Thursday November 8th 1984
Alive and ranting – the Young One with built-in sneer
RIK HITS THE HIGH SPOTS
by Peter Donnelly
RICK, the slightly potty, very spotty nutter from TV’s The Young Ones, picks at a pimple and rants on about one of his favourite subjects. “Grown- up’s”, he pouts petulantly, “are scared of spots.
“Spots mean pop music, having fun, and all the things they’re too square to understand.
“When grown-up’s see a great big spot coming down the street – BOY! They think Freak out! Street fight! West Side Story! Motor bikes! Teen mania! They sneer at acne because they want you to be like them.” But, adds Rick, running a hand through his spiky hair: “Che Guevara was spotty. So was Martin Luther King. And Lenin had a great big one right on his nose, and two on the corner of his lip.
“As for Trotsky – well, Trot the Spot, as the commissars used to call him, had a face like rhubarb and custard!”
LINES like that (and many much worse) made cult heroes of Rick and his fellow students Neil, Mick [Mike] and Vyvyan, who shared a squalid home in The Young Ones, BBC2’s madcap, like-it-or-loathe-it series.
Rick is the invention of actor Rik Mayall – don’t let the spelling confuse you!
Critics called the series rude and crude, offensive, crazy and anarchic. But with millions of others, they mourned when the foul foursome plunged over a cliff and off the screen in a big red bus this summer.
Ever since they’ve been asking if that really The End.
The good news is that Rick, at least, is alive and picking and putting himself about in an Establishment kind of way which would have his fellow students shrieking in capital letters.
A WEEK ago he appeared on, of all things, the WOGAN show!! With Raquel Welch, who’s nearly old enough to be his GRANNIE!!!
He’s just helped write a Young Ones book* which is a BEST-SELLER already!!!
He turned up the other morning with co-authors Ben Elton and Lise Mayer on boring old BREAKFAST TELEVISION with old UNCLE FRANK BOUGH!!!
And Rik Mayall, the actor behind the spots, fitted in a weekend CANNON and BALL TV show.
Soon he sets off on a comedy tour and is preparing to appear in Gogol’s The Government Inspector at the NATIONAL – for Pete’s sake – THEATRE!!!
Mayall, a 26-year-old bachelor, takes comedy quite seriously.
“My parents were drama teacher,” he says, “and Dad put me on stage in an amateur dramatic society play when I was about five. I suppose it was inevitable that I’d do something in the theatre.”
At 17 he went to study drama in Manchester and shared a cottage in East Didsbury with three other students. “It wasn’t quite as bad as the pad in The Young Ones,” he laughs. “But it was pretty horrendous.
“It was my first experience of sharing a house with anyone else, apart from my family.
“We discovered for the first time that underpants don’t clean themselves and the washing up doesn’t do itself.
“You’d spend all your money on beer and fags, and then pretend you didn’t have any money for coal. So you’d smash up a chair and chuck it on the fire.
“Once, I remember, a guy rode his motorcycle up the stairs for a bet. And we had the most terrible arguments and fights. I fell out with one of the guys and we didn’t speak to each other for two whole terms.”
HE WAS first spotted nationally as Brummie Kevin Turvey, “a really bad, boringly pompous investigator” in TV’s A Kick Up The Eighties.
Then he invented Rick, “a totally self-centred and selfish character” – for The Young Ones.
“The show didn’t set out to shock,” he says. “We just wrote the kind of things that made us laugh.”
But there was, he agrees, a sharpe division between the young people who loved it and “the more mature” who loathed it.
“I think that had something to do with the fact that it’s terribly hard to laugh at anyone who’s younger than you and cocky with it.”
When the series ended, the BBC asked if the team would like to do another.
“We said No, because all the jokes and social comments of The Young Ones have been made, he says.
“Lots of people have said how disappointed they are, but there’s no point in doing it all over again.
“We want times to do something better and more relevant.
“At the moment, we’re just taking stock and thinking what to do next.”
Rick, meanwhile, rants on.
“All great people have a few spots every now and then,” he argues.
“People who admit to getting a spot every now and then are Cliff Richard, Neil Kinnock and Felicity Kendal.
“People who pretend they never get spots are Thatcher, Stalin and Genghis Khan.”
*Bachelor Boys, The Young Ones Book, published by Sphere Books at £2.95
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