Rik Mayall Interviews and Articles Archive

The Pan Global Phenomenon in all his verbal glory.

Category: 2004

Shoebox Zoo

BBC.co.uk, 32rd August 2004

Actor and comedian Rik Mayall has one major thing in common with his Shoebox Zoo character Edwin the Eagle.

“There’s no doubt about it,” admits the star of comedy classics such as The Young Ones and Blackadder, “we are both hopeless at the 21st century. He is totally bamboozled by a computer and so am I.”

Rik, 46, puts his technology aversion down to the quad bike accident, which almost killed him back in 1998.

He suffered a severe head injury and lapsed into a coma for four days following the accident, which happened at his farm in Devon.

“After recovering,” he continues, “it seemed everyone I knew had mobile phones and computers and I didn’t know how to work them. I still don’t.

“I have a complete aversion to technology and that’s exactly the same as Edwin so I know what makes him tick.

“I’ve thrown three mobile phones into the Thames in the past because I couldn’t work them. I’ve never been on the internet in my life.

“My wife Barbara gave me a computer but I haven’t a clue how to work it.”

Rik admits that his technological skills are so poor that he even had to accept help from his daughter in order to watch the first two episodes of Shoebox Zoo.

“When the tapes arrived in the post, my youngest child, Bonnie, who is nine, found me trying to put it into the video machine.

“‘I’ll show you how, daddy’, she said, and led me into her room where she put it in her machine.

“It was lucky she saw it as she was able to give me an insight into how children will react to the series, and she loved it, especially the carved animals and she started crying when the little girl, Marnie, told her dad how much she missed her dead mother.”

Rik’s character Edwin is the self-appointed leader of the animated animal gang who have lain locked within the Shoebox Zoo for 1100 years.

In a veiled reference to Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards, ski jumper and hero of the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988, Rik’s character cannot fly.

Despite his lack of skill in the air, an obvious failing in a bird of prey, Edwin is pompous, blustering and incapable of admitting he is ever wrong.

“It’s true,” laughs Rik, “he’s vain, self-obsessed, hypocritical and cowardly.

“He’s also so very English. He thinks he’s much better than the others, whom he considers a bunch of barbarians.”

Rik is no stranger to the world of animated film narration. In the past he has played Toad in Wind in the Willows and The Willows in Winter (for which he won an Emmy).

He also worked on Watership Down, Tom and Vicky, A Monkey’s Tale, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, Jellikins and Santa’s Special Delivery.

“I’m so well cast as Edwin,” Rik says. “He reflects perfectly the wily nature of the way I perform.

“I’m an old comic and animators like that. It gives them a lot to work with.

“They have done a great job here with Edwin’s wings and the way he struts up and down looking terribly haughty. It’s so ME.”

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Rik Mayall in Conversation

Expose, November 2004

Martin Vaux went along to hear Rik Mayall in conversation with Paul Jackson. Here’s that he made if it…

There’s something universally amusing about a man being testicles. It’s one of the undeniable facts of human existence. You will die, taxes will rise and if someone gets kicked in the balls you’re going to giggle. Rik Mayall, one of Britain’s comedy legends, came to Exeter University last Thursday to talk about his life, the ups and down, ins and outs, and how he made a career out of being kicked in the testicles. I expected the clips of his shows and I expected to laugh, but I did not expect to actually learn anything. But you know what? I did.

To give you a bit of an overview, Rik didn’t manage to get into Exeter University. He got DDC in his A-levels and got into Manchester on clearing. It was there her found himself surrounded by the same pretentious drama students that we all know and love today. It was in this hellish Drama department that Rik met up with long time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson, and where things got really interesting.

Their reaction to all the crap theatre around them was to do the kind of performing that they found funny. Taking the ethics of punk rock with them, they set out to bring down the establishment. This started with such simple sketches as Talking Bollocks, where Rik and Ade suspended themselves from light-rigging in pink sleeping bags and did a bit of role play. It soon grew however to a stage act, and soon in came the sadism. They went down a treat, after all who would you rather watch: an hour long piece of performance art, or Rik getting twatted with a cricket bat? Sorry? The performance art? Oh right, you’re joking! Good one. But seriously now, Rik and Ade were so successful that they managed to play clubs and make money with their act, dubbed “The Dangerous Brothers”, all while still in university.

It was playing in clubs that Rik’s interviewer for the evening, Paul Jackson, now CEO of Granada USA, saw The Dangerous Brothers and got them on the telly. At Manchester Rik also met Lise Meyer, his partner in many things, and Ben Elton, who used to be funny, remember? Anyhow, Paul Jackson set Mayall, Meyer and Elton up with one of the first shows on BBC 2. They cast their friends, one which was of course Ade, as well as such comedy dignitaries as Alexei Sayle and Nigel Planer, who were at the time a couple of mates from their Comedy Club. And all of a sudden The Young Ones, Britain’s most ground-breakingly anarchic comedy series ever, was born.

Rik’s story continued with the return of the Dangerous Brothers, into The New Statesman, Bottom, and his time in film. On each of these he was charming and forthcoming, often willing to talk about more than Paul Jackson felt comfortable with. Unlike many interviews set up by the Creative Art’s Programme, Rik Mayall was happy to be honest, and did not veil his answers in promotional guff or pretentious waffle. He was down to earth, and also very, very funny. Most refreshingly however he was happy to really let you know the score.

Because of course to talk of Rik’s successes is to only get perhaps two-thirds of the story. That would involve skipping out the affair that lead to his marriage, bugger ups onstage, shows that were not so successful (such as one at this very university) and of course being at the whim of Television Executives. He wasn’t afraid to tell us about his rejections, and about the critical dressing downs, or about how he managed to make a career out of fucking things up. And all the while he was making us laugh, because he, himself, found the whole apparent farce of his life a point for much amusement.

Tickets for this event were, as the English Department will attest, like gold dust, and I can easily understand why. I expected the evening to be fun, but I didn’t expect it to be bloody brilliant. Right down to the question and answer session, which is usually a dead end in any interview, Rik stood strong and kept the facts flowing. If you ever get the chance to see Mr. Mayall doing a similar thing, please go. You will enjoy it, it’s that simple. And I can assure you, you’ll both learn and laugh about a hell of a lot more than some guy getting kicked in the bollocks, as well as perhaps learning how to make a career out of it yourself.