I’m really sorry if anyone thinks it’s just too bloody soon to be posting this – but the truth is, writing it is the only thing I can bring myself to do right now, and once it’s done, I can turn off the computer and just get utterly wrecked while watching the best comedy ever made for the rest of the day.
Rik Mayall’s death is a load of fucking shit. I’ve never disbelieved a death so much, and been so determined to deny it to myself for as long as I will be laughing at his comedy – which is until I die. The impossibility of processing this Bad News is testament to Rik’s success in making himself a 3D cartoon character for so much of his 33+ year career. Wile E. Coyote can’t die, so neither can Rik, nor Rick, nor Richard, nor Richie… And certainly not Flash.
For everyone else of his generation, when the time comes we will say how sad it is, how funny they were, and so on. But none of it will ever do for Rik, because he was uniquely made up of concentrated Talent To Amuse in every single cell of his body, like nobody else alive today.
He was a COMIC GENIUS. For me to use those two cheap knackered old words, to mean them, and to be right… there will be few opportunities in my life, but it’s the LEAST we can all agree on with Rik Mayall.
He had to watch so many clowns of his generation lose that Pink Light of Funniness defined by Alexei Sayle, and go on to present documentaries (yes, Rik presented one – it was funny), star in Hollywood movies, anything but be funny. And it was obvious he just couldn’t stop it, he couldn’t not be Rik, he couldn’t not be funny. He was made of comedy in the same way Eric Morecambe was, nobody moreso than those two.
We were so lucky to have those final flashes of brilliance in Man Down, but generally, this century just didn’t deserve Rik Mayall. It deserved Ricky Gervais, but Rik just couldn’t catch a break with his own form of outrageousness, and so he cameoed in the worst films ever made, took part in small comedy projects, and otherwise – well, he was just out there somewhere, being fantastic. Being Rik Mayall. Like someone always should be. And now he leaves us all in a much drabber world – until we revisit his work, at least.
It was the futile wait for any comedic force even vaguely akin to Rik that made me so disillusioned with all the new waves of comedy to come along since the turn of the millennium – and in turn, why I started writing about classic comedy.
Yes, he was a brilliant actor as well, he could play it straight, he could even sometimes be earnest in interviews. But never for long. That absolute and total inability to behave himself at almost any opportunity was unlike any other comedian – and I never got to experience it first-hand. Thank FUCK I got to see him perform in person – Richie & Eddie in the first two Bottom tours and at the Peter Cook tribute (I’d say, between Cook and Mayall, no comedy loss has greater magnitude), and Alan B’Stard in the second New Statesman tour. But I only saw him on stage.
No no, I know this is not about me at all, but my failure here is partly what makes me feel so absolutely wretched right now. And in fact, only writing all this down is helping, I can’t help it. I want to raise a glass and enjoy Rik’s finest moments, but I can’t because of all the fluids pouring out of my fucking stupid face.
And besides that charm, those characters, those jokes, that force of nature – it really is this absolute black hole of a feeling that, despite months of patient and anguished pleading with his agent, despite the fact that my publisher also published Rik’s fantastic non-memoir and is even pictured being faux-fellated in the plates section… I never got to meet him, to talk to him, to thank him utterly abjectly and pathetically, and to ask him questions nobody had asked him before – it’s that which is really turning me quite so inside out today.
I believe I was the last person on Earth ever to interview Sir David Hatch, a true goldmine of comedy anecdotage, wisdom and insight if ever there was one, before fucking cancer took him away, and I felt such guilt, that he took so much comedy knowledge with him, and although he and I promised to do a follow-up interview, I never managed to get it down on paper. This is what I do, this is why what I do matters to our culture, our world, our species. I certainly don’t write comedy non-fiction books for the well-below-minimum-wage it earns, but because comedy fucking MATTERS. And then there was the great grate Great Geoffrey Perkins – I think perhaps, again, I was the last comedy spod to ask him questions before he left us too soon. He could have written volumes on his life and philosophy of making people laugh, and we’ve all been robbed of that. People like me are supposed to be here to try and stop this kind of thing happening. To make the world a funnier place by celebrating those who have the gift of making us laugh. We’re not great authors or novelists, we shouldn’t fancy ourselves as critics or analysts, we’re just here to try and find, and share, the secret of comedy – to CELEBRATE the life and work of the most important people in society – funny people.
But Rik? I should have met him, I was supposed to meet him, it was my job to meet him. And I let everyone down. I let myself down. And I will never be able to shake that off now.
Rik Mayall was supposed to call me a sad fat cunt and pretend to suck my penis. It never happened, and I can’t stop bawling about it.
And now we have to try and work out who the funniest person alive on this planet is.
What a load of fucking shit. Good job it’s not true. Andy Kaufman is dead. Rik Mayall never will be. For me.
PRETTY HEAVY ACTUALLY.