I am so, so sad to hear that Rik Mayall has passed away. He has been a comedy hero – and all time crush – of mine since I watched my first episode of The Young Ones with my dad as a kid. He’s one of the main reasons that I have a childish, sometimes mischievous, often inappropriate sense of humour and find getting my friends in a headlock or calling them a filthy name a much better option for expressing my affection than any traditional term of endearment expected from a lady.
His comedy genius can never be overstated. There is so much of his work that is instantly quotable and a bank of sketches that are as vivid in my mind today as the first time I saw them. He was one of those people that even if he said nothing, just a simple flare of the nostrils & the flash of a cheeky glint in his eye could have you in stitches.
I think this candid video sums up his character perfectly for me, and the point i’m trying to make.
Of course that would be his natural reaction to spot that he was being secretly filmed in a crowd, of course. I’d expect nothing less.
Even today, i still find myself grinning like a naughty schoolboy when I think of the end credits of Bottom and how much we used to mimic Richie and Eddie’s slapstick silhouette fight as kids.
And that’s before I even begin to turn my attention to some classic moments from the programme itself.
One thing i’ll always remember about Rik, and I think any other fans who are of a similar age as me will too, was his episode of Jackanory where he read and performed ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’. This was like worlds colliding for me; my favourite comedian, reading one of my favourite books by my all time favourite author, Roald Dahl. I hated Jackanory, hated it with a passion. So much so, that I’m actually mentally scarred by an episode hosted by Sandi Toksvig where she recounted a Norwegian Viking story that seemed to last an eternity. I genuinely felt like it was never going to end. I remember sitting there thinking, i’m going to die, watching Sandi Toksvig tell the world’s most boring story without even getting to eat my tea first. It felt like I was being punished for something I didn’t understand.
Looking back, I don’t know why I didn’t just turn the telly off and go and find something else to do. And yet, that episode with Rik had such an impact on me, that I wish I could get hold of a copy of the original broadcast so that I could share it with my own children one day, and rescue them from a world where Kym Marsh is employed to read your kids a bedtime story on CBeebies.
I was lucky enough to meet Rik when I was interning at Smooth Radio in 2010, and it’s a moment that I’ll never forget. It was one of the coldest winters we’ve had in a long time, where it snowed almost continuously from December until about mid February. The kind of winter that puts the willies up the inhabitants of Westeros. He’d come to the station to record a voice over, and I was so awestruck that I think i did a Patrick Stewart style quadruple take before my brain could actually compute what was happening. Rik Mayall. THE Rik Mayall was stood right in front of me. Not on a tv screen. This was Rik Mayall in the flesh, just a metre away from me. Everyone else in the office seemed indifferent to him being there, they’d met him before, and it’s quite common to have a number of celebrities popping through the doors at a busy radio station. No big deal.
But for me, it was like Lord Flashheart himself had come bounding through the doors thrusting his pelvis at me, shouting ‘WOOF!’ right into my face.
I stared at him for ages and frantically confirmed with the other staff that it was indeed Rik Mayall stood in the same room as me, Karen Bevan of Dudley, and I wasn’t hallucinating due to the onset of hypothermia. I quickly realised that this was the only chance i was ever going to get to meet him, and so, like a creep i followed him out as he left the building for a quick fag. I can’t smoke. I didn’t even pretend to smoke. And i didn’t even lie when he offered me a cigarette, I simply replied: “I just followed you out here because I really want to talk to you so i thought i’d come and keep you company.” And I’m so glad I did because he just smiled, laughed, and immediately picked up on my accent and started mocking it. He told me how his family were from near Bromsgrove*, and that he loved the accent because it reminded him of home, he briefly spoke about how ill he’d been after that awful quad bike accident, and there was a slight miscommunication where he said something about Ade Edmondson being on the road with Lenny Henry, and I thought he said Lenny Henry had aids.
Rik Mayall is probably one of the few celebrities outside of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, where a miscommunication about aids at a first meeting is still fair game.
They say that you should never meet your idols because you’ll always be let down. Not so. Rik was everything i’d imagined; he was erratic, flirtatious, engaging, dangerously charming and a true gent; with just a hint of Richie coming out when he laughed at a dirty joke.
As we walked back into the office, he stopped, took both of my hands in his and said: “What did you say your name was?” Then he kissed my hand gently and signed off with a huge infectious smile: “Karen, i’m Rik, it’s been a pleasure to meet you.”
The pleasure was all mine Rik, the pleasure was all mine.
R.I.P you wonderful man.
* He either said they were from there or lived near there, my memory is sketchy at this point because I was too busy staring into his devilish eyes. Apologies for any inconsistency.