"And the kids will say, haven’t you heard? Rick is dead!"
Recollecting on my first proper introduction to the genius of Rik, was not, like so many others - the people’s poet, but as the Eastwood wannabe Carlos in A Fistful Of Traveller’s Cheques - where riding a horse, holding pointless two man shootouts, attempting to spit out tobacco and saying the words ‘well B.F.’ while complaining of having no packed lunch, seemed to me just way more funny than they probably had any right to be. But this was that Rik Mayall guy. Out of The Young Ones right? A show I still hadn’t seen but had heard enough about to be silently counting the days for the fucking repeats to come round on TV again. And to be fair, I wasn’t actually using the fuck word back then as freely as I do now. It was probably more like bloody. Or blimey. Occasionally even B.F.
This was 1984 after all and I’d just turned 10.
But somehow this guy had already gotten into my psyche. By the time he finally appeared on my TV screen as the would-be anarchist sociology student, my view of comedy changed forever and I was to witness it wide eyed, a permagrin slapped across my face, as Rick and Vyvyan would knock seven shades of shit out of each other - destroying walls, ceilings, anything standing in their way - every single episode. To say I was converted was something of an understatement. Naturally it made total sense to now healthily spend my entire downtime embracing Rik Mayall as an entity: watching, reading, ingesting everything and anything this crazy, offbeat, hysterical comedian would turn out next.
The language became my own, the mannerisms I would copy for whatever reason, seeping into the young one I was - a poor imitator no question, of his comic godness (his words) - but an imitator that looked up to him all the same. I read The Young Ones book fifty times over, my first ever 7-inch was Cliff and them doing Living Doll. I embraced crappy VHS bootleg copies of Filthy, Rich and Catflap while my mates called it bollocks, and laughed out loud when He randomly cropped up spitting beer in An American Werewolf. Choosing to portray characters who seemed to strive so hard to be street and cool but ultimately always fail, Bad News' Colin Grigson was yet another extension of the Rik persona, forever more interested in playing up to the cameras shooting around him than he was with actually playing bass. Plain and simple, just fuck funny. But when either singing 'do you really wanna see my pants' during the Comic Relief live show or generally destroying the entire format with bags of baking powder on something as presumably safe as kid’s Jackanory, it was apparent this fucker was an unhinged wildcard of comedic genius, bursting with energy, raw talent and sporadic bursts of out an out violence. No more so was this evident than when out of the blue he rocked up, scratch that - burst through the doors - at the end of a Blackadder episode as the immortal Lord Flashheart and subsequently stole not only the bride to be, but the scene itself and pretty much the entire episode that had proceeded him, nailing the mix of flirtatious badboy - aimed squarely at the awesome Miranda Richardson - overly violent (as par the course) mental case, and charismatic, sexually charged asshole; while his fellow companions remained in awe and obvious trepidation at what kind of unexpected act this whirlwind of crazy was about to do next.
When one could argue the early nineties brought us the not so groundbreaking Bottom - a very obvious future incarnation of earlier tried, tested and already loved characters - it was never not without a sense of fun, clever comedic writing and for a change in style I felt, endless sequences of fighting, bodily fluids, breaking stuff and general mayhem - the gasman episode for all it’s over the top antics, an obvious highlight. But it was when he was allowed to step out of his comfort zone and deliver more straight comedy roles in Rik Mayall Presents… - Brief Encounter and Dancing Queen starring a youthful but no less brilliant Helena B.C. clear favourites - that a new untapped side of his acting emerged - showing his audience that of course there was actually a lot more to him than just smashing best mate Ade Edmondson around the face with a frying pan.
For all these images he single handedly forever singed into my brain, there is still one to beat out all the others - that of one half of the dreamytime escort agency in Mr Jolly Lives Next Door. During the fifty crazy, booze filled, violent minutes of over the top insanity, we get two exceedingly grotesque and filthy individuals who are seemingly only interested in driving drunk, beating up on Chinese businessmen, running pensioners over, fighting in pub toilets, killing television entertainers and jumping out of a third story window after downing a pint of home brew fairy liquid. In short - it fucking rules. The moment where a contemplating Rik, calmly leans back against a large window in his office only to realise it has recently been smashed and no longer contains glass, resulting in him falling clean out of the building - will forever go down in history as one of the funniest comedy highlights of my early life. Rik nails his greasy, sweaty, slimy character with ease and sells the frantic grab for the window frame with perfect comedy timing.
The list goes on. Sadly however, life does not.
Getting the chance to meet him years back, he was of course the same crazy, laughing fool I always hoped he would be, saying ‘matey’ and ‘bloody hell’ like it was the most natural thing, while possessing the kinda energy that automatically was infectious. I guess after the quad bike incident he was given a second shot at living life. I heard how he would occasionally look up into the sky and wonder as to how he had managed to cheat death, being thankful for still smiling and the knowledge he’d made others smile even more. And for another sixteen years the bastard did just that. Cause knowing Rik he would’ve spent them well.
You were a rock star, a pioneer and a comedy genius. So long man - you did bloomin’ good while you were around…