It’s not often that I write about celebrities, mind you, it’s not often I write about subjects other than myself at all. However, this evening I felt the need to sit down and write something. Something about probably the biggest influence on my career to date – Rik Mayall.
I’m fairly sure there are few people in the UK who haven’t heard of Rik, but if you’re from the USA or elsewhere you may not have. Rik Mayall was a comedian, actor and writer who came to prominence in the 80’s with his partner in crime, Adrian Edmondson, in such acts as, The Dangerous Brothers, The Young Ones and Filthy Rich and Catflap. That’s without mentioning the Comedy Store and Comic Strip Presents, both of which, along with so much that Rik was a part of, have become cult classics.
I can remember very clearly the first time I watched Bottom. I’d been into Kettering Woolworths with a five quid voucher I’d been given for my birthday, (12th I think) and the thing I wanted the most I couldn’t afford. The videos of Bottom series one – episodes 1 to 3 – were £7, tantalizingly just out of my reach. My friend put in the required £2, after vetoing my idea of changing the label to £4 (The scaredy bastard).
The opening scene of the first episode, Smells, is still something I smile at over twenty years later. Richie and Eddie are heading back from the pub after being blown out by numerous women. Richie feels they are lesbian and pulls ‘Armfulls of gonad enhancer’ (toilet roll) out of his trousers. Eddie is staggering about in the background, ready with a quick put down of Richie as and when he feels it’s needed.
Richie and Eddie worked so well together and, even though neither seemed to like each other very much, they understood that living together was better than the alternative. How a couple of 12 year olds found the put downs and knob jokes funny isn’t really hard to believe, but what is a sign that the series was better written than just talking about cocks and virginity, has been how it has stayed with me for two decades like my old mate. And I’ll still feel the need to text my mate with a quote, usually one of the insults, in another twenty.
I suppose in a way it’s always been ‘the thing’ between us as friends. It’s allowed us the vehicle to speak to each other however we like. To the outside world it would sometimes seem that we hated each other, when in reality we’d quoted something at the correct time to make the other feel better via laughter. It’s something that’s felt special and definitely bonded us into the life long friends we’ll no doubt be. The point I’m trying to make is that although we felt united by our love for this comedy, we failed to realise just how many other people also had the same experience. And with the news this week, it’s clear that it was a generational thing. Maybe we felt others didn’t really know because we watched it before we were supposed to.
The way this, on the surface of it, vulgar comedy, has in shaped a generation of both comedians and normal people, is something that I suppose happens every decade or so. I think Rik was special as he spanned more than one – the 80’s with The Young Ones and then again in the 90’s with Bottom.
When Rik Released his autobiography, I remember being in Waterstones the week after he’d been there signing. I didn’t have much money at the time so couldn’t afford a copy, though my mate could. More to the point, it was signed. I’ve rarely been as jealous as I was of that. It’s something that’s been on my list of things to buy for years. I don’t suppose I’ll be able to now. I do have a signed picture from elsewhere, but being an author, a book is the thing I really wanted. A quick look at eBay this evening shows just how many other people have realised they never chased up on buying that one signature they wanted. If you’ve not read the book then please get a copy. One thing I really wished he’d have done is to record an audio version as he’d written it just as you’d imagine him do one of his rants about being ‘Rik Fucking Mayall’. Just open a page one day or look inside on Amazon and have a nosy.
I’m not 100% sure where I’m going with this and I will close soon. I suppose what I wanted to do was link my career to the work of Rik and Ade (who wouldn’t?) but not in a way that attempts to get me any of the credit they deserve. That would be ridiculous. Just in the way that Bottom, and particularly the character, Richie, have shaped the sense of humour I have today so it’s something that comes out in my books. Sometimes more directly than others. The first review in The Village Idiot Reviews was written about ten minutes after watching an episode and, in its own way, is an ode to the brilliance of these two writers. One of whom is now gone.
It’s sad to think that mythical forth TV series will now never be made. We had a false start in 2013 when they sat down to write, but for one reason or another it didn’t work out. Will we ever get to read the script they worked on? Probably not. Does it matter for all the die-hards out there? Not for me. In my opinion, there is enough out there for me to dive into whenever I feel like it – which is getting further and further apart as I get older.
There are two occasions in the year where I do indulge though and they are Christmas and my mate’s birthday. One or the other of us will text, ‘I heard sleigh bells, has he been?’ or a video of Richie singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to himself and opening all the cards he’s written himself.
Also, and finally, Rik Mayall made a song in 2010 for the World Cup, which is now sitting at number 1 on the Amazon MP3 chart and number 3 in iTunes. What a nice thing it would be for his family to see it overtake as the theme of this year’s World Cup. If you’ve got 79p spare, give it a download. If you’ve got double that, then I can recommend Living Doll by Cliff Richard, featuring The Young Ones.