Performing? It's my everything | Man Down's Rik Mayall on his decades in comedy

Performing? It's my everything

Man Down's Rik Mayall on his decades in comedy

How did you get involved in Man Down?

I was first attracted to the part through Greg who I’ve always admired and thought was great - because he is.

Then the pilot came up last year and I had a spare week and he was looking for a psycho to attack him so I thought, 'This looks lovely.' And that was always one of the dreams, to beat the shit out of Greg Davis. Of course he is my love child - as many people are aware - we look like each other.

I’m grown up now and I’ve been hunting for angles to express the age I am now, and here was a lovely one! To be a dad... I mean, I’m a dad and I’m somewhere in my fifties but I’ve always wanted to do something a little more grown-up. To have this particularly peculiar dad who’s in unusual circumstances because his son is so grown-up.

Greg and I had the same rhythm so we worked well together and he’s a great writer so the script excited me.

So the character has a habit of showing his love in slightly unconventional ways?

Yes I think that’s the best way to describe it. If I was to give away the gags the audience may fail to be surprised when they saw them. I think they should watch it because surprise is one of his hobbies.

You’ve been working for more than 30 years. Do you still have the same hunger for it?

Yes I adore it, it’s my life it’s what I do. It’s always been the passion and I adore it, it’s my everything.

As you know, a big chunk of my art came to a halt when my partner Adrian [Edmondson] decided to give up comedy and we’d done Bottom and The Young Ones and stuff, but now I’m in my fifties and I want to work out what I’m going to do for the next 25 years, so this is the next chapter. This character is very Rik Mayall and it’s what the punters would expect, as I think the essence of my work is that I’ve always taken the mick out of myself.

Has there ever been a character you’ve played that you’ve either loved or hated?

Hmm no because if I’ve ever had trouble with a character then I’d wrench him and stretch him and fix him, it’s like car if you’re very good at cars – some blokes like to beat up old cars that don’t work so they can fix them.

Also in doing that you can make it into a good character who you can use and work with so no I don’t have a character that I’ve hated. Occasionally there might have been ones that I haven’t been able to tinker with correctly but then if that’s the case I would ask can I do this and change that. Sometimes people say no, and so I continue to talk to them until they realise why they should say yes to me.

Is that what you like to do - really invest in the character?

In order to live in contemporary life I have to submerse aspects of my own character because I like excitement, I like exploring and I like adventure and that’s what acting is. I don’t have to go to war say or assassinate presidents because I can do that in acting. It allows me to experience things you might not get to otherwise.

My parents gave me an upbringing that was full of permission with care and my dad gave me a taste for life

How do you think comedy has changed over the 35-odd years you’ve been working?

I think it’s become less theatrical, which I miss. I always like a studio audience.

I like all forms of entertainment and that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy filming with a camera without an audience because the thing is I know how techniques work and I know if you want to get a laugh in a big theatre you do it in a different way than if you’ve got a camera right up close just looking at your two eyes and your mouth. I understand the disciplines and I’m good at my job.

I mean it’s a different era. I don’t think for example that the audience are quite so amazed by the shock of something these days, in a theatrical sense, say, because everything can be done on a computer.

Another example: 12 years ago Adrian and I wrote another series of Bottom and took it to the BBC and they said 'no, it’s too violent'. So we took it on the road and changed it in a live show. I think these days obviously there’s a lot more restrictions in place than there might have been.

Have you got any further ambitions?

Yes I would like this series to be a success so that it gets another series and another. I would really like the opportunity to explore the character of Greg’s dad fully.

• Man Down continues on Channel 4 at 9.30pm tonight.

Published: 25 Oct 2013

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