I love hearing stories from fans around the world and discovering stuff we in the UK perhaps weren’t all that aware of at the time. In the 1980’s Australia heavily embraced the new emerging British Alternative Comedy scene. Col is one such Aussie and dedicated fan, proving that the Aussies really do love the merch!! (Listen to the Triple J radio interview later in the post)
Thank you to: Col from Mechanism Podcast
I don’t recall exactly when I first saw Rik, but I do know it was sometime around the early 80’s when the very first series of The Young Ones was being aired here in Australia. I had never seen anyone who made me laugh so hard and so often with just a funny look, let alone a hilarious one liner. Back in the early 80’s, in country Victoria, we only had 2 TV channels, one commercial channel and the ABC. Thankfully, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) was nation wide and heavily relied on British television programmes. This meant we got to see everything from Fawlty Towers and Yes Prime Minister to The Good Life and of course The Young Ones.
The ABC aired The Young Ones which began my Rik obsession at a very young age. I recorded every episode onto VHS and watched them endlessly to the point where I can still say every episode line for line. The Young Ones was repeated a few times on the ABC which grew Rik’s audience here.
In 1986, Rik and Ben Elton came out to do a stand up tour, which I was sadly too young to see, but they did host Australia’s most legendary music show COUNTDOWN for one chaotic episode, it’s Rik at his hilarious best! They also presented an award at that years’ Countdown Music & Video Awards where again, Rik was hilarious! I couldn’t believe that Rik was in Melbourne, just 2 hours away from me, it seemed totally surreal and highly exciting at the time.
Here’s Col’s recently uploaded video of them on Countdown.
Here’s an interview from a Countdown show, with the host “Molly” Meldrum, you can also watch a longer uncut version on YouTube.
And below is another Australian interview with the pair, this time on the TV show Sounds also in 1986.
ABC also aired the entire first series of The Comic Strip Presents which allowed me to enjoy Rik as various other characters, especially the brilliant Colin in Bad News. Then came Filthy Rich & Catflap which at first, I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed or not, until the infamous Nolans episode then I knew I was hooked. The second last episode where Richie and Eddie are playing Trivial Pursuit is comedy gold!
After years of having only recorded TV episodes and of course the brilliant Living Doll single and 12 inch, I finally found the Young Ones book Bachelor Boys and a year later the greatest heavy metal album of all time BAD NEWS!
Now remember in the days before the internet, it was so difficult to find anything new that wasn’t either on TV or at a local video store, even more so when you lived in a country town, so trips to Melbourne meant rummaging through the ABC store, record stores and book stores to find anything, ANYTHING AT ALL with Rik in it.
I remember sometime in the early 90’s turning on the TV and there was Rik in Blackadder as Mad Gerald, so I knew I had to watch and record every episode of Black Adder just in case Rik appeared again. Then came The New Statesman, again discovered by just turning on the TV late one night and there he was. It was such an exciting time because I had no way of knowing what he was in let alone when it was going to be aired. Grim Tales suddenly started airing in the afternoon and I missed at least 5 episodes of its initial run until it was repeated later that year.
Col’s home made video covers.
Thankfully the ABC started playing promos for the very first series of BOTTOM, so I knew in advance something new was coming and I was so excited that a whole new weekly series of Rik & Ade anarchy was about to start. By this stage I had my own car and would drive to Melbourne every few months just to raid the ABC store as they started selling the official BOTTOM videos, including episodes that had not been aired here yet… aah the glory days!
I can remember coming to Melbourne just to see Drop Dead Fred during its first week, as it wasn’t at the local cinemas at that stage. Eventually when it did make it to our little local cinema I ended up seeing it 7 times, taking various friends to see this awesome new comedy that no one really cared about at the time but soon became big fans of. When it was released on video, I rented it, dubbed copies for friends and asked the lovely lady at the local video store to keep 2 of the window display promo posters for me, which she did and she even gave me a heap of the small in store promo stickers with Fred posing in silly positions. I would later do the same when Guest House Paradiso was released.
In 1996 I went on holiday to the UK for the very first time. By this time, I had saved for years not only for the trip but for the endless Rik stuff I had hoped to find. I was at the height of my Rik collecting phase at the time and the UK trip did not disappoint. I found not only whole series and episodes of The Comic Strip Presents I had never seen before but also BOTTOM t-shirts, BOTTOM LIVE on cassette and video, Kevin Turvey Investigates on CD and the legendary OUT OF MY HEAD on VHS. I ended up having to buy a whole new travel bag just to fit all the awesome new Rik stuff I had found. Every time I would see a HMV, a Virgin store or a BBC store I would run in and go straight to comedy section and more often than not, I would walk out with something new and awesome.
A couple of years later when a friend was connected to the awesome new thing (at the time) called “The Internet”, the first thing I searched for was of course Rik. There wasn’t much online at the time, but I did find his agents address and promptly sent a letter asking about what new Rik stuff is in the works. About 3 months later I was finally sent a response with a small note simply saying “Thank you for your support” and a small signed black and white photo of Rik which I was ecstatic about – I now had Rik’s autograph!!
Ade Edmondson came out to Australia in the late 90’s to promote his book The Gobbler and was doing a one off reading and Q&A at The Comedy Club in Carlton (Melbourne). Luckily, I had a friend who lived in Melbourne, got tickets and I finally got to meet Ade in person who also was doing a signing. I had my Bad News CD cover, a couple of cards from his How To Be A Complete Bastard board game and a Bottom Live cassette sleeve. I was so nervous but he was so lovely and gracious and in my haste I accidentally smudged one of the autographs and I said to my friend who was getting her Young Ones book signed “Fuck I smudged it!” and Ade turned and said with a wry smile “Well aren’t you a stupid bastard!” I had been insulted comedically by Ade and it was awesome! I managed to fumble out something along the lines of “Are you and Rik working on anything new right now?” and he said “Yes we have something new coming out next year hopefully but we’re yet to finish it”… I am guessing in hindsight, he was talking about Guest House Paradiso and my response was an extremely emphatic “Oh Brilliant!!”
Note the smudged bottom left autograph.
When Guest House Paradiso was released, Rik & Ade came out to do a promo tour, appearing on various radio and TV shows. They were even photographed by one of the major papers eating in a local sushi restaurant, of course Rik put the chopsticks up his nose for the photo and I was delighted.
This would turn out to be Rik’s last visit to Australia sadly. Thankfully though he and Ade did a hilarious interview on the national radio station Triple J and it is still one of the greatest interviews with him available. Both he and Ade seem to be really enjoying themselves and the 2 hosts Merrick & Rosso were just in awe of their comedy heroes sitting in front of them.
Between 1998 (when I first got the internet) and Rik’s untimely passing, I scoured the internet for those rare Rik items or imports I couldn’t find locally. Amazon, Ebay and Eil became my go to online shops. I managed to find rare Bad News 7” and 12” vinyl, The New Statesman book, Bottom scripts books, videos of things like How To Be A Little Sod, US versions of The Young Ones and Bottom DVDs and even 20th Century Coyote live At The Comedy Store.
Then came that fateful morning. I was up early having breakfast looking at the news sites before I headed in to work and there on the main page of news.com.au was the headline DROP DEAD FRED STAR DEAD AT 56 with a picture of Rik as Fred. I was stunned. I read the headline over and over, it couldn’t be Rik, surely not. I clicked on the article and there it was, announcing Rik had died suddenly. In my half asleep state, I thought I must be dreaming, this can’t be true. I instantly searched various UK news sites and it was all there too, he really had died. I’ve never felt so gutted about a celebrity death ever. Rik was my hero, the funniest man alive, the comedy genius and now he was dead. I went to work stunned and read article after article about what had actually happened and then I found a tweet by Russell Brand that by quoting Rik’s own line, summed up how awful this tragedy really felt…
And all the grown ups will say “But why are the kids crying” And the kids will say “Haven’t you heard? Rik is dead!”
Every year on the anniversary of his death I get a sense of joy at how dedicated his fans are to post their stories and happy memories of Rik, either meeting him, working with him or just being entertained by him. This year I decided I wanted to create my own tribute by creating a range of glorious Rik designs, that fans could buy on t-shirts or phone covers or even carry bags. I just liked the idea of having a classic Rik pic with his name and his title of PAN GLOBAL PHENOMENON. I have also created a couple of Bad News designs, also available on t-shirts etc, made to look like vintage heavy metal designs from the 80s.
Rik is god and there will never be another like him.
All these designs and more can be purchased at:
Thank you Col for sharing your wonderful memories and I’m sure just a fraction of your amazing collection with us.
“Goodnight Australia, from Rik and Ben, Yeah!!!”
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