maze’s Ed Tudor-Pole and Serena Scott Thomas, star of Diana: Her True Story.

‘It helps working with actors of their calibre,’ says Rik, who will shortly be changing direction again when he appears with Stephen Fry in Cell Mates at London’s Albery Theatre.

‘I just like lots of change,’ he explains. ‘I don’t like to do the same thing over and over again.’

The Young On-Ones

For NME, 8th July 1995

Since the Government aren’t doing much, it’s been left to comedian Rik Mayall to make a video warning ‘young people’ about the perils of drugs. Sylvia Patterson just says no.

Drugs are really great. Unfortunately, they can also kill you. Such is the ‘controversial’ truth at the core of Rik Mayall’s new video, Out Of My Head; an hour-long comedy-educational affair presented by Britain’s Bottom Light Entertainer (hor hur!) pondering the drugs imbibed by you, the kids.

You may already know that drugs-are-really-great-unfonunately-they-can-also-kill-you but here, “for the first time ever” (say the makers) is “the reality. ‘Just say no’ doesn’t work, with this you can learn the facts and then make up your own mind”.

Cue, then,several characters pointing the way in a fairly jocular fashion: Ricky (Rik as an idiotic student on a flying sofa), a fact fuelled Doc (Rik with the neurological facts), a rozzer, two grannies talking dbout sniffing butane out of condoms… all spiralling round in flameflickering graphics to a yoof-friendly soundtrack (Blur, Elastica, Portishead).

It’s the testimonies of the interviewed young folk, however, which stirs the ‘controversy’ (and also causes one to speculate how any of them are still upright after prolonged dabblings in glue/spliff/speed/El cocaine/crack/heroin). You may be aware of the ‘facts’ (cannabis is worse for the lungs than fags; get caught sporting three Es and you could be flung in chokey for five years; Hitler took speed every day) but you might indeed ‘learn’ from their tales (sniffing petrol can give blokes hardons; if you play pool on acid you may see the balls have a jolly good laugh in your face before they grow legs and throw themselves down the pocket).

However, it’s the grim side that you’re here to take heed of and the many cautionary tales includes “frothy blood coming out my mouth”, “I’m an addict”, “three of my mates are dead” etc. Which is all fair enough, as it happens, except the video costs £12.99 and it should be the Government’s concern to tell you all this for nought pence. Also it’s an 18 certificate aimed at 18-25-year-olds when in reality most 18-25-year-old drug dabblers are either already experts, now into real estate or dead.

Hence, then, we’re in a room above a West London pub for a press conference where we are encouraged to imbibe much free booze and fags and vomit copiously upon the ‘buffet’ (some avocado on a stick).

Posh woman: “So, Rik, why did you get involved with the project?”

Rik Mayall: “Well, I always like working with Malcolm (Genie, MD of the video’s producers Initialand the man behind Channel 4 Goes To Glastonbury and billions of actually-very-top-indeed programmes) and… (snare snore)… information without being patronising.”

Posh woman: “Did you, Rik, have a favoured drug when you were younger?”

Rik: “No. My experiences at school taught me that acid was what you did if you wanted to jump out the window and die so I was put off from an early age. I think I was between generations, I’m nearly 40 now, I was in that sort of drab Barry Blue area so we were all into glittery trousers. I’m a whiskey man, myself.”

Crowd: “Hur hur hur!”

NME: “Must have been tons of spliff in the mid-’70s, mate! All that hair, all those Yes albums…”

Rik: “Well, there was one occasion where one of The Coronas played and a few hippies rioted but apart from that there wasn’t an awful lot going on in Worcestershire.”

NME: “D’you think ‘the kids’ do more drugs today than when you were one of ‘the kids’?”

Rik: “Well, I don’t really know any kids, to be honest with you.”

NME: “Well if you did you’d know drugs information should be given to 12-18-year-olds who are lamping seven Es down their necks and dying on the pavement.”

Rik: “Well, you may be right but then you enter into a whole quagmire of legality and public outrage. I only get my information from you people and the newspapers and they’re full of Ecstasy stories and death.”

NME: “And you’ll have the wobblers, being a father an’ all?

Rik: “Well, Sid, as far as I know, hasn’t done any crack yet. He’s only six.”

Crowd: “Hur hur hur!”

NME: “It’s really the Government’s job, isn’t it?”

Rik: “Hmmn, but it’s still better than no information at all.”

Big wig video woman: “…And I think we’ll have to end the questions there.”

Thought so. We await an audience with Rik, For three hours. And pass some time talking to a nice woman called Laura from an NHS drug agency who tells us it’s “money, as usual” which stops the Government dealing with drug information and how her agency’s work is minimised because people don’t go there until they have a problem: “And most people don’t even know they’ve got a problem because they’re having such a bloody good time — but it could get out of control and that’s why they need information. The bottom line is, if you take drugs you have to know how to control them.”

She thinks the video is “radical and very funny. I hope I4-year-olds do get hold of it.” Her poison? “Stolly and slim-line tonic, actually.”

Oh look — there’s Rik!

Rik: “Ah yes, the NME.”

NME: “So. You reckon all drugs except whiskey are rubbish, eh?”

Rik: “No, I’m not here to preach to anybody, all I want to do is get some information out there. I’m just the git who did the gags. Like I said, I was born in the wrong generation.”

NME: “Cobblers. Every generation does drugs, it’s part of the human condition. What about…, er, the Egyptians!?” (Sorry about this.)

“Well,” snorts an appalled Rik, before bolting into the night, “I’ve got enough mental problems as it is. Y’know?”

And there we have it. Drug culture stirs in its rehab unit and keels over on a bed-pan once again. We are all of us born in the stars, but some of us are falling over in the gutter. Or something.

Rogue Mayall

By Hilary Bonner for TV Times, 1995

He’s much-loved as a one-time lazy lout and a loathsome MP, but the real ‘very polite’ Rik Mayall confesses to a very different image

Rik Mayall is an alternative comedian and proud of it. Hard-edged, clever, quick on his feet, gritty, he was aggressive in The Young Ones, beastly as Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman.

There is also a secret, soft side to him. The real Rik Mayall is a dedicated family man whose idea of heaven is a getaway seaside holiday with his children, eight year-old Rosemary, and six-yearold Sydney and his wife Barbara, 33.

Nothing showbizzy or glamorous though – they regularly visit the same quaint fishing village on the South Devon coast. ‘I like to go crabbing with the kids, walking on the cliffs, all that kind of thing,’ says Rik. ‘We don’t see the need to put the children through all that business of going abroad. Anyway, taking them somewhere very hot isn’t such a good idea. They have more fun by the seaside in this country.’

The day we met he’d been rehearsing for a new play – Cellmates – in which he co-stars with Stephen Fry at London’s Albury Theatre. He’d been delayed taking his children to school which made everything a little behind schedule and he apologised for being late, which he wasn’t really. When you ask him how he’d describe himself the answer comes readily, perhaps surprisingly: ‘I’m polite.’

Indeed he is, and strangely inconspicuous too, for a man with such a manic screen image. His hair is a medium shade of brown, barbered to medium length, and he’s casually dressed in black shirt over black T-shirt, jeans, and smart brown leather shoes.

‘People rarely recognise me,’ he says. ‘I don’t look like any of my TV roles. In fact, I don’t look like anything much.’

Which probably helps him to tackle a variety of characters. Although Rik started his career as a comedian, and comedy is still very much his field, he’s a far better actor than he’s sometimes given credit for.

This week sees the start of the second series of Rik Mayall Presents, on ITV on Sunday, in which 37-year-old Rik stars in three films, all completely different, over consecutive weeks. In the first, The Big One, he plays estate agent Louis Black, an accomplished liar who begins an affair with a gangster’s widow, played by Lovejoy’s Phyllis Logan. In Claire de Lune he’s a minicab driver who becomes involved with a mysterious femme fatale. In the third film, Dirty Old Town, he plays a down-and-out who’s mistaken for a script writer after a freak accident.

‘There’s comedy in all three,’ says Rik. ‘But Dirty Old Town is the most serious, tragic almost, and you have to be a bit careful when you’re dealing with a subject like homelessness.’

This film appears to be his favourite, though it wasn’t with his children. ‘I had to grow a beard for the role and the kids absolutely hated it!’

Rik, who can also be seen this Friday on BBC2 in his anarchic comedy series Bottom, says variety is the spice of his working life. There are no plans, he says, for another series of The New Statesman, but it’s not that easy to get rid of one of his most famous comic roles, Alan B’Stard. The unscrupulous Tory MP turned up on ITV over Christmas being interviewed by Brian Walden. ‘I enjoy playing him too much to bury him altogether,’ says Rik.

Performing seems to be in the blood. ‘I think I was always going to do something in the showbusiness world,’ he says. The son of two drama teachers, Rik, whose elder brother grew up to be a civil engineer, clearly inherited every showbusiness gene.

He lived most of his early life in the Worcester town of Droitwich. He was educated at public school and went to Manchester University when he was just 17. ‘Being teachers, my parents knew how to work the system,’ he says. ‘They pushed me to get there early to get a free place. I was out the other side and in London three years later. It was fantastic fun.’

He studied drama at university where he met his partners in comedy, Ben Elton and Ade Edmondson. They got on well, their comedy ideas clicked and they swiftly became a performing team, but because they couldn’t get Equity cards at first, most of their work came from fringe theatre, particularly at the Edinburgh Festival and The Comedy Store in London.

Rik met his wife Barbara, a make-up artist, while on a job, and there was nothing slick or alternative about his approach to courtship. He proposed over lobster in a restaurant. ‘Barbara and I have a romantic thing about lobster,’ he says. ‘So I just thought I’d go for it.’

She accepted, they went straight out and bought the ring and married in 1986 on a clifftop in Barbados.

By now his professional luck was changing. Rik landed his first TV job in a BBC show called Boom Boom, Out Go The Lights, which he describes as ‘incredibly unpopular. We were all these naughty alternative comedians, weren’t we?’

But he was on his way. More TV series followed including The Young Ones, The Comic Strip and Filthy Rich and Catflap. He’s also appeared in serious stage plays such as The Government Inspector and Waiting for Godot, but it’s for being rude and noisy that Rik remains best known.

Yet off-stage he is quietly spoken, unfailingly polite – as he says himself – and, of course, a dad.

‘I really enjoy being a father, it’s made me so much more contented – I think it has helped me cope with the ups and downs of showbusiness,’ he says. ‘Suddenly there’s something more important than things which seemed important before.’

He seems so much the city slicker, yet he’s thinking of uprooting his family from their London home and moving to the country. ‘I would much prefer my children to grow up in the country,’ he says. ‘And I’d like to think that I can make the move before they’re both grown-up.’

His success, which has included a big earning Hollywood film called Drop Dead Fred, has made him wealthy and famous, but it’s impossible to imagine him playing the prima donna.

Ask him what he enjoys most about his work and the answer comes quickly and simply: ‘It buys food for my family.’

Mr. Shifty’s Illicit Bit of Fun

By Alison Roberts for Evening Standard, 9th February 1995

Rik Mayall puts his finger on it neatly. ‘There’s a quality about me, I think, that you don’t quite trust… one of the things I can get laughs off is dissembling badly.’

This is said with such honesty and such screwed-up concentration that Mayall almost defeats his point. He’s a very polite man; he makes it seem as though every thought extracted by his interviewer is brand new and had never before occurred to him. Which is very clever dissembling.

Rik Mayall is a big fish in a medium-sized pond, a senior British comic with an expanding line in ‘serious’ drama – a new trilogy of Rik Mayall Presents dramas are currently appearing on ITV and he co-stars in a new Simon Gray play in the West End from next week.

But his characters are a bit shifty. Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman (based on just one real-life Tory politician, although he won’t say which one) Richie in Bottom and, of course, Rick in The Young Ones, all share this guile, a sort of crafty streak rooted in arrogance and selfishness. Art, I can confirm, does not appear to imitate life.

As far as the television-watching public is concerned, it all began with Rrrrrick, the definition of uncool turned revolutionary poet in The Young Ones – set in the student house-share from hell. Mayall will always be possessed by Rick’s compulsively juvenile spirit.

Take Mayall’s portrayal of Sean Bourke, the Irish ex-con who rescues the spy and ‘traitor’ George Blake from Wormwood Scrubs in Cell Mates, which opens next week at the Albery Theatre. There’s a cack-handed wiggle of the hips, a jiggle of the knees and a silly laugh – all pure Rick. ‘I enjoy putting little bits in to say, ‘look, I’m still here!’,’ he says. ‘It’s completely illegitimate, of course.’

But it’s good fun, too. There’s a sort of consistency to Mayall which is endearing, as though you’ve grown up with him. He’s a crucial part of the video collection – like the Duran Duran In Concert tapes, or the copy of This is Spinal Tap. They are all household gods, living in their shrine next to the telly.

Mayall admits that Rick is an undeniable presence, largely because his nerdishness was based on real-life traits. When Mayall and Ade Edmondson – aninseparable duo; Edmondson was Vyvyan in The Young Ones and Eddie in Bottom – got on stage for the first time at Manchester University, they simply exaggerated their actual characters.

‘Ade has always been a maniac and I’ve always been such a twat. We were drawing the laughter onto ourselves.

‘When we came to the Comedy Store in London, certain people were already established, Alexei Sayle, Keith Allen, Andy de la Tour and then Ade and I came along. They were all big grown-ups, being really cool and very dangerous and telling jokes about Mrs Thatcher. We were the ones saying, ‘hello, we’re arseholes.’ And Rick was my on-stage persona.’

The character was cathartic in that sense; the audience laughed at those bits of Mayall which he himself disliked, or found embarrassing. Which, he agrees, is a lot cheaper than therapy. It was also a relatively new ploy, this crassness – Mayall’s contribution to ‘alternative’ comedy, if you like. Mayall has come straight from the stage at Richmond’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, where Cell Mates is playing before its three-month run in London. There was a bit of a crisis mid-way through the matinee performance when an alarm clock prop suddenly, and randomly, started to ring. Stephen Fry, who plays a thoroughly nasty Blake, coped magnificently by making up a piece of business to cover the interruption. That’s because he’s got two brains, says Mayall – Fry learns his lines faster than anyone else too: ‘He’s very patient with me.’ They are both, now, elder statesmen of British comedy and exist in that rather cosy world where all the gangs – the Cambridge footlights sets (Fry, Laurie, Emma Thompson, Tony Slattery) and the Manchester University clique (Ade, Rik, Ben Elton, Lise Mayer) overlap and, you know, create together.

Fry and Mayall are old hands at Simon Gray, too. They were both in his play The Common Pursuit, at the Pheonix in 1989. Mayall is not a limelight-seeking luvvie, but he gets rather too close for comfort when he talks about this comedic scene.

‘Stephen sent me the script and said, Simon is thinking of doing this, and we’re such great pals, you know. I read it and I thought, this is just lovely, really sweet and an opportunity to do lots of things . . . and part of the decision was me thinking, I’ll do this because I can see Stephen for a few months.’

This is a bit distracting because Mayall is also a regular bloke. He talks a lot, drinks a lot (Edmondson’s office, where they both write, is next door to a pub) effs and blinds a bit. He’s concerned about his public persona, probably over-concerned about it. Filthy, Rich and Catflap, Mayall and Edmondson’s flawed second sitcom-cum-satire, drew terrible reviews and an up-in-arms reaction from the moral majority.

‘Because Filthy was slagged so badly,’ he says, ‘I just had a couple of days where I didn’t want to go out of the house at all, in case I saw someone and they thought, there’s that bloke who thinks he’s funny and, in fact, he’s crap.’

Perhaps they just didn’t get the joke, the one about bashing someone’s head in with a frying pan and then telling lots of toilet gags?

‘I’m glad you said that, because it’s true, they don’t get it. I got over it all in the end by watching the show and laughing at it – because I think it’s good.’

Mayall has always been a populist. When he and Edmondson toured a stage version of Bottom, he attracted the thirtysomethings. They came in groups, got baby-sitters, had a big laugh and then went out for a meal. ‘It was great,’ says Mayall, and then laughs at his immodesty. ‘It was great. The kids loved it. We had such a mixed reaction to Bottom. Intellectuals can’t abide it. It embarrasses them, I think.’

Mayall is very keen that the First Night audience in London should like Cell Mates. He knows that his friends will help him by laughing too much, too often, right in front of the ‘intellectual’ theatre critics. He’s also deeply upset about a Guardian article which labelled him ‘the once-talented Rik Mayall’.

‘I don’t know who wrote it, although I’ve got his initials – and the word, well the contract, is out…’ he says. Theatre reviewers beware – he’s only just joking.

Cell Mates opens at the Albery Theatre on 16 February.

Mayall Bonding: Interview with Rik Mayall

By: Fiona Knight for The Daily Mirror, 17th December 1995

Wind in the Willows is set to be the children’s classic this Christmas and Rik Mayall is delighted to have found his alter ego in Toad.

“Toad,” says Rik Mayall happily “is an enormous git. He’s posh, selfish, a windbag but has this huge lust for life. I like him very, very much.”

For Rik, being the voice of Toad in the feature-length animated version of Wind in the Willows, to be shown on ITV on Christmas Day, is strange territory for the former Young One.

“I’ve never been allowed on TV on Christmas Day before,” says Rik, star of countless television hits including The Young Ones, Bottom and The New Statesman. “Usually my stuff is too sick.

“Vocally, Toad is quite similar to Rick from The Young Ones,” explains Mayall. “I’ve given him the privilege of Alan B’stard and the peevishness of Richie from Bottom.

“In many ways he’s rather like me – vain, loud and arrogant. But that’s only in the characters I play, I mean normally I’m quite a nice person! But we both share the same big, buggy eyes.”

The other actors have been equally well chosen – Alan Bennett as weedy Mole, Michael Palin as crisp, middle-class Englishman Ratty, and Michael Gambon as gruff, kind Badger.

But, although Toad is bossy and big as a character, Rik found himself shrinking in fright at the idea of recording his part with the other three actors. “I’d just be too intimidated,” he shudders. “Luckily, I wasn’t around when they were so I had to do it by myself a bit later. They’re lovely guys but if I’d recorded my part with them I couldn’t have run around the place flapping my arms which is what I did by myself!”

Mayall already knew most of the Wind in the Willows stories from his own childhood. “My dad used to read the stories to me when I was a kid and I’ve read them to my two children. I hope the new baby will enjoy them too.”

Did someone say baby? Well yes. Cradled in Rik’s arms this Christmas will be his new daughter, 14-week-old Bonnie. She was born on September 18, just months after the huge fuss surrounding Rik’s West End play Cell Mates which closed when Stephen Fry walked out after his third performance. It was a tough time for Rik. His friend Fry had disappeared and he didn’t know if he was OK. The play was forced to close early amid bitter legal rows. But, despite the hassle, Rik had a special happiness inside him.

Mayall, 37, says: “It’s been a strange old year. But Bonnie has turned it around.”

He explains: “I’m quite superstitious and have a pair of lucky pants which I’ve had from 1978. They’re so old and holey now that my bottom pokes through but I wear them for every big, important event, especially first nights.

“On the very first preview night of Cell Mates I forgot to take my lucky pants with me. I was freaking out and rang my wife Barbara and said: ‘Bring my lucky pants tonight – and hurry.’

“Ten minutes before I was due to go on Barbara burst into my dressing room. I said: ‘Where are they?’ She looked at me and said: ‘Rik, I’ve forgotten your lucky pants.’ I was just about to lunge for her head in fury when she said: ‘But I’m pregnant’. I just went ‘Oooooh!’ and couldn’t say anything else. It was fantastic news. I went out on stage and wasn’t nervous.

“The night Bonnie was born I’d gone down to Bristol for the first night of the tour of Bottom, which I’m doing with Ade Edmonson.

“We were planning to do some serious rehearsing because we hardly knew any of the words and I was really worried about it.

“That night I went to bed just after midnight and had a call from Barbara saying her waters had broken. I ran outside, got a cab and arrived in London at about 3am. Bonnie was born at 10am. So I went and got the other kids, Rosie and Sydney, round to see her, took them back and arrived in Bristol just in time for the first night.

“We remembered some of the lines and the rest we made up. At one point we said to the audience: ‘Excuse me ladies and gentlemen but we need to get the script!’ But it was a brilliant first night. That’s why I believe that Bonnie has become the equivalent of my lucky pants now.”

Despite the disaster of Cell Mates, there’s no denying the play was professionally very good news for Rik Mayall, as he got rave reviews. He’s had more luck with his stage show Bottom, a sell-out, which is about to finish a nationwide tour.

Its success has meant that the rush of preparing a family Christmas has been left to Barbara, a former make-up artist who he met while appearing in a BBC production in Glasgow.

Rik’s contribution to the day – Wind in the Willows – has already been made. “Rosie saw the programme describing how they made Wind in the Willows, and she’s so proud of me,” he says happily. “Most of the stuff I do on TV is too rude or violent to let the children see. But Wind in the Willows is perfect, even for Bonnie.”

‘I’m the Neurotic and Sensitive One’

The Andrew Duncan Interview for Radio Times, 29th January – 5th February 1995

He’s no longer a ‘Young One’ but Rik Mayall shows no signs of growing up. However, beneath that anarchic image is an actor who takes his work very seriously.

Travelling by Underground to our meeting in a grim public house near London’s Old Vic theatre on the south bank of the Thames he has, he says, been contemplating an “angle” for this interview. Helpfully, he now discloses the result of his thought: “Rik is back for 95.” Mmmm, yes. We read that Alexei Sayle allegedly called him “an empty-headed bimbo” (maybe it was a joke) and he is immortalised – with Romans discovering salt, a riot, and other notable events – on a proud civic mural in his home town, Droitwich, but whoever thought he’d been away? For 14 years, since he was 22, he has achieved a ubiquitous, if not always appreciated, success. Now, though, he is “back” with a vengeance, making a multi-cultural pitch for attention. There is the Rik Mayall Presents trilogy on TV, a Simon Gray play, Cell Mates, in which he stars with Stephen Fry, opening on 17 February at the Albery Theatre in the West End, a new series of Bottom with Ade Edmondson, an autumn countrywide tour of the show and – as a diversion – he will be reading poems for children in a series called Wham Bam! Strawberry Jam! “So I’ve got the children’s market sewn up as well,” he grins.

He seems relaxed and languid, not at all the driven workaholic such output might suggest. He is ageing prettily (just a bit of grey at the temples) but claims one of the disadvantages of being a performer is you watch yourself getting old. “I look in the mirror and think, ‘Oh, dear.’ Some people go under the knife to pretend to look 18. That’s tragic. No one should do it. I’m 36, which means some parts are impossible to play. Romeo would be difficult, but Lear is over the horizon. The adventure shouldn’t stop because you get to a particular age. You carry on to the next bit and see what’s coming. I like anything that gives me variety but television is my life’s blood, even though it’s been declining ever since it gained respectability in the 70s and early 80s. That doesn’t bother me. It means my stuff looks good as everything else gets worse. The punters will accept me so long as I don’t go on doing the same thing. I was on the beach in Barbados and a magistrate from Stoke told me how much he liked The New Statesman at the same time as some American kids ran over shouting, ‘Richie…Virgin’ [his character in Bottom]. There was no connection between the two groups.”

The three comedy dramas in Rik Mayall Presents illustrate his versatility. In The Big One, he plays an estate agent, Louis, a liar who assumes the identity of a dead man and finds his fantasies coming dangerously true; in Dirty Old Town he is Raymond, a down-and-out whose life is transformed when he is mistaken for the author of a film script; and in Clair de Lune he is a minicab driver studying for a law exam who encounters strange adventures with a beautiful woman [Serena Scott Thomas] he picks up en route to take his 7-year-old daughter for a birthday outing, where she is to be a “princess” at a medieval banquet. “My favourite character is Louis. Raymond was fun, but having to wear a beard was a drag. It had food in it all the time because he was homeless and I wasn’t allowed a trim.

The son of drama teachers, he had an early initiation into the theatre at 7 when he was cast by his father as an urchin in Brecht’s The Good Woman Of Setzuan. “Acting wasn’t foisted on me. I was bright and passed the 11-plus a year younger than other guys, so I couldn’t shine in sports because they were all bigger. Getting up on stage and making people laugh was the only thing I could be good at. A friend and I wrote terribly serious plays about the nuclear holocaust and other important schoolkid issues, but the audience just laughed. I’d play up to them, show off, and I thought, ‘I like this.’ It’s still a thrill for me. It always will be. I’ll keep going until I drop.” Hormones confounded his early academic promise, when he met a girl, Jo who teas more worthy of study than A-levels. “I did badly. I wasn’t concentrating on the right thing, lifewise. Well, actually I was. Luckily I scraped it to Manchester University during ‘clearing’. He found kindred spirits – Ben Elton, Ade Edmondson and his then girlfriend Lise Meyer – and they formed their own clique. “We defended ourselves against the prevailing attitude which was a hangover from the 60s, a lot of worthy and very bad left-wing theatre-Marxism for 3-year-olds. We’d come to university for excitement and enjoyed drama because it meant staying up late and showing off. We were all good old lefties but didn’t want to sit po-faced in a theatre being bored all night. We wanted to have a good time.”

Influenced by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Goons, Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise – “quite an eclectic mix” – he and Ade formed the 20th-Century Coyote group, which they took to the Edinburgh Festival. He toured America with the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company – after winning the Boris Karlloff award for “Most Outrageous Ham” at a National Student Drama Festival and, with Edmondson, became part of the original Comedy Store team, graduating quickly to television and success in The Young Ones. “I was famous at 22, which was fantastic. I’ve been lucky. But although I put across this front that Ade and I just do entertainment, we both have a degree in drama [his is a 2:2] and know what we’re doing. We take our work very seriously, without being too pretentious. Others are allowed to be ‘artists’. We’re not, because we’re considered to be just funny-men.

So beneath the slapstick he has a message? He looks at me disparagingly and chides, “That’s a simplistic question. What can I say? It’s too academic to ask, ‘Are you making a point?’ Views come across anyway if your heart is in the right place. When I’m lying under a skip being Raymond [in Dirty Old Town] I think I’m saying something about homelessness without ramming it down the audience’s throat. I’m old enough and grown up enough to know that my opinion is just an opinion, so all I try to do is tell an interesting story and give the punters a good time. If they take anything back from it, that’s OK. I just keep my eye on the ball and make sure the product is good. You do that by watching the ratings and being sensitive to what the punters want. You don’t do it by reading the critics.”

This is fortunate as, at first, neither The Young Ones nor Bottom were well reviewed. “Quite atrocious” is one of the kinder comments about Bottom, with its cartoon violence, plastic sick, schoolboy double entendres and waggling bottoms. He and Ade hit each other over the head with a cricket bat, scrunch each other’s testicles, and shout. A lot of viewers enjoy it, apparently.

“We’ve had a very rough ride critically, so if we’re going to survive and feed our children we have to take a philosophical view. I try to think the newspapers aren’t worth bothering about, but it hurts when the reviews aren’t good. Ade is much more bullish, which is one of the reasons I’m in love with him. He’s tough. I’m the neurotic and sensitive one. Although we both have our separate lives, I’ll be working with him until I die, doing our double act in different forms. We were called Rich and Eddie in Filthy, Rich and Catflap, and I was Rick in The Young Ones, so there’s a similar lineage. Bottom is in a straight line from what we’ve always done – violent, exciting comedy. It’s sordid and domestic and we’re paring it down all the time so you get nearer the bone of the joke. If our last series doesn’t win a Bafta it will show what a lot of ‘fools’ [ttanslated from his more robust vernacular] the judges are” He doesn’t know how many more series they can make. “It’s a question of how much we can do in that kitchen and living room. We’ve hit on the vague idea of making the next series historical – Richie Hood and His VMerrie Men, Richie Turpin…. We’re like Laurel and Hardy. They put on tricoms or policemen’s helmets. It didn’t matter. It was still Stan and Ollie.

“All the characters I’ve done with Ade have been incredibly unpleasant and horrible, but you can understand their motivation and don’t hate them. They’re just socially dysfunctional. I’ve tried to psychoanalyse myself, and I think it release for all the things I can’t do normally cause I’m a reasonably nice, polite, middle-class chap who doesn’t throw people through windows or set light to farts.” Indeed, he is the ultimate in middle-class domesticity, married to Barbara – “she was a make-up artist. Now she’s a mum” – and living in apparent bliss with two children, Rosie, 8, and 6-year-old Sidney. He is looking forward to being in Cell Mates because he says, “I can play with my kids all day, go and do a bit of shouting in the dark and then come home again. The only drag is that Barb and I won’t be able to give our traditional Valentine’s Eve party. It’s always been a good excuse to round up the old gang and have a drink.”

After The Young Ones become a cult show in America – “I am a massive cult, a complete cult, in the nicest possible way,” he jokes – he made a Hollywood film, Drop Dead Fred. He says it taught him a lot about acting, which he has put to good use in Rik Mayall Presents. “It was terribly nerve racking at first because film is a realistic art form which the British are not very experienced in. We’re far too led by writing and told to ‘deliver the words’, which isn’t natural. I watched [co-stars] Carrie Fisher and Kevin Klein. When they change words the writers don’t mind at all. Here they’d say, ‘Why didn’t you notice the comma?’ All I wanted to do in the trilogy is film anecdotes – something extraordinary happening to ordinary people.” He contributes to the scripts, and co-writes Bottom with Edmondson. “I increasingly like writing but I’m not ‘driven’ like Ben [Elton], who will sit at the typewriter all day. I couldn’t. My act of creation is interpreting words.”

He has done this most successfully with devious MP Alan B’Stard in the four series of The New Statesman, written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, which have won an International Emmy and a Bafta. “The Tories love Alan. I didn’t think they would at all. Very weird. Lots of them claim to be the inspiration and are proud of it. He’s certainly not dead. I think he’s a perenial Alf Garnett figure who will pop up and comment from time to time. There’s talk of standing at the next general election as a genuine Conservative – perhaps in Huntingdon [the Prime Minister’s constituency].” B’Stard is a far cry from children’s poetry. “Having the facility to pretend to do stand-up,” he begins, and noticing I look worried by this unfamiliar mode checks himself, “Oh, all right, cut that out – being great at stand-up means you’re also good at being a talking head, so when they asked me to help with a poetry special I agreed so long as I could do The Walrus and The Carpenter, which has always been my favourite. Dad used to read it to me and me and Ade called one of our shows The Walrus and The Carpenter. It fits our strangeness, and I’ve always wanted to do it justice. It’s part of my eternal search for excitement. I want to have a good time. it’s gone all right so far.”

I Was a Prat – Actor Rik Mayall Admits to Being a Total Prat Over Imitation Gun Incident

For Daily Mirror, 3rd May 1995

ACTOR Rik Mayall admitted yesterday he could have been shot by cops after brandishing an imitation gun at a couple.

Mayall, 37, stepped from a police station with a caution, then said: “I’ve been a total prat.

“I was lucky not to have been shot. I could have been blown away. The police would have just been doing their job.”

Armed police were alerted last month after Mayall, who plays MP Alan B’stard in TV’s The New Statesman, waved the fake pistol at a married couple in Covent Garden. Mayall, who had just finished a performance of the disaster-hit show Cell Mates, was approached by two unarmed cops and told to hand over the gun.

The have since been recommended for a commendation for their bravery. Armed officers were rushing to the scene.

Mayall told of his remorse after getting a warning at Holborn. He said: “I’ve been unbelievably stupid, even by my standards. I would like to thank the police for being so patient and have apologised for wasting their time.”

20 Facts to Get You to the Bottom of Rik

By Harriet Mellor for Sun TV Super Guide, 28th January 1995

What a clown-and-out! Rik Mayall is almost unrecognisable as a bearded dosser in the new series of Rik Mayall Presents (Sunday, ITV, 9.45pm).

Rik, who also stars in BOTTOM (Friday, BBG2, 9pm), says: “Having to wear the beard was a drag. It had food in it all the time and I wasn’t allowed a trim.

The series starts tomorrow with Rik playing an estate agent who takes on a multimillionaire’s identity.

He romps in a Jacuzzi with stunning ex-model Saffron Burrows before bedding Phyllis Logan, who played upper-crust Lady Jane in Lovejoy.

Here are 20 things the TV Super Guide presents on Rik:

1 – His real name is Richard but he adopted Rik in his teens because he loved the comic strip, Erik The Viking.

2 – He puts his manic personality down to the tantrums he used to have as a child. He says: “I’ve learned how to control it but the potential to be self-centered is still there”

3 – He lost his confidence after critics panned his sitcom Filthy Rich And Catflap seven years ago and applied to train as a teacher. He says: “I stayed in for three weeks — I thought people would be pointing at me saying, ‘There’s that bloke that isn’t funny any more’.”

4 – Rik, who is 5ft 11in, has taken up jogging after his weight ballooned from around 12st to 14st over Christmas.

5 – Rik was accused of going berserk at a punk who insulted him in a London pub in 1988. It was alleged that he smashed a glass into the lad’s face, leaving him with a cut that needed four stitches. Rik, who claimed it was self-defence, said: “He went for me and fell over.”

6 – Rik was born in Harlow, W Essex, on March 7, 1959. His parents John and Gillian were drama teachers. Rik’s main childhood memory is of his older brother Anthony now a civil engineer, forcing him to eat worms.

7 – Rik sat the 11-plus exam at ten,. He says: “When I was at primary school I was top of the class and very brainy. Then I changed schools and suddenly the others were just as clever, if not cleverer. There was nothing I could excel in until I discovered acting.’

8 – The head of his primary school in Droitwich, Worcs, once slapped him for pulling faces during a carol concert. Rik says: “I was always showing off.”

9 – His partnership with Bottom co-star Ade Edmondson began when they shared digs while studying drama at ManChester University.

10 – After graduating, Rik spent a year working in a London factory during the day while he wrote plays at night with Ade. Rik says: “I was so broke I had to get off with girls to get a bed for the night.”

11 – Rik shot to fame as a spot squeezing student in The Young Ones in 1982. He wrote the series with Ben Elton and Lise Meyer. He says: “We based them on medical students we knew at Manchester. They were the wildest. most stupid and horrible people we knew”

12 – Ronnie Barker, one of Rik’s heroes, once told him he hated his humour. Rik says: “He was nice about it but he doesn’t think I’m funny. He said to me, “Why use all that foul language?'” Rik also admires Tommy Cooper, Les Dawson and Eric Morecambe.

13 – For seven years Rik dated lecturer’s daughter Lise Meyer, who is now seeing Angus Deayton. Friends thought they would wed after they brought a ҋ 200,000 house in North London.

14 – But Rik two-timed Lise when he fell for make-up artist Barbara Robbins, who applied his acne as comic character Kevin Turvy. Rik stunned Lise by feigning illness at a dinner party — and running off to marry Barbara on a clifftop in Barbados.

15 – He and Barbara persuaded Little Richard — the singer turned preacher — to baptise their daughter Rosemary, now eight, at top London restaurant L’Escarot. They also have a son Sidney, six.

16 – Reemployment Secretary Michael Portillo helped Rik to research his role as Tory MP Alan B’Stard for The New Statesman because the writers Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran lived in his constituency. Rik used a photo of former Tory chairman Norman Fowler to perfect his look as B’Stard. Rik says: “I couldn’t master those funny crinkles that Norman has. Then I had my hair parted on the other side and that was it”

17 – Rik formed a spoof heavy metal band called Bad News with Ade Edmondson and Nigel Planer. When the band played at the Reading festival in the mid-Eighties they got 400 bottles of urine hurled at them. Rik says: “It was more than anyone else. It was great.

18 – Rik, said to be a millionaire, lives with his family in a £ 300,000, four-bedroom house in Shepherd’s Bush, West London. He has had a studio built inside for Barbara, who is now a painter.

19 – Rik is a ‘news junkie’ and often watches all of the evening bulletins on TV.
*Editors Note – I don’t know what happened to number 20, it wasn’t on the original document*