'Do you want some of this?'

RIP Rik Mayall (1958 – 2014)

Rik Mayall

It’s virtually impossible to understate the importance of Rik Mayall in shaping who I am. Anything I ever wanted to do or be was influenced by him. I pronounce words like ‘sand-a-wa-hitch’ and ‘sue-iss-you-ide’ the way he does, I giggle any time I see glacé cherries. I can’t look at a chess board without thinking about him. If I hear something vaguely saucy I’ll screw my face up demon-like the way he did. If I get hurt by someone I’ll loudly declare ‘Ah ha! Missed both my legs!’

 

Rik Mayall Comedian ActorIt’s not just me. Almost everyone I know does it. A whole generation united in mimicking Rik Mayall’s unique delivery. Nobody will say ‘Let’s do it!’ without verbally twirling ‘Do-oo-oo it!’. Even a straightforward ‘Bastard!’ has to be yapped like an angry puppy.

 

These examples are all from programmes he did with Ade Edmondson and his other Comic Strip semi-regulars. Rik would snigger at ‘semi’.

 

Rik MayallBut there was so much more to his career and his unique talent than just shouting, knob jokes and getting smacked with rubber frying pans. He had a real gift for comedy, something infinitely enviable that it’s very difficult to pin down. His stage persona for example in his early stand up days, the notorious ‘Theatre’ poem and his angry delivery. Patient on stage, his timing perfect, knowing when to raise an eyebrow, when to pause, when to carry on. Always ensuring the audience would laugh when he wanted them to and not over the jokes. It’s impossible not to laugh at that one set. As if the poem wasn’t ridiculous enough, his absolutely intolerance of the audience’s laughter is infectiously brilliant. Every last protestation is another belly laugh.

 

 

If he were just a wildly comic clown or a decent stand up it would be enough, but he was more than that. He was a damn good actor. His performances in Rik Mayall Presents… (it can’t just be me that’s unable to read the name Siobhan without saying ‘Sy-oh-ban, shee-ob-un…’) and Jonathan Creek show a real knack for drama and his various performances on stage are unforgettable.

 

He managed to make the insufferable and irritating likeable. Lord Flasheart shouldn’t be likeable, Gideon Pryke shouldn’t be likeable, even Alan B’Stard is meant to be the most unlikeable thing of all: a politician. But you side with him due to that effortless charisma and charm that comes from his performance.

In 1991 Rik had something of a public humiliation when Drop Dead Fred (Ate de Jong) dropped dead at the box office. But its performance in ticket sales shouldn’t be seen as a reflection of the film or of Rik’s performance. He’s wonderful in it. He gets to do all the things he’s good at and he does them well. It’s a genuinely good film and one I couldn’t wait to show to my daughter who at six years old adored it. This took her in turn to Bottom and then The Young Ones and then anything Rik turned up in really.

 

Rik MayallHe was totally unique, there will never be another one like him and he will be missed. I’ve never felt so sad at the passing of someone so important from my childhood viewing. Most of my heroes died at an age you’d expect them to. Spike Milligan, Peter Cook, Norman Wisdom, Peter Cushing – they were all old men who lived full lives and careers. Rik Mayall died at 56. I was so sure his best work was yet to come.

 

 

 

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