by Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall wasn’t messing around when he gave his supposed autobiography a title like Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ. This is clearly his exaggeratedly raging ego in full torrent.

He’s bigger than Hitler because his career has lasted longer, better than Christ because following his quad bike accident – at Easter, too – he rose from his coma after five days, making Jesus’s resurrection after three seem like a breeze.

The tongue-in-cheek posturing arrogance can be an effective deceit, as Mayall has proved throughout his distinguished comedy career. Combine it with the bubbling insecurities of a naïve student eager to impress and you have a Young One, combine it with the ruthless lust for power of an ultra-Thatcherite MP and you have a New Statesman.

But what works for an inflated sitcom character doesn’t necessarily work for a full-length book, and Mayall’s affected, fantasist style gets very wearisome, very quickly.

The narrative, such as it is, is also full of pointless digressions within pointless digressions – and that’s before you even incorporate the myriad of footnotes. That the book is spewed out exactly as Mayall’s larger-than-life persona would spontaneously think is a joke that wears thin by the end of the introduction, let alone the rest of the hefty book.

Take this paragraph: ‘So what happened was, I had written The Young Ones, right? I wrote it and I’d like to see someone who says that I didn’t because they’d be seriously big time wrong, right? Because I did and my name’s at the end of it. If you go out and buy a tape or a DeeVeeDee right now from a shop – I don’t know, any type of shop – you just go to the sort of shop that sells it and you put it on your tape or telly thing – whatever kind of telly you’ve got – just put it on and you watch one of the episodes – whichever one you want, it’s not important – just put it on and watch it and then where it says who it’s written by well that’s where by blood name is, isn’t it? Right?’

Take that paragraph, then multiply its rambling style by 323 pages, and you’ve pretty much got the measure of this book.

Then there’s his affectations of bad spelling: actor always comes out as ‘acter’, breakthrough as ‘breakthruogh’ - even though he manages to get much trickier words right. And as a joke, it may well be lost on the semi-literate txt generation anyway.

In amongst this nonsense is an occasional decent joke, and even rarer glimpse of truth, but neither are worth persevering for. The only significant revelation is that Alexei Sayle genuinely knocked him unconscious when one ultraviolent Young Ones scene went awry.

Mayall does talk of his near-fatal 1998 quad bike crash; but the seriousness of the subject jars with the flippancy of the rest of the book. He talks of hallucinations and the disconnected feeling he had in hospital, but it’s impossible to determine if these are his genuine recollections, or the set up for his theory that he’s the second coming.

Interspersed with what loosely passes as memoirs are supposedly amusing letters the fantasist side of Mayall’s caricature has sent – offering his services to everyone from Tony Blair to Mohammered L Fayed (see what he did there) – and even a 20-page missive to ‘Jureck Condoms’ suggesting ideas how the product might be marketed… with depressingly predictable results.

The whole frustrating book has the feel of a cheap cash-in, a Christmas stocking-filler branded with the flavour of the month that will be remaindered by February (his previous literary oeuvre stretches to Bachelor Boys: The Young Ones Book and Bastard File, so it’s a genre with which he’s familiar) – not the sort of hardback autobiography you’d be prepared to shell out the £18.99rrp for.

Perhaps you should wait until it turns up for a couple of quid in a discount bookstore. My guess is you won’t have to wait long.

  • Rik Mayall: Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ is published by HarperCollins at £18.99. Click here to buy from Amazon at £11.39

Steve Bennett
September 13, 2005

Published: 23 Sep 2006

Today's comedy-on demand picks

THE LOCKDOWN LOCK-IN

Tim Key headlines this night of comedy, music and poetry, fundraising in aid of the National Autistic Society tonight (Thursday) at 8.15pm, after the clap for carers.

Other comics taking part include  Harriet Dyer, Jack Carroll, Jay Foreman, Milo McCabe, Paul 'Silky' White, Edy Hurst, Tony Wright, and Will Andrews.

Click for more suggestions

... including Marcel Lucont's lockdown show plus a new episode of Jacob Hawley's Job Centre.

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