Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Many Faces of Rik Mayall

If I went through and counted up every single laugh I've ever had in my life, then tallied up the individuals who'd given me those laughs, Rik Mayall would easily be in my top 3 laugh providers. Considering how obsessively I used to rewatch Bottom - a show where even the opening credits sequence makes me laugh every single time - he may be numero uno on my official laughter list. I have a lot to thank him for.

They say that laughter is the best medicine. If that's true, then Rik has probably cured me of a few dozen terminal cancers.

As a comedian, he had every big gun there is - a fine character actor, a tremendously witty wordsmith and a sensational physical performer. He could take a fake punch better than anyone on the planet. One of the most naturally gifted funnymen there's ever been. Just look at Lord Flashheart: In 12-odd hours of Blackadder, Flash appears for a total of about 15 minutes. That's all the time Rik needed to steal the show and create a character that's still remembered. It takes a truly special talent to pull that off.

He didn't write the part of Flashheart, but he owned it. When Rik stepped out on the stage or in front of the camera, it was like a fucking hurricane of comedic energy. Few could stand up to that force, let alone compete with it.

Of course, one man not only competed with that energy, but complemented it and drove it to greater heights: Adrian Edmondson.  Although they'll both be most well known for the Young Ones, it's the Rik and Ade partnership that stands out for me, in whatever form it took - Bottom, Dangerous Brothers, Mr Jolly, etc.

With most comedy duos - Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Jerry and Deano - there's the Straight Man and the Funny Man. With Rik and Ade, it was more like the Mad Man and the Even Madder Man; the two of them swapping roles on a minute-by-minute basis. Separate, they're both still great, but put them together and a magical concoction of pure chaos is formed. Utterly demented and utterly hilarious carnage. Like nitro meeting glycerin. Like the Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole of comedy.

Never before or since have two men so extensively and exhaustively beaten the living shit out of each other in the name of comedy. Fists, boots, cricket bats, frying pans - any object on hand, these guys would smash into each others faces. We've seen broken noses, broken limbs, chopped off fingers, countless mortal injuries, oceans of guzzled booze and an entire Kleenex factory worth of spunk rags. They made an artform out of punching each other in the bollocks. If that wasn't enough, they also invented the now-classic party game, Put A Bit Of Sellotape On The Fridge.

There's been plenty of other characters throughout the years too, including Alan B'Stard...

Adonis Cnut...

Colin Grigson...

Micky Love...

Generally, I don't much care when a celebrity dies. This time, it hurt. I popped in a Bottom DVD, tentative about rewatching his classic material, because I thought the humour would now be tinged with melancholy. But it wasn't. It was just as funny as the first time I saw it. That's how good he is. Not even his own death can prevent him from being funny. A genius is dead and I can't stop laughing my fuckin' arse off.

So yep, The Lamb and Flag is closed for good. Richard Richard has left the building. The crazy, mad, wild-eyed, big-bottomed anarchist has gone up in flames. The Falklands veteran will never again shut Tucker's finger in the tank door and is off to meet his mates Ginger, Tommy, Tiddles, Spot, Joey, Snowy and, uhm, Corky...

The People's Poet is dead. But he's still making me laugh and he'll keep on making me laugh, until my own freedom bus to Goodtime City plummets over a cliff.

RIP, farewell and, most of all, thanks.