Two weeks ago one of mine and many others favourite comedian, Rik Mayall died. Rik first came to prominence in the early 1980’s in what was known as the Alternative Comedy scene. It was during the times of the great social upheavel, mass unemployment and for many, times of misery that were a result of the famous Thatcher led government of the 1980’s. Whilst unable to challenge the ruling Conservative government at the ballot box, the disenfranchised did at least their own heroes in political and anarchic comedy and there was none more anarchic than The Young Ones.
The Young Ones was the talking point of 1980’s comedy. Everyone over 30 thought it was terrible and possibly scary if it were at all realistic whilst many under 30 thought it to be the funniest show ever. The Young Ones followed a house of students who spent more time drinking and fighting than studying and made household names out of people like Adrian Edmondson who played the punk Vivian, Nigel Planer who portrayed the paranoid and depressed hippy Neil and Rik Mayall who was the anarchic peoples poet Rick.
In truth I was slightly too young to watch this when it first came out and though I have enjoyed the repeats, Rik Mayall really first came to my attention in the historical comedy Blackadder II. Blackadder is perhaps my favourite comedy ever and would be without Rik Mayall. The brilliance of the characters and writers and the quick-witted humour makes me laugh now as much as it did nearly 30 years ago. It helped make stars out of the brilliant Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. Rik Mayall is only on-screen for about 3 minutes and makes probably makes a bigger impact in these few minutes than any other actor in a comedy show as the flash by name, flash by nature Lord Flashheart who appears and disappears in an explosion, chats up the queen, insults Melchett, flirts with Nursie, gets smutty with Baldrick and steals the girlfriend of his best man Blackadder.
Whenever I watch this scene it always makes me laugh and each time I forget the impact it has and I’m left thinking, ‘What the hell was that?’
Here is the link to watch this memorable scene.
A few years later in our time and a few centuries later Rik re-appeared in Blackadder as Flyer Flasheart who was even more in love with himself than the millions of women back home in Blighty who were in danger of killing themselves when they heard his plane had been shot down.
This time Flashheart is not just onscreen for 3 minutes but an entire episode. Here are two small clips.
His charismatic and flash nature are everything that depressed and slightly cowardly Blackadder despises and when Blackadder leaves the army to join the 20-minuter flyers he is of course mortified when not only does Flyer Flashheart teach the flying course but that the 20-minuters does not refer to how much work they have to do each day but is in fact the average life-span of a new pilot. There is more innuendo than you know what to do with and more woofs than at a Crufts Dog show but it is entirely hilarious.
The next show that Rik featured in was in the New Statesman where Rik plays the slimy Conservative MP Alan B’Stard which ran for 4 series brilliantly satirising the politics of the day and the still ruling Conservative government which by then to many was known as the Nasty Party. Obviously all that needs to be said is that you can tell a lot by the lead characters name here.
Riks final big hit was Bottom. Bottom saw him once again team up with Adrian Edmonson and for all intents and purposes they played middle-aged version of their student identities of the Young Ones. Richard Richie Richard and Eddie Hitler were the biggest losers imaginable. Richie always had illusions of grandeur and self-improvement whilst Eddie was much more blunt and short-tempered. There is still no comedy like Bottom, its excessive use of cartoon style comedy and schoolboy humour. They never had any money whatsoever and so were always trying to get by but couldn’t agree how too. Whether they are getting hit by frying pans, irons, television sets, fridge doors it doesn’t seem to have any effect on them.
For those who haven’t seen Bottom before then this clip below shows what you’ve been missing.
I remember one scene which always made my mother and I laugh where one of them loses a finger and the other staples it back to the hand but does so at a totally wrong and unnatural angle and blood spurts out like its fired from a hosepipe. Everything they do is wrong, attempts to get to know ladies always end in misery and violence and their schemes are doomed to fail such as when they decide to forge money to pay their bar bill and create £27 pound notes which instead of the Queen feature extremely pornographic images of the Royal Family.
Sadly Bottom never aired its 4th series though it was often on the verge of coming back, more than ever this year it seems. Rik suffered a near fatal accident in 1998 when a Quad Bike accident left him in a coma for 5 days which he said meant he beat Jesus who was only dead for 3 days before he rose to life again.
Rik was greatly loved by his fans and was always happy to pose for photos and pulling one of his trademark bizarre faces. He wasn’t big on social media and infact only made one tweet:
Opening my very own Twitter to stop another bastard from doing it. So f**k off & don’t expect to hear from me any time soon. Love Rik x
— Rik Mayall (@rikmayall) April 13, 2010
There are also one or two funny but rude letters he wrote back to fans who had asked for his autograph. They might seem rude but he obviously took a lot more effort and thought into them than many others do such as this one below.
More recently Rik had starred in a series of adverts Bombadier which show him victorious in battle and his mind set on a pint of beer and a chat with barmaid, Bang On! The adverts were surely inspired by his legendary characters of Lord Flashheart and his descendant Flyer Flashheart.
Even though most of his shows are between 15-30 years old, they are still extremely popular and lots of people still use catchphrases from them. I myself said “Woof” just a day before Rik died.
Obviously much of the comedy world has paid tribute to Rik who died at the young age of 56 but the most fitting must be from his friend and comedy partner:
“There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him.And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.” – Aidrian Edmonson
It should also be remembered that these past few days also saw the death of Patsy Byrne, best remembered for her role as Nursie in Blackadder II. Nursie was a strange woman with an unusual sense of humour, she had a fixation with Udders and was frequently told off by Queen Elizabeth who she had raised from birth and for unknown reasons stayed with her 30 years later. She also unlikely set the hearts fluttering of Captain Redbeard and of course Lord Flashheart himself.
Here are just some of Rik Mayalls best remembered quotes:
Richie: What about pin the tail on the donkey?
Eddie: We haven’t got a donkey.
Richie: Well, pin the tail on the chicken.
Eddie: We haven’t got a tail.
Richie: Oh. Well, pin the sausage on the chicken?
Eddie: We haven’t got a chicken.
Richie: Well, pin the sausage on the fridge.
Eddie: Or a pin.
Richie: Sellotape a sausage to the fridge!
Eddie: We haven’t got a sausage!
Richie: Put a bit of sellotape on the fridge!
Eddie: It’s not much of a game, is it?
Richie: “Eddie, have you strained your vegetables?”
Eddie: “No it’s just these hired trousers are a bit tight!”
Eddie: Why are you putting mayonnaise on your face?
Richie: It’s not mayonnaise, it’s sun tan lotion.
Eddie (examining bottle): Never heard of low calorie sun tan lotion.
Richie: What? Oh no, blast! Oh God! Oh! Argh-rrgh! Phuh! Well where’s the sun tan lotion then?
Eddie: You squirted that into your cheese roll.
Richie: But I ate that!
Eddie: Yeah, I know.
Richie: Well why didn’t you tell me?
Eddie: Because I don’t like you very much.
Lord Flashheart only appeared in two episodes of Blackadder, written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis. But Mayall managed to make the sex-obsessed, daring action hero one of the show’s most memorable characters.
Flashheart: It’s me, Flash! Flash by name, Flash by nature. Hurrah!
Blackadder: Where have you been?
Flashheart: Where haven’t I been! Woof!
To Baldrick (dressed as a bridesmaid): Thanks, bridesmaid. Like the beard. Gives me something to hang on to!
To Lord Melchett: Hey Melchie! Still worshipping God? Last thing I heard He started worshipping ME…
To Nursie: Ah Nursie, I like it firm and fruity. Am I pleased to see you or did I just put a canoe in my pocket?
Alan B’Stard: We hear an awful lot of leftie whingeing about NHS waiting lists. Well the answer’s simple. Shut down the health service. Result? No more waiting lists. You see, in the good old days, you were poor, you got ill and you died. And yet these days people seem to think they’ve got some sort of God-given right to be cured. And what is the result of this sloppy socialist thinking? More poor people. In contrast, my policies would eradicate poor people, thereby eliminating poverty. And they say that we Conservatives have no heart.
Alan B’Stard: Who in this country was not moved when that great Englishman, Gazza, wept bitter tears at the World Cup last year? People thought that he was crying because he had been booked by the umpire and so would miss the final. But that was not the reason. He was crying at the thought that the Conservative government, the only government this young hero had ever known, was behind in the opinion polls.
Alan B’Stard: Why should we, the country that produced Shakespeare, Christopher Wren – and those are just the people on our banknotes for Christ’s sake – cower down to the countries that produced Hitler, Napoleon, the Mafia, and the… the… The Smurfs!
Alan B’Stard: You know the really great thing about a fudged coalition is that neither of us need to carry out a single promise of our election manifestos.
Lord Flasheart: All right men, let’s do-oo-oo it! The first thing to remember is: always treat your kite
[Flashheart taps the picture of the Sopwith Camel with his cane]
Lord Flasheart: like you treat your woman!
[Flashheart whips the air with his cane]
Lieutenant George: How, how do you mean, Sir? Do you mean, do you mean take her home at weekends to meet your mother?
Lord Flasheart: No, I mean get inside her five times a day and take her to heaven and back.
Captain Blackadder: I’m beginning to see why the suffragette movement want the vote.
Lord Flasheart: Hey! Any girl who wants to chain herself to *my* railings and suffer a jet movement gets *my* vote!
Lord Flasheart: Mind if I use your phone? If word gets out I’m missing, five hundred girls will kill themselves. And I wouldn’t want them on my conscience, not when they ought to be on my *face*! Hello? Cancel the state funeral, tell the king to stop blubbing, Flash is not dead! I simply ran out of juice! And before five hundred girls all go ‘oh, what’s the point in living any more?’ I’m talking about petrol! Woof! Send someone along to pick me up. General Melchett’s driver will do, she hangs round with a big knob so she’ll be used to a fellow like me. Woof!
Captain Blackadder: Look, do you think you could make your obscene phone call somewhere else?
Lord Flasheart: No, not in half an hour you rubber desk-johnny! Send the bitch with the wheels right now or I’ll fly back home and give your wife something to hang her towels on!
Lord Flasheart: [hangs up] Right! Let’s dig out your best booze and talk about me till the car comes!
Lord Flasheart: You look like a decent British bloke. I’ll park the old booties on you if that’s okay.
Private Baldrick: It would be an honour, my Lord.
Lord Flasheart: Of course it would! Ha!
Lord Flasheart: [Flashheart rests his feet on Baldrick's back and sighs] Have you any idea what it’s like to have the wind rushing through your hair, George?
Lieutenant George: No, Sir.
Lord Flasheart: [Flashheart breaks wind in Baldrick's face] He has!
Lord Flasheart: Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. Now I may be packing the kind of tackle that you’d normally expect to find swinging about between the hindlegs of a Grand National winner, but I’m not totally stupid. I’ve got the kind of feeling you’d rather we hadn’t come.
Captain Blackadder: No, no, no, I’m very grateful. It’s just that I’d slow you up.
Lord Flasheart: I think I’m beginning to understand.
Captain Blackadder: Are… are you?
Lord Flasheart: Just because I can give multiple orgasms to the furniture just by sitting on it, doesn’t mean that I’m not sick of this damn war: the blood, the noise, the endless poetry.
Lord Flasheart: Ok chums, let’s doooooo it. As the bishop said to the netball team.
Lord Flasheart: Enter the man who has no underwear. Ask me why.
Lieutenant George: Why do you have no underwear, Lord Flash?
Lord Flasheart: Because the pants haven’t been built yet that’ll take the job on!
Captain Blackadder: Flasheart, this is Captain Darling.
Lord Flasheart: Captain Darling? Funny name for a guy isn’t it? Last person I called darling was pregnant twenty seconds later.
Lieutenant George: Crikey, sir. I’m looking forward to today. Up diddly up, down diddly down, whoops, poop, twiddly dee – decent scrap with the fiendish Red Baron – bit of a jolly old crash landing behind enemy lines – capture, torture, escape, and then back home in time for tea and medals.
Captain Blackadder: George, who’s using the family brain cell at the moment? This is just the training – 6 months of dull men looking at machinery.
Lord Flasheart: [Voice from outside the room] Hey, girls – look at my machinery!
Baron von Richthoven: Ah, and the Lord Flasheart. This is indeed an honour. Finally, the two greatest gentleman fliers in the world meet. Two men of honour, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies, face to face at last. How often I have rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams. The panoply to encapsulate the unspoken nobility of a comradeship.
[Flasheart shoots von Richthoven]
Lord Flasheart: What a poof!
Lord Flasheart: Woof!
Bob Parkhurst: Woof!
Captain Blackadder: God, it’s like Crufts in here.
Captain Darling: Excuse me, Sir
Lord Flasheart: Yes, yes, prat at the back.
Captain Darling: I’m sure we’d all like to know… Why are you called the Twenty Minuters?
Lieutenant George: Oh, Mr Thicko, fancy not knowing that!
Lord Flasheart: It’s simple! The life expectancy of a new pilot is twenty minutes!
Captain Blackadder: Life *expectancy* of twenty minutes?
Lord Flasheart: That’s right! Goggles on, last one back’s a homo! Hooray!
[Flash leaves with the other trainees, leaving Blackadder and George in their seats]
Captain Blackadder: So we take off in ten minutes, we’re in the air for twenty minutes, so we should be dead by twenty five to ten.
Lieutenant George: Hairy blighters, sir, this is a bit of a turn-up for the plus fours.
Lord Flasheart: Ha! Eat knuckle, fritz!
Lord Flasheart: Ugh! How disgusting. A Boche on the sole of my boot. I shall have to find a patch of grass to wipe it on! Probably get shunned in the officers’ Mess; sorry about the pong you fellas, trod in a Boche and couldn’t get rid of the whiff!
Captain Blackadder: [getting up] Do you think we could dispense from the hilarious doggie doo metaphor for a moment. I’m not a Boche, this is a British trench.
Lord Flasheart: Is it? Well, that’s a piece of luck. Thought I’d landed sausage side. Ha! Mind if I use your phone? If word gets out that I’m missing, 500 girls would kill themselves. I wouldn’t want them on my conscience, not when they out to be on my face!
Lord Flasheart: And always remember – if you want something, take it! Bobby!
Bob Parkhurst: [enters] My lord?
Lord Flasheart: I want something.
Bob Parkhurst: Take it!
[she undoes her shirt - exeunt]
Lord Flasheart: [off stage] Hey girls, look at my machinery!
[feminine squeals of delight off stage - cue to Flasheart entering room buttoning up his files]
Thanks for making me laugh.