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RIK MAYALL 1958 - 2014: Remembering The U.K. Comedic Post Punk Genius From, “The Young Ones”

Detroit, MI – The world seems a little less funny now that the epic great maestro of comedy, Rik Mayall has passed on. For those who don’t know who he was Mayall was one of the Titanic forces of destructive post-punk comedy in the UK hit comedy show, “The Young Ones.” The show found its way onto the American airwaves sometime in 1984 or 1985. I remember seeing the ads for it on Sunday nights on MTV. The announcer said it was part Monty Python and part Texas Chainsaw Massacre and they weren’t too far off. I was hooked as soon as I watched it. I stayed a rabid fan of the series for decades on end.

The first episode I caught was the one where the four unlovable housemates went on a local university challenge game show. The episode known as, “Bambi” featured a rough intermediary introduction to four post punk housemates living in London. They featured Rik Mayall as the politically insensitive and obnoxious – “Rick”, Adrian Admonson as the firey and insane metal rocker, “Vivyan”,  a hippie with lackluster appeal named Neil and a know it all pompous playboy named Mike. Together they lived in a house trampled with absolute filth, wise cracking puppets, rude and untimely guests, and a hard rocking musical act. They packed in a lot of jokes in each half hour episode and the show ran for about two seasons. In each show there was constant bickering, backstabbing, bizarre plots, revolutionary ideas, and moments of near self destruction all in the name of comedy.

Living in the higher consciousness age one wonders if such a show could even be made today? There is a good chance that it wouldn’t happen. People are more sensitive today than they were in 1983.  But maybe not……. I still say that this level of humor stands up today in some ways more than when it was first released. People have more things to be angry about today than they did back then. In an age of exploding skyscrapers, unemployment, recessions and war – the “Young Ones” offers some escape if only for nostalgic reasons. I can think of several…. The music, for one thing…. Is a reason to watch this show. As I grow older I cannot help but think of the taunting lyric, “… cause we may not be the young ones very long.” Rik Mayall may have left us but he will always be a – Young One – because he was full of vibrant energy. And anyone, I don’t care how old they are – that has a rampant comedic mind bent on mayhem the way his was…. Will never truly age.

They will never really grow up either…. And I think that’s alright.

THE YOUNG ONES:  They May Not Be The Young Ones Very Long

I haven’t taken a full head count but I can tell you from experience that the women in my life pretty much wrote this show off. Even in the early days of my youth – the women just didn’t think this stuff was funny. It was very British humor and it was bombastic. This stuff was getting on the air BEFORE the age of Alternative Radio in the US. Even the format for MTV would switch from playing endless rounds of Mister Mister and Paul Young to wild UK humor. There was another show that would run in the same hour called, “The Comic Strip” which was kind of funny and really kind of odd. Even in the ominous weird moments there was a dark comedy in there if you would be open to it.

There is one story of an art director that I heard about who would go out to the bar, get drunk, come home and play the, “Young Ones” on his TV with a headset. He would laugh into the wee hours of the morning. His wife later left him. Maybe he was better off…. Who knows?

“Oh if you lost your taste in love and music… the end won’t be long.” Warns Pete Doherty from the Libertines. That is what we have here…. A lust for life. That sentiment is more visible in the life of Van Gogh for the aptly named biography and film. But to live it… well that is something else. “How many of you people know that you are truly alive?” asked Jim Morrison of the Doors in 1967. That same kind of feeling is expressed here in the midst of fart jokes, loud explosions and hard rocking guitars. There is beauty in the bombastic jubilation. At times I was glad that the shows were only a half hour long. I had laughed long enough and was kind of worn out. Other times I would watch episode after episode until I wore myself out because I couldn’t get enough.

I don’t think women will find this show very funny now…. And why should they? There are scenes in this series that are quite frankly hard to watch when they are around. Rik Mayall goes through this woman’s purse at a party in one episode because he was bored. He pulls out a tampon and declares it as a spaceship…. And then pulls out the contents and blurts out, “and LOOK… there is  A MOUSE INSIDE !!”and he totally embarrasses his female guest. There is another really grotesque scene where Mayall is lying about his sexual conquests. When asked to express the sordid details he says, “Sure, if you got a couple of days.. !!” and then follows up with a giggle snort that is so obnoxious that it is guaranteed to turn off most of the female population. Is it hilarious? YES…. Of course it is. Is it appropriate? Probably not.

What did the, “Young Ones” impart on a generation? There were no learned lessons here on personal development. This show was more of a celebration of the times and delivered a “who cares” bravado that nowadays seems somewhat extinct. This was well articulated and calculated comedy. It was fine crafted to bring mayhem and most of all laughs. Realism is what sells today and often times it has become stagnant and mind numbing. There was nothing real about the UK comedy show in any sense of the word. It was surreal. There would be visits from the bumbling landlord – Jertsy Belofsky – who would sometimes barge in unexpectedly. There was the time he drank a tainted can of Coca Cola and turned into an axe wielding manic. Or another time when he had his body packed in postage  and sent to the house from South Africa.

Then there was the music….. The Young Ones were a platform of contemporary bands that were relevant at that very moment including the punk originals – THE DAMNED, and screaming metal punk icons Motorhead. There were strange visits on the set by the deceased including Buddy Holly and even vampires. This was a post punk entertainment platform for the most die hard alternative mindset. This program was there for the people before a movement had even been adequately coined. The term alternative hadn’t even been officially created yet. Even though the scene was years off from being recognized this show served as a beacon for the hopeful. It was demented on many levels but also offered hope, comedy and a hub for misunderstood and troubled youth.

There was one episode where Mayall and actor Adrian Edmonson were running around the set accusing one another of being virgins. They were fighting and destroying props all over the set throughout the episode. This culminated into one scene where the two of them were to come crashing through the ceiling onto the floor on a couch. According to the DVD narration the couch was barely supported by some wires and it was very dangerous. Edmonson remembers mentioning something about the possibility of death or serious injury… and Mayall responded with something to the likes of…  “I sure hope so…”. There was always a mischievous element to his comedy.

During one episode their horrific council flat was scheduled to be demolished. There were firemen, police, and rioting in the streets and in the middle of all of that chaos the band Madness played out in the street. The shows proved something of a time capsule and that comes back as somewhat endearing when watching them again.

LOOK FOR THESE OTHER APPEARANCES


THE COMIC STRIP – AND BAD NEWS

There was a spin off show called, “The Comic Strip” and it featured an original tale with comedy writers Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall. One of the episodes featured a parody of a fictitious metal band called, “Bad News”. The show featured the band trying to get gigs and get along in life. They lived in a van and the cameras followed their most intimate moments like picking up Catholic school girls and horrendous gigs. There was even a CD which featured a cover of Queen’s classic track, “Bohemian Rhapsody” played with questionable accuracy. The rest of that album featured the band bickering relentlessly in band arguments and personal attacks that any musician could relate to. I picked up my copy in Best Buy years ago and it became a personal prized possession.

The program was very similar to the US film, “This Is Spinal Tap” but it is questionable about who came out first. The UK version of the band on the road was in many ways more crude. I remember the fold out poster that came with the Bad News CD that featured the interiors of the tour van in all of its debauchery and glory. The band also seemed to enjoy making fun of metal music in general with its song, “Nightmares” which opens the album. Admonson interjects the song writing process and messes up the rhythm with the insightful comment, “… here comes the beast again !!!  bite bite !!” to which Mayall freaks out and yells, “Shut up … BE QUIET !!”. There is very little music in some of these tracks as it just turns into an all out row with bickering and yelling. But keep in mind, that yes, this is comedy.

BOTTOM
Another gem that Mayall left us was the show, “Bottom” which tells the story of two lonely losers living in London. Adrian Admonson is back again playing the loveable goon, Eddie Hitler. The two of them ramble through pubs trying to pick up lesbians with hilarious results. The theme here is always how far can they push the joke. You can often hear live audience members screaming with laughter in the background. There is an energy here that is very hard to fake. The mood here is always outrageous and that is the tone of the entire show. You know that at any moment the plot and characters can spin out of control and fly right over the edge.

And yet… you cannot stop watching.  Part of you is doubting if what you’re enjoying can really be all that funny or outrageous. The other half of you cannot believe that it is really happening. I’m not entirely sure but I think that classifies as entertainment.

 

 
The Young Ones - This cult BBC show featured 4 unruly youths living under one roof with unpredictable circumstances. They also featured top musical acts of its day like Madness, Motorhead, The Damned and Ten Below Zero.
 
Here is another clip of the boys on, "University Challenge" - the results were always chaotic, surreal and a bit insane.
 
This is the comedy rock album, "Bad News". This concept pre-dated the American comedy release, "This is Spinal Tap" (1984) by one year. The group Bad News was featured on the British show, "The Comic Strip" in 1983.
 
Bad News takes the classic Queen song, "Bohemian Rhapsody" and makes it even that much more memorable....
 
Madness makes an appearance during a well timed.... riot.

 



“A VISUAL ASSAULT: REM Dissected Scene By Scene

The bottom video was shot in 1989 and is the closest thing I could find to what the original show opener was like in 1987. This was a departure for REM as much as it was for the audience. Just when you thought you knew the band they changed on you in a new and exciting way. It would take some time to recognize them once again. In the case of, “Document” the album had to grow on me. I noticed this sort of thing happening with the Smiths too.

There was one sequence in the video, not shown in this edition, when the words – “Want” and “Need” come on screen. The words flipped interchangeably and morphed into a strobe that said, “Need Weed” and I remember the crowd going a bit wild over that. This was Ann Arbor after all. There is some talk about the set list being accurate. I do not believe, “Orange Crush” or “Pop Song 89” was performed in 1987. Those songs were released after REM went to Warner Brothers. “Document” was the last album created under the I.R.S. Records label.

There is another version of, “The One I Love” done on the live tour. Stipe starts out with a slow intro and for a minute I thought the whole song would be done slow. It then kicks into the tempo we all know. The stage was also bathed in an eerie red light. How this song got perceived as a love song I’ll never know. It was about a sick love obsession.

Over the years I hear the young kids go, “Oh who cares about that stuff, REM was long before my time.” Trust me, you wish you were there. This show was nothing but historic.


Get More On...

 
 
 
 
REM in 1987 and the Birth of Alternative Radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan - Crisler Arena >>>>
 

 


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