Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Category: 1997

Young One Who Dreads Being 40

By David Wigg for The Express, 22nd May 1997

Comic actor Rik Mayall thinks he’s heading for a mid-life crisis and this time he isn’t joking.

He made such a huge impact as the sneeringly anarchic student in The Young Ones 15 years ago that it is hard to imagine Rik Mayall ever growing up. But now the comedy star, who along with occasional partner Adrian Edmondson remains a self-confessed purveyor of “filthy, juvenile humour”, is approaching the dreaded 40 milestone – and he’s terrified.

“I shall probably go mad as soon as I hit 40,” says Rik. “It is hard for me because so much of my success has been based on being young or on playing young people. I can’t believe it has come round so fast.

“I’m going to feign depression because I guess that’s what everyone else does. I thought 30 mattered terribly – well, you do when you’re in your 20s.

“Ade and I used to laugh at the Rolling Stones for being sad old men who drank water, but it has caught up with us all now. I thought: ‘What’s happened to us? We used to be the guerrilla warriors of British comedy’. “Now we’re too old to go out on the razz every night. We just can’t do it and perform a show – it has to be one or the other. So we go home most nights, watch the football on telly, have a meal and drink Perrier.”

Now a father of three – daughters Rosemary, 10, and one-year old Bonnie, and son Sidney, eight – Rik is already taking precautions against the onset of middle age. Every day he goes for a two mile run and regularly tackles a rowing machine to keep his weight down, which suddenly shot up to 14 stone last year. Now he’s back down to 13 stone.

“I worry about my weight because everything shows on film, and for a time I even hired a personal trainer. Lovely girl,” he says with a twinkle in his blue eyes, “but she moved away.”

When touring with Ade, a comedy partnership that began with The Young Ones in 1982, they choose hotels with gyms so they can maintain their fitness regime even while on the road. “For so long I’ve been living a schizoid existence, pretending to be a wild man when I’m really Mr Mortgage, Mr Two-cars. I get up, see my children, make the sandwiches and feed the cat, and then I go round to Ade’s house and we write filthy, juvenile jokes for a living.”

Standing 5 ft 11 ins tall, and wearing a green suit with a white T-shirt and sober brown shoes, Rik was visiting the Cannes Film Festival this week for the unveiling of his new film, Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis. With his hair dyed a vivid blond, he plays Marty Starr, founder of Purple Starr Records and the deceitful manager of sexy pop star Marla Dorland (Jane Horrocks).

Marty decides his client’s record sales might soar again if Marla were suddenly to die. He then sets about plotting her demise – and things start to go disastrously wrong.

“One of the reasons I was attracted to the role was because Marty had massive success when he was young and then it all fell through his hands like sand, which is why he becomes such a desperate man,” Rik explains. “I think the characters I play best are the ones that are alien to me, or have characteristics I possess but suppress because I’m trying to be decent.”

Rik says he isn’t easy to live with at his comfortable West London home during periods of inactivity.

“My wife Barbara, who doesn’t work, doesn’t like having me around the house. It’s all right for a week or so then I start kicking my heels. I only really like working,” he says.

“I don’t have any hobbies and I get in the way. She’s always busy doing something – having her girlfriends round or getting the builders in to work on the house. I get restless and bored.

“I’m never bad-tempered as long as I get enough exercise. I get rid of all my anger and frustration that way.”

Away from the world of showbusiness, Rik is keen to keep the family grounded in reality – although both Sidney and Rosemary were sent to a school attended by other actors’ children so they were not regarded as anything special.

“We just try to be normal parents and keep some order about the place, but we do have our funny moments,” Rik admits.

He met Barbara when she was working as a make-up artist on the BBC show A Kick Up The Eighties in which he made his name as the comic Brummie Kevin Turvey. The fact that fans are always approaching him to discuss his various creations doesn’t bother her.

“Fortunately she understands all that side of it. Make-up artists love actors, and actors love make-up artists because they are so pretty and sexy,” he says wickedly. “And of course they make us look so nice. Well, they appear to. But actors are really stupid and can think: ‘She really loves me’, when she is probably just thinking: ‘He is really rich’.”

Rik was instantly attracted to Barbara and says their marriage has worked simply because of their “love for each other”.

“I like everything about her. She is an enormously wise, instinctive person. She knows the effects something would have on someone. Barbara is my wife and my friend.

“I have a home where I can just be a daddy. My wife has a tremendous sense of humour. She has to have, living with me.”

While many of his screen roles show him as frantic and hyperactive, he says that image is a far cry from the real Rik Mayall. One such character is Alan B’Stard, the hilarious amoral Tory of The New Statesman TV series. Rik is now considering bringing him back – only this time under the Labour banner.

“I’m going to give it a while and see what Labour are doing, but people adore the character despite my attempts to kill him off. We have shot him twice, but he always pops up again,” he explains.

“Times have changed, and in a way he was a very Eighties character, but it is to his credit that he has survived into the Nineties. People often say that with comedy you cannot go back to the formula, but if you look at Till Death Us Do Part and In Sickness And In Health, you see that it still worked.” Rik is also working on new projects. He and Ade are preparing their first screenplay together and intend to bring the outrageous humour from the TV series Bottom to the big screen. Videos of the show have been such a success that sales have just gone platinum.

“It will be that kind of disgusting, shouting and screaming and waving your bottom humour,” says Rik, sounding like a naughty schoolboy.

So with his 40th birthday approaching, and such a rich legacy of humour behind him, what was it that originally convinced Rik he could make it as comedian? “My parents were drama teachers and as a boy they used to put me on stage with their students. I found I made people laugh and I enjoyed that feeling. I enjoy adulation, but I’m wary of it,” he recalls.

“I want to be true to myself. But now I feel like doing something straight, and an awful lot of people are prepared to come down that path with me.”


Young One? I Was Nearly a Young Farmer.

By Angela Hagan for Daily Mirror, 27th November 1997

10 Facts Give you Bottom Line on Mayall

It’ll be hard to escape former Young One Rik Mayall on Boxing Day. He’s starring in ITV’s glossy drama The Canterville Ghost.

And you’ll also see the 39-year-old fulfilling one of his TV ambitions playing the villain in a special edition of The Bill.

Here are ten other fascinating facts about the man from Bottom.

HIS days as a grotty student in the Young Ones are long gone. He is married to former make-up artist Barbara, has three children, is going grey and turns 40 next year.

HE teamed up with comedy partner Ade Edmondson when they met as students at Manchester University 22 years ago.

Rik thought Ade, was the hippest guy on campus. He says: “Ade had long hair, John Lennon glasses and ripped jeans.

“I thought he was cool and wanted to be his pal.”

Rik reckons he could have ended up as a farmer or teacher if it hadn’t been for Ade.

He says: “If Ade hadn’t been there, there wouldn’t have been any Young Ones or Bottom. I probably wouldn’t even have gone into showbiz.”

He is set to star in a new film opposite Mia Farrow set in Ireland called Banjaxed in which he plays the obnoxious husband of a fallen soap star.

In 1995 Rik admitted he was a “total prat” for waving a fake gun in a London street. He was arrested by two policemen and later given a formal warning for the practical joke.

Rik admits he was lucky not to have been “blown away” by police marksmen.

He was slammed for appearing in a controversial video called Out Of My Head playing a loser who turns to drugs.

The one-hour film, which included descriptions of the pleasures of using cocaine and heroin, also featured tales from real-life users.

Rik reckons he earned peanuts from his Hollywood debut in Drop Dead Fred.

“The film grossed 60 million dollars but I’ll be lucky to get pounds 60,” he once said. Nowadays he insists on getting paid up-front. “Just like Chuck Berry, I want cash in my back pocket.”

Alan B’Stard, the fictitious amoral Tory, may return for a new television series as a Labour politician.

“He’d be delighted to switch because he would not have to cross the floor of the House to stay on the backbenches,” says Rik.

Rik says he’s nothing like his anarchic TV characters.

“I’ve been living a schizoid existence, pretending to be a wild man when I am really Mr Mortgage,” he says.

“I get up, see my children, make the sandwiches and feed the cats, and then I go round to Ade’s house and we write filthy juvenile jokes for a living.”

Now He’s nearly 40, Rik takes care of his health and recently gave up drinking while touring with Ade Edmondson.

He said: “We chose hotels with gyms. One morning I went down and Ade was on the step and I got on the rowing machine.

“I thought: ‘What happened to us? We used to be the guerrilla warriors of British comedy’.”

Rik: I Owe it All to Ade

For Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail, 18th July 1997

Rik Mayall could have been mucking out instead of mucking about.

Madcap comedian Rik Mayall could have ended up as a farmer – if it hadn’t been for his encounters with lusty girls and Adrian Edmondson.

Rik and Ade’s anarchic partnership was formed when they met as students at Manchester University 22 years ago.

The pair now have a string of hit TV comedies to their credit and Rik is about to grace the big screen in the new movies, Remember Me? and the black comedy Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis.

Yet if Rik had concentrated on swotting instead of snogging, he would never have met Ade and the world would have been spared from the comedy mayhem of The Young Ones and Bottom.

Rik, 39, revealed: “I only went to Manchester University because I screwed up my exams.

“I was too busy snogging – but don’t tell my mother – on the banks of the River Severn.

“So I only got two Cs and an E from my A Levels, which wasn’t good enough for entrance to university.

“But luckily for me, everyone had messed up their exams, it was a great summer back in 1975 and we were all at it. So they had university places to fill and I was admitted to Manchester because I’d done a good interview.” Once he got there Rik immediately formed a bond with Ade, who he thought was the hippest guy on campus.

Rik said: “Ade had long hair, John Lennon glasses and ripped jeans before anyone else had thought of them. He had the girls queuing up and I reckoned he was cool and I wanted to be his pal.

“All that I’ve done since then is because of meeting Ade. If he hadn’t been there, there wouldn’t have been any Young Ones or Bottom. I probably wouldn’t even have gone into showbiz.

“Instead I would have been a teacher or a farmer.”

And Rik reckons that it would be a nightmare if that friendship with Ade ever ended.

He added: “Outside of anything that affected my family, that really would be the worst thing that could happen.

“Ade and I have been through so much together and we bring out the best in each other.

“If we were to fall out I couldn’t even think of how to start another relationship like this one.”

The duo are now planning their next move, after completing a gruelling three- month stage tour of their Bottom comedy.

Rik said: “We are supposed to be writing new material right now, but I’m not sure what we will do next.

“Ade wants to write a film, but I don’t think it should be a big-screen version of Bottom. I haven’t seen a single successful transfer of a British TV comedy to a film.

“So I reckon we should do a Rik and Ade movie because there must be a way of getting our really upfront, violent, sudden, joyful humour on to the big screen.”

Rik’s days as a Young One are now long gone. He is married to former make-up artist Barbara, has three children, is going grey and turns 40 next year.

He said: “Most of the people I grew up with are older than me, Ade turned 40 in January, so I have seen them all go through that birthday.

“I’ve been going to 40th birthday parties for three or four years and, as you know, boys do really Roman things at these parties.

“So I think that now I’m ready for 40.”

Rik, who already has a number of big screen appearance behind him, including Drop Dead Fred, stars as a blond pop manager in Bring Me The Head of Mavis Davis.

His character decides that he’ll make a fortune and sell more records if his star singer – played by Ab Fab’s Jane Horrocks — was dead.

Rik said: “He decides to stage a tragic death for Mavis Davis and get ready for the money to pour in.”

But while he comes across as a nutter on telly, Rik is a family man who prefers to keep his children away from the limelight.

He said: “My kids went to the same school as Sinead O’Connor’s son.

“And when I went to the sports day I was just being ordinary Rik.

“I saw a photographer and went over to have a word because I didn’t want the day spoiled.

“As I was asking him to go away he told me to move because he was trying to take a picture of Sinead!”

Cop That! Rik’s So Arresting

Source unknown, 1997

Funnyman Rik Mayall was stunned to discover two policemen on his doorstep. They were answering an emergency call — made by his two-year-old daughter — Bonnie. She had managed to dial 999, and the cops had traced the call to Rik’s house.

But the 39-year-old actor wasn’t cross at her bout of mischief. “It proves how quickly they’d respond if we really needed them,” he says. “But I did get a shock when I answered the door to find an out-of-breath policeman while another stood by his panda car, ready for action. “One of them said, ‘Are you all right, Mr Mayall?’ — I replied, ‘Yes, fine — why?’ He added, ‘I think your little daughter must have phoned us again.

Father-of-three Rik is known for his comedy performances in The Young Ones, The New Statesman and Bottom. But this week he appears as a villain and compulsive liar Patrick Massie In ITV’s The Bill. His solvent-addicted son falls to his death from a high building in the second of a three parter called Humpty Dumpty (Tueday, 8pm).

In March 1995, Rik found out what It was like to be banged up a cell when he pulled a replica gun on passers-by in London after a boozing session. “I’d just been told that the play I was in, Cell Mates, was closing. For a joke, I presented cast members with replica guns,” he explains. “On the way home, I pulled a shooter on someone for a gag. He thought it was real — and within seconds police charged down the street from both ends.

“I was a total prat and I was lucky not to be shot. I didn’t put up any resistance and apologised straightaway. But they arrested me — I was handcuffed and whisked off to the cop shop where I was kept in a cell for a couple of hours.” He was eventually allowed home, but ordered to return for a telling off. Then Rik had to make a statement admitting his stupidity.

Rik admits he’s a big fan of The Bill and is excited about his new role. He says of his character Patrick: “He’s a compulsive gambler, selfish and unpleasent. He only stops gambling when he runs out of money — and then he’ll do whatever he can to get more.”

Rik has done straight acting in two series of films for ITV called Rik Mayall Presents. But his roll in The Bill is the grittiest non-comic part he’s ever undertaken. “I’ve spent months writing a comedy screenplay with my pal Ade Edmondson,” he says. “So I was keen to get back into a proper acting role. When The Bill script landed on my doormat it was perfect.

“I have a long interrogation scene with Sergeant Bob Cryer, who’s played by Eric Richard. It really had me salivating because as an actor that’s a real challenge. It was actually one at my ambitions to be up against Sergeant Cryer. “I love the show and watch it whenever I can. But it coincides with my kids’ bathtime so I don’t see it as often as I’d like.”

Rik will be on TV again at Christmas playing an exorcist in the new ITV drama The Canterville Ghost. And next month sees the release of his film Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis, in which he plays the boss of a fading music business.

Despite his wild image, Rik leads a settled home life with his wife Barbara and children Rosie, 11, Sidney, nine, and Bonnie. “I’ve been living a schizoid existence,” he admits. ” I get up, see my children and feed the cats. The I go round to Ade’s house and we write filthy Juvenile jokes for a living!” Rik has no plans to change when he hits 40 in March. “I won’t give up things I enjoy,” he grins. “I’m planning to grow old disgracefully!”

A Joker who Scorns his Critics

For The Telegraph, 26th July 1997

Rik Mayall’s obnoxious television characters have made him into a national institution. Or so he tells Jan Moir . . .

Rik Mayall tries so hard — so very, very hard — to be modest that one’s worst suspicions are instantly aroused. Is this surface humility the real deal? Or does he use it as a pretty cloak to conceal something darker?

He has just returned from the San Remo film festival, where — aw, shucks — he was awarded a top acting honour for his role in Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis, a feature film in which he co-stars with Jane Horrocks. “This will look crap in print, but it meant a great deal to me,” says Mayall quietly, examining his fingernails as he speaks; a perfect portrait of an unassuming star.

Much in the same vein, he makes the surprisingly candid admission that The Young Ones – the television sitcom that made his name in 1982 – does not deserve its hallowed place in the comedy hall of fame.

I was always the one who said: ‘Don’t repeat it, don’t repeat it.’ You see, in everyone’s mind, it was this great, amazing show. But when you are actually confronted with it today, when you see these young, thin people with lots of hair running around shouting and screaming, you think, is this what all the fuss was about?”

Since then, Mayall has established himself as one of our most popular comedians (“Longevity is a great affectioniser,” he meekly acknowledges) and, more recently, as a serious actor of some repute. He takes a tumble on the humble hurdles only when the irksome topic of critics is raised, for he feels that they have not always been as generous with their praise of the Mayall comic oeuvre as they should have been.

“Critics shouldn’t f— with me. I’m a national institution,” he snaps.

Is he joking? Someone please tell me that he’s joking. I wait for the droll punchline that would indicate a piece of arch-tomfoolery on his part, but it never comes.

People either like my comedy or they don’t,” he continues. “And I don’t like the people who don’t like it because they don’t laugh at the same things as me.”

Then, abruptly, he rinses the sneer off his face and folds back into his diffident persona, politely pouring coffee in the cool, creamy elegance of his agent’s London flat, and proudly showing off the friendship bracelet his daughter made for him.

Rik Mayall will be 40 next year and has aged well: comely flecks of grey at the temples, a broad, smooth forehead and clear, watchful eyes. He is one of those lucky men whose looks improve with each passing year, which may be one reason why he regards his approaching watershed birthday with caution, but not trepidation.

I am trying to find some kind of way through it. No one told me how to be 40. There were blueprints of how to be groovy at 20, how to be a New Man at 30 — but this? I suppose I could invent a new me. I want to be proud without being haughty, like Nicholas Cage. I want to be strong, like Pete Sampras.”

To illustrate what he means, he throws back his head with bravura and slaps a thigh muscle through his smart charcoal suit. He is wonderfully vain and prone to long periods of self-absorption.

I like me. I am always tinkering with me. I am my hobby,” he says, although he admits that excessive self-analysis can be a dangerous thing. “Sometimes, when I’m on tour, I spend too much time thinking about one little thing, then start feeling really sorry for myself.”

What do you think about?

“Myself. I think, ‘God, here I am in this big city, everyone loves me on stage at night, but what do I do all day? I just hang out and go to HMV and buy some music. I am such a sad case.’ And it’s at that moment I think what a w—– I am.”

And even more self-obsessed and neurotic than the average actor?

“That would be something I would be very embarrassed to admit,” he says, fiddling with his cuffs. “But… yes. I am.”

In the 15 years that have followed The Young Ones, his evolution through the comedy food chain can be easily charted. First of all, there was Rick, his glorious Young Ones alter ego who became the epitome of student twittery, with his uncomprehending espousal of trendy causes and his face pimple-pocked like a rancid cherry cake. Everyone hated Rick, even the man who created him.

“He was a person I was terrified I might actually be; I was always scared that secretly I was a total w—–. To be honest, I still have that fear,” he says. This is one of the reasons, he believes, that he went on to specialise in obnoxious comedy characters. “As a kind of exorcism,” he explains.

He has remained touchingly close to Ade Edmondson, who played the psychotic Vyvyan in the series; indeed, they have been best friends since studying drama together at Manchester University. “We trained together, grew up together and when we work together, we spend 90 per cent of our time laughing,” he says of Edmondson, who is married to the comedienne Jennifer Saunders. “Ade and I can hurt each other without meaning to, but we are very sensitive to the fact that we really need each other, as well as love each other. And we won’t ever let each other down.”

The launch pad provided by The Young Ones gave them the opportunity to create a cavalcade of socially dysfunctional television duos and, in the process, become the slacker generation’s answer to Morecambe and Wise. A series called Filthy, Rich and Catflap was followed by another called Bottom, both, in their way, reprising the Vyvyan/Rick relationship and the changing reality of Edmonson’s and Mayall’s own lives.

While The Young Ones reflected their student flat-sharing days, Catflap depicted the perils of instant celebrity and Bottom was about getting older. The latter, in particular, was a huge success, spawning massive, sell-out British tours and a pair of characters called Richie and Eddie, whom Mayall refers to as “our Eric and Ernie”.

Richie and Eddie were cartoons made flesh; in their world, furniture was smashed, genitals were crunched and their predilection for puerile, fourth form farty-botty-trousers-down humour bored some viewers – such as me, for instance – to death. Mayall, however, cannot find it in himself to forgive or to comprehend those who fail to share his comic vision.

“What do you mean, Mrs Critic?” he says, quite nastily. “People who don’t understand Bottom, who don’t get it, are like people who don’t understand jazz. They are wrong. To dismiss it as farty-bottom humour is like dismissing Dizzy Gillespie’s music as noise.”

Mayall’s comedy output is so prolific (remember his malignant MP, Alan B’Stard, in the television series The New Statesman?), that we tend to overlook his more serious work, which includes a Hollywood film, Drop Dead Fred, and a well-received series of dramas for Granada Television in 1994. And we also forget – in the brouhaha which surrounded the incident — that it was Rik Mayall whom Stephen Fry left in the lurch when he bolted from Simon Gray’s doomed West End play, Cell Mates, the following year.

“It was terrible for me. My greatest regret was that it was a good role for me, but so long as Stephen was OK, as long as Simon was OK, that was what really mattered. Stephen had to do what he had to do and I was piggy in the middle. What could I do? I had to stick it out. I couldn’t go off as well, you know. I threw up every night before going on stage. Still, I did get a nice letter from Dame Maggie Smith saying, ‘Good on you, for staying in the trench.’ Which was nice. But then, I am a very good boy.”

His latest film, Remember Me? is a based on a Sixties television play, freshly scripted by Michael Frayn and destined to go down in history as the last comedy ever produced by Ealing Studios. Among a cast which includes Robert Lindsay and Imelda Staunton, Mayall is impressive in the role of Ian, a depressed, unemployed, inadequate husband who creates a pool of gloom whenever he walks into a room and is despised by his children. Given his claims that he is attracted to unsavoury characters because they expunge some concomitant nastiness in himself, what are we to make of his decision to play such a dreary, middle-aged has-been?

“I got a feeling inside myself that I wanted to be Ian for a while; there was a piece of me that connected with him. You’ve got to laugh at someone as selfish and self-obsessed as Ian,” he says, showing that he is entirely capable of laughing at himself after all.

His own home life, in comparison, appears to be a study in domestic bliss. He lives with his wife and three young children in a fine house near Ladbroke Grove, west London, which he calls Nintendo Towers, as it was purchased from the proceeds of a series of television ads for the computer games company. But, hang on, didn’t he once swear he would never debase himself by appearing in adverts? Didn’t he once proudly say: “It makes me feel unclean. If audiences see me telling a lie for money, I lose their trust.”

“Yes I did, I did. But that was back in the Eighties and I’ve grown up and straightened up now. I could be embarrassed, because that argument is no longer going on in my head . . . but I’m not. And give me a break! I’ve got a family to feed.”

He has been married for 12 years to Barbara, a former make-up artist he met while working on a production in Glasgow. “They understand actors,” he says. Their meeting ushered in a rather messy period in his life, as he had been living for five years with his then girlfriend Lise Meyer, the comedy writer who helped script The Young Ones. While both women were pregnant by him, Mayall eloped with Barbara and married her in Barbados. Sadly, Meyer later lost the child she was carrying. The episode appears to cast Mayall in a rather callous light, but he is understandably reluctant to discuss it.

“It is very private stuff. I am not one of these people who have to bolster their fame by talking about those bits of their lives they messed up. It was a mess, but it happened 12 years ago. And Lise and I have been friends again for the past 10 years, which is all you need to know.”

His oldest child, Rosie, is now 11, followed by Sidney (nine) and Bonnie, who is nearly two. “It’s all been a wonderful blur of nappies and scripts and washing up and fun,” he says, adding that he can hardly remember what it was like not being a father. “When did all that New Man thing happen? It was always second nature to me, because I was 10 when my sister was born and I looked after her.

“So I changed our babies, all that stuff, not because I was told to, but because I am a natural dad. I don’t think I am strict — I’m certainly not a beater. I’m a very mellow man these days.”

He pauses and thinks for a moment. “Mature, I think, is the right word to describe me.”

And modest, too, of course. When the mood takes him.

Remember Me? is on release at selected cinemas.