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…”