Now, there’s an attention-grabbing title for you. Which is no doubt exactly what Rik Mayall thought when he chose to name his eccentric tome in this very manner. Or perhaps I should address him him as The Rik Mayall, which is how he refers to himself throughout the text. Even though it is a book all about the life and times of the man himself in his own words, I am loath to describe the book as an autobiography. It is notably short on the things you would normally expect to find in an autobiography – such as dates and facts – and most of it appears to be complete bollocks, but this is rather beside the point. This is full on, unfiltered Rik Mayall!
Rik describes himself endlessly as a giant of light entertainment and a talent of God-like proportions. I happen to agree with him but it is true to say his particular brand of humour is an acquired taste. Those not already enamoured with his work will find little in this book to change their minds. However, for those dedicated followers of The Rik Mayall this is an absolute scream and, I would say, essential reading. For all I know months and months of careful planning and research went into the book but it reads like the manic stream of consciousness of a man convinced of his superiority in every way to the rest of mankind – and convinced that everyone else knows it, too.
It is wildly offensive to absolutely everyone of every gender, race, religion and sexual orientation and unapologetically so. One gets the feeling that if this was written by anyone other than Mayall, no publisher would touch it with a barge pole. But despite the bad language, poor taste and terrible syntax, it is completely devoid of bile or malice of any kind and for all the ranting and random threats, we know that Rik is imploring us to laugh at him, not with him (yes, that way round). And laugh I did, it’s bloody hilarious. At several points I had to actually put the book down and have a proper guffaw, on occasion doubled up with mirth on my bed.
And it was during one such outburst that I thought to myself – this book really reminds me of something. Obviously such things as Bottom, The Young Ones, Dangerous Brothers, The Comic Strip (for all of which Rik takes complete and sole credit) come to mind but, no – it was something else. Hang on, I thought – random, impassioned stream of consciousness… complete disregard for facts and a linear narrative… unable to distinguish between reality and fantasy… This is rather like Finnegans Wake! Alright, it’s a Finnegans Wake you can actually understand, but the similarities are uncanny, I reckon. So, much like James Joyce, we must assume that Rik was either a raving lunatic or complete genius. In truth, he was probably both.
Nicked this picture from Google. Copyright is owned by the BBC and I don’t have permission to use it, which would make Rik proud.
Carefully enveloped in the anarchy and fury is an unusually heartfelt passage referring to the notorious quad bike accident in 1998 that almost claimed his life. As Mayall contemplates his own mortality in surprisingly beautiful prose, I thought a little tear might find its way out of my eye. But, just in the nick of time, normal offence-laden banter is resumed and we are back on the literary rollercoaster before anyone gets too emotional.
I don’t usually talk about books as I prefer writing them to reading them but I couldn’t let this one slip by unmentioned. Whether you believe Rik to be (as he continually professes himself) the most brilliant and original entertainer in the entire history of the world, or the very worst example of humanity, this book will prove you right. What we can all agree upon, however, is that when he burst onto the public stage in the early 80s – wild-eyed and relentlessly anarchic – the world really wasn’t ready for him. But when he died suddenly in 2014, we were nowhere near ready to let him go. I personally cried for three days. Not continually, obviously. On and off. I mean, I still had to go to work and the shops and things.
I would say rest in peace, but I suspect that rest and peace would be the last things The Rik Mayall would want.