After the sad death of my comedy hero, Rik Mayall on 9th June I have been re-watching a lot of his tv work. After all these years I still find his output amongst some of the best comedy I will ever see.
I grew up with Rik's antics all the way from 1983 when my Dad let me stay up to watch my first episode of The Young Ones. My Dad had watched the first series already and thought I'd enjoy it when they were repeated. He wasn't wrong. Little did he realise what groundbreaking act he was committing when he sat me down in front of the tv that evening with my sponge-like brain soaking up all these strange but ultimately funny lines that I would recount in the school playground the very next morning.
Luckily for me I had started The Young Ones bang on the very first episode, Series 1, Episode 1 'Demolition'. For some reason I always remember a very poor joke which was spoken by two puppet rats:
Yes, I know. Not one of Ben Elton's best but to an 11-year old boy this was comedy genius.Rat #1: Knock, knock.
Rat #2: Who's there?
Rat #1: Euripides.
Rat #2: Euripides, who?
Rat #1: Euripides the trousers, you mend-a these trousers.
Now these were the days before we possessed a video recorder so everything was watched and remembered keenly. In fact it was probably due to these financial circumstances at the time that made myself and my younger brother try to memorise every line from the shows and still do to some extent all these years later.
I can recall once placing my cassette recorder next to the telly and (audio) recording the very last episode ('Summer Holiday' in 1984). This was the next greatest thing to having it on video and my God, this was listened to over and over and over! I can still remember all the ambient noise throughout the recording as well being that it captured not only the soundtrack of the show but the laughing by us watching it.
Such an effect this programme had on the both of us that on any given day I might have a quote sent to me by text by my bro' and before you know it we are in a 'Rik-off' to see who can find the funniest line, back and forth.
After The Young Ones there was a bit of a wilderness in my life but then came the underrated and seldom-repeated Filthy, Rich & Catflap (1987) which was basically the same TYO cast minus 'Mike' (who I always thought was the least funny character anyway).Neil: It was horrible. I sat in the big hall and put my pocket of Polos on the desk. And my spare pencil and my support gonk. And my chewing gum and my extra pen. And my extra Polos and my lucky gonk. And my pencil sharpener shaped like a cream cracker. And more gonks with a packet of Polos in each. And lead for my retractable pencil. And my retractable pencil. And spare lead for my retractable pencil. And chewing gum and pencils and pens and more gonks, and the guy says "Stop writing, please".
Rik played the character 'Richard 'Richie' Rich' who was a showbiz 'luvvie' always boasting of his lifestyle in bumping into his celebrity mates Brucie, Tarby, "Des O'Connerie"...etc.
The show's title came from the characters' names; Ralph Filthy, Richard Rich and Eddie Catflap.
The star of the show was once again Rik with his superbly rubber-faced gurning which made me soil myself approximately every 10 seconds. There were hints of what would soon become the basis of he and long-term comedy partner, Ade Edmonson's classic 'Bottom'(1991) (and notwithstanding large elements of The Dangerous Bothers).
Any fan of the 'alternative comedy' scene of the early 1980's will undoubtedly remember Peter Richardson's wonderful Comic Strip Presents... from Channel 4. There was one episode in particular which I remember with great fondness and as such is one of my favourite pieces of televisual comedy bar none.
This is Mr Jolly Lives Next Door (1987). Rik and Ade play the proprietors of an escort agency, Dreamytime Escorts ("Escorts, Bestcorts.... come in if you're saucy!") which has a very silly plot of being them being mistaken for their slightly murderous neighbour, Mr Jolly (played by the late Peter Cook) who are then given the task of "taking out" ("what....Dorking?") the tv presenter Nicolas Parsons.
So many brillant scenes and endless silly quotes have entertained me for years in this one episode alone.
Rik Mayall, what can I say....it has been a pleasure to have known your comedy genius from such a young age which moulded me into the adult I eventually became.
I leave you with a link to the complete Blackadder (1983 - 1989) audiobooks which apart from having yet more classic comedy also feature Rik as Lord Flashheart in one of his brief but career-defining moments.
Richard Michael "Rik" Mayall
7 March 1958 – 9 June 2014