I don’t write about other things much in this blog, but the death of Rik Mayall means that I bloody well will. Because Rik Mayall was brilliant, and now he’s dead, and I just wanted to write a short bit about how ace he was.
I’m not one to sneer at people who show emotion when a celebrity dies. Although the hyperbolic, competa-bituaries sprout up as soon as the heart-clutch hits the ground, I don’t think that it means that the grief isn’t genuine. Of course we don’t know the celebrities who die. We grieve for the person as they were to us, a little piece of our own history, and of ourselves. And it feels like a little bit of you dies with them.
And that’s the case for me with Rik Mayall. He was as interwoven into the fabric of my childhood as those I shared school desks with, the scratched names on trees, the scraped, red-raw knees. Growing up, comedy was (and still is) the ultimate kiss-it-all-better.
Rik Mayall had that elastic, silly, manic energy that was magical to a child. The flailing limbs and swivelling eyes of a childhood tantrum. How can that be gone? Rick was the kind of spotty adolescent oik that older people laughed at but the younger people (well, me) secretly wanted to be. And as an adolescent myself, with my copy of the Communist Manifesto in my leopardprint bag and vocal, uninformed political arguments, who I became in some ways.
I wasn’t born when the Young Ones first aired, but it was one of first VHS videos we asked for when we got a little combi TV. Being a bairn growing up in West Belfast, I didn’t get the satire, but still found this hilarious. Especially Stephen Fry’s complete underreaction to getting a jug smashed over his head, as if he’d gone through life like that.
On my ninth birthday, when I went to the swimming pool in Andersonstown, I wasn’t allowed in because I whipped the blue towel of my bag and did this:
reciting lines from, “Holy”. It was Richie’s face I pulled behind my teacher’s back.
And Drop Dead Fred was my first love. It’s a strange film, wildly varying in tone, either a meditation on mental illness and abuse, or a live action cartoon. But as a lonely child, Drop Dead Fred was my ideal boyfriend. A cheeky sidekick, a partner in crime, someone who who would stand up for you.
As I got older and worked backwards, I found the Comic Strip Presents (Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, Bad News and Dirty Movie are amongst my favourites, though Ade Edmondson and Peter Richardson are the stars of the best- Eddie Monsoon- A Life and Strike!), 20th Century Coyote, the Dangerous Brothers and Flash’s turns in Blackadder. As well as the execrable Guest House Paradiso, which I hated, but which my little brother absolutely adored.
Rik Mayall is part of a sense of humour that got embedded deeply inside my own personality and psyche, even the way I cope with life, and it’s strange that now the world doesn’t have him anymore, and that the next generation won’t have him either.
Filed under: Mental health