Stand back birds, it’s the Hammersmith hard men….

This week one of my favourite comedians passed away. Rik Mayall was someone who had the ability to light up any situation and was a pioneer of the alternative comedy movement.

I started watching Bottom earlier than I should have, but having older siblings gave me access to programmes that I wouldn’t have usually seen. The mix of silly comedy and slapstick violence had me laughing loudly and quoting back the lines to my siblings for days. Even now, some fifteen years later I know all the episodes inside out. Each little comedy nugget is stuck in my mind and it only takes a few words to my brother and sister before we are usually finishing the scenes. One of the best things about the series was even though it involved two “loser” men bumbling through life using violence and depravity-I found it endearing. Watching the episodes as an adult; I couldn’t help myself rooting for Eddie Hitler and sympathising with Richard Richard.

After getting my fix, I was on the hunt for more work of Rik’s to consume. It was then that I stumbled into The Young Ones. This wasn’t Bottom, by any means. This was original, “off the wall” surreal comedy. I could clearly see that this was the precursor to Bottom, but it has it’s own place. It was right for the time, ahead of its time even. The comedy, the laughter and the slapstick were transferable though. I can stick the blu ray in now and still laugh my head off-that’s what makes comedy writing and the characters successful. In both these series the characters are timeless and the energy, the jokes, are funny, just as they were then (how many other comedians can say that about their work?)

During my university years I seemed to go mad on finding things with The Mayall in it. This led me to all sorts of work, FlashHeart in Blackadder (in my humble opinion he stole the series), the feel good film Drop Dead Fred and every episode of The Comic Strip presents. There are far too many to go into individually-but each one brought out another unique part of his repertoire which left me hungry for more. He was more than a comedian. He was a writer (if you haven’t read it please, please, please pick up his “memoir” Bigger than Hitler, Better than Christ) an actor and a bottomless pit of energy and mania!

I was lucky enough to have met Rik when I want to see a Bottom Live show in 2001. Having been entertained I met him backstage with a handful of others and he spent time with every one of us. He signed the programmes, he had conversations about whatever the fans wanted to speak about and he sometimes was still “in character”. I shall never forget that night, and as long as I keep playing the vast number of DVDs of his work (and showing them to any eventual children that I have-when they reach the age of course!) he will never be forgotten either.

So, I shall raise a pint of Bombardier in his honour and may I also say… “That’s a smashing blouse you have on…”

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You’re an idiot!

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I would say that I hear those words on average about twice a day. I have done so for about ten or more years – definitely as long as I can remember! It was started and been predominantly continued through the years by the same person. However, since others around me have heard her say it, other family members, friends and even work colleagues have jumped on this phrase.
Don’t think that these words have dented my confidence over the years. On the contrary, it has worked to improve it. You see, those words are said by my sister. And she is my Chief Cheerleader (I gave her that title, good innit?) She says them with such love and warmth that there is no way I am ever offended.
Just to put things into perspective, below are some examples (from the abundant catalogue of examples I had) of what has happened which has caused her to proclaim this.

1. When I am bored – and it is more often than you think – I sing current pop songs but in the style and accent of a Cockney pub singer. Honestly, you haven’t heard Robbie Williams’ ‘Angels’ until you’ve heard my version.

2. Whilst working in a call centre, I got pulled up by management because I was mimicking the accents of the callers. I genuinely love people’s accents, the different linguistics of people has always fascinated me and I am in no way mocking them. I was talking back to them in their own accent because I wanted to be able to copy how they speak. Also, on a side note I did find that I got a lot less rude callers when they thought that the person on the end was from their own home towns!

3. I struggle to read and acknowledge the various “PUSH” and “PULL” signs that are emblazoned on doors. I see them, but they don’t sink in, to the point that I will be pushing on a door for a few seconds whilst staring at the PULL sign clearly marked on the door. I struggled with a door so much during my University days that the Library assistant used to get up and open the door for me when she saw me coming so that I didn’t struggle….the shame – but funny nonetheless.

4. I will gladly tell friends and colleagues stories of my past which she knows are complete lies. I’m sure that they all do too; but I say the tales from my life with such conviction and passion that it almost becomes believable. Some examples of this would be that I toured with comedy duo Hale and Pace, I was once married to the rap singer Coolio; (but creative differences in the end pushed us apart) and I helped Bob Dylan compose some of his lyrics during an impromptu jamming session we had in 1971. Please bear in mind that the fact that I was born in 1985 does not make it difficult for me to retell these stories.

5. I tell her that we are not sisters and in fact I am her mother. I even pull rank on her and tell her to go to her room when we disagree about something. I believe that by invoking my “parental rights” I win the disagreement but it never works…. She just looks at me.

I don’t know why I do all of the above (and considerably more!) I just always have. I dream these things up and they make me laugh. So, I share it with others in the hope that it’ll make them laugh too. And actually, that sums it all up for me. That is what life should be about. There are not so many things that we can all share so readily than humour and laughter. If it makes someone’s day a bit better, if it helps someone forget (just for a little while anyway) than I shall continue my stories.

My sister encourages me to be silly. I make her laugh, I make her feel embarrassed, I let her into my head every single day whether she likes it or not. But you know what? I wouldn’t be what I am without her. I wouldn’t be able to laugh as much, or be as silly as I am allowed (damn my age!) without her getting me through the serious bits.

In my novel, one of the characters, Hana is going through an emotional crisis which has knocked her sideways and will change her entire life forever. Everything in her life was going at a very steady pace until she got pushed off her “train” and found herself lost and abandoned in an unknown place. Nothing but fear and anxiety was rushing to her aid. Then a hand reached down and attempts to pull her out…it’s the hand of her best friend and he works tirelessly to get to the bottom of this crisis and help her through it.

My sister is my hand, when I can’t figure out how to get out of the hole I have found myself in – she leans down and pulls me out. But also, she is my comedy partner. So you see, whenever she says to me “You’re an idiot!” I only hear what she’s really saying which is “I love you….you bloody idiot!”