Rik Mayall was part of everyone's childhood | Liam Lonergan will miss the bickering, the mannerisms – and the smut

Rik Mayall was part of everyone's childhood

Liam Lonergan will miss the bickering, the mannerisms – and the smut

A lot of people are saying that Rik - Rik, with the carbonated stare and body movements that were charged by a theatrical dyskinesia - was a frequent visitor of their childhood and teenage years. Whether he was pouring Vim down Sir Adrian Dangerous’s throat, ripping up Neil’s O-level notes or smearing dog shit on the arm of a sofa, he was there. But he wasn’t just a Cat In The Hat who allowed the youngsters to indulge their carnival impulses while the megabeasts were away. He WAS childhood.

It's childhood that's full of gurning and spastic thrusting; it’s childhood that’s built on fragile megalomania and 'Hands up who likes me?'; it’s Ritchie 'Smelly Pants' Mayall and 'I live with my Mum / She gets on my wick / And when I’m told off / I’m deliberately sick.'

I underestimated how many of his character’s mannerisms have been absorbed by my friends and I. Bill Bailey, in a 2007 issue of the now defunct magazine, The Word, talked about comedy dynamics and how those that involved people who were tethered together in a damaged union were perfect fodder for comedy. He cites Bottom as an example.

Ritchie and Eddie, conceived as the cruder cousins to Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting For Godot, are characters that spend their days engaged in 'vivid, almost conjugal bickering'. Writer Roger Wilmut elaborates on this: 'The idea of people who argue […] without achieving anything other than a complete waste of time seems to be one of Mayall or Edmonson’s major obsessions, which has surfaced frequently in the course of their careers.'

Also, like Beckett’s protagonists, they occupy an existentialist terrain which hints at the stasis of collapsed time. 11 Mafeking Parade, Hammersmith was their desert fringe; their polluted cocoon that isolated them from the rest of the world. This was born out of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmonson’s love for Beckett – a love that, in 1979, developed into Beckettian skits which they performed at Woolwich Tramshed. Edmonson: "Anyone who’d read Beckett would find them hysterically funny, but anyone who hadn’t wouldn’t know what the fuck was going on. There were jokes like – this isn’t actually one of them – “What’s the time?” – “Yes, it is.” It was as bad as that.'

I’ve been inextricably bound to my close circle since I was four years old. When we were in the same cocoon, having the same bickering matches that spun out in to absurdist dialogue or gesture (including the time my friend smeared Savlon on his arsehole and shouted 'Is this what real life is?'). Mayallisms were part of a shared language. The lascivious sneer that suggests he’s going to use his teeth to check the thread count of her 'smashing blouse'. The pulled-up underpants. The rollings Rs and the affected diction (ag. pronouncing sandwiches as 'SAND-witches'). The clenched-arse-walk and flapping hands when he gets over excited before a game of chess ('Oooo, I feel just like Noel Wilde today!') These were all part of it.

In his blog post about Mayall, Robin Ince wrote that he was good at playing 'deluded virgins' because he seemed to be possessed with the dirty, naughty curiosity of little boys watching porn at a sleep over.

They’re acquainted with smut – it’s part of pretending they are grown-ups - but still fundamentally innocent. The reason I was crying my eyes out yesterday was because losing Rik was like losing that. The barely constructed tenement in the barren estate – an image that features in the opening of Bottom – now only has one glum looking face glaring out of the window.

So Rik is gone and I'll leave you with this:

'Night night. Sleep tight. Hope the bed bugs do not bite. If they do, do a poo, put it in the Cornish stew. Into the Ambulance, dring dring dring, fish trousers elephant in Peking. Saw a busy bee, tiddle diddle dee, Daddy's an accountant just like me. Night night God bless.'

Published: 10 Jun 2014

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