comedy

Bigger Than Hitler. Better Than Christ

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 through 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. 

Sorry about the very rude word

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.

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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.

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I would say rest in peace, but I suspect that rest and peace would be the last things The Rik Mayall would want.

 

I’ll Be The Judge Of That!

Quite literally, I will. I have the honour of being a judge in the humour section of the Flash Fiction Rodeo Competition over at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. There are cash prizes, apparently. Follow the link for the details, I have to admit to being a bit sketchy on the finer points. Some far better fellows than I have done all the organising, my contribution amounts to ‘send me some stuff and I will tell you what I like best.’

If you have never tried writing humour before, now could be the time to give it a go. The phrase ‘Many a true word is spoken in jest’ is absolutely spot on. Humour is a marvellous device for imparting uncomfortable truths and tackling tricky subjects with a light, easier touch than straight drama. Whilst there is a fine line between this and being trivial, laughter is a strong emotional reaction and invoking reaction in readers is the aim of any writer. The process for provoking either laughter or tears is pretty much the same; getting to the very root of what it is to be human and holding up a mirror for the audience to see it in themselves. Tragedy and comedy are interchangeable, depending on your point of view.

Perhaps the easiest form of comedy to write is parody – providing you know your subject matter well enough. In real life, humour arises naturally from everyday situations and parody is the perfect vehicle for this. It does require a wry sense of observation and knack for characterisation, but other than that, it just sort of writes itself.

Venturing into the world of the absurd can provide fertile ground for humour. Ordinary things in extraordinary circumstances is a common theme, although I like it the other way around far better. Who doesn’t a witty character sharing their observations of the world around them, or a perfectly dull protagonist trying to make sense of the bizarre? Use the characters, their scenarios and dialogue to full advantage. Be careful not to confuse humour with nonsense. Nonsense has a well-earned place in literature, but it isn’t always funny.

Talking of things that aren’t funny, I would avoid too much slap-stick and physical humour when writing prose, if I were you. It often just doesn’t come across well on the page. Humour, like anything, is subjective, so keep that in mind. I like a good fart joke as much as the next man, but a torrent (maybe not the best word) of bodily functions is going to get cringe-worthy quite quickly. Biting satirical wit is most welcome, unnecessary nastiness is not. Like sarcasm, this shows a woeful lack of depth and creative intelligence.  If you find yourself resorting to clichés, you are on the wrong track.

Most of all, don’t force it. There is nothing quite so un-funny as someone trying to be funny.

Deputy Head Porter – Sweet, Smart & Vulnerable?

PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is now available on pre-order, which I am sure I have mentioned several times, but according to my publicist, not enough. It turns out that bashing out 90,000 words was the easy part and now I am expected to actually promote the bloody thing.

I sent a tweet saying ‘Buy my book, you bastards’ but this was considered insufficient. Apparently, we need to focus more on the ‘ sweet, smart but vulnerable girl next door side of PorterGirl…’

Pah.

So, just for you, here is an excerpt from the book, with our very own Deputy Head Porter feeling a bit vulnerable. I suppose I had better have a trawl through and find some examples of sweet and smart also.

Double pah.

Wouldn’t it just be easier if someone leaked some nude pictures to the press or something?

Late September, just before the start of Michaelmas Term…
It is still dark as I make my way towards the huge, iron gates of Old
College to begin my very first day as the new Deputy Head Porter. The last
remaining stars of twilight sparkle with ever decreasing light to herald my
arrival, and a gentle breeze, still chilled with the nighttime, tugs stray
strands of hair across my eyes. Pulling them back, I take in the full wonder
of the place that is to be my fresh start. The great, medieval leviathan of
stone and mortar looms before me seemingly returning my gaze,
regarding me with some suspicion. The centuries held in its walls spring
forth, rooting me to the spot for a moment.
The only reminders of my previous existence in the fuzz are my trusty
Maglite and a very nice pen presented to me by my former colleagues. I
can feel it there, like a tiny security blanket, close to my heart. Its very
presence giving the impression that my old team is only a radio
transmission away. But they are not. There is no back-up. I am all alone in
a whole new world and I have no idea what I am doing.
I have never even been to college, let alone set foot inside one of the
very finest universities in the world. I left school at sixteen with little to
show for it before eventually finding my calling as the target of abuse from
drunks and drug addicts on a council estate many miles away. But now I
am the Deputy Head Porter of Old College, an institution steeped in the
traditions of learning and academia. I probably won’t need back-up. But I
wish to God it was there anyway.

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PorterGirl – First Lady Of The Keys is available NOW!

UK Edition

US Edition