Rik Mayall Live! The Sands Centre, Carlisle, 1989
Bottom Live! Opera House, Manchester, 1999
Rik Mayall was an extraordinarily talented much-missed comic actor. His anarchic presence and crazy humour thrilled audience and made him a cult favourite. I was very fortunate to be able to see him perform live on two occasions.
The first time was at the Sands Centre in Carlisle in 1989 for his solo tour Rik Mayall Live! This was a tour-de-force that was performed at such speed that the audience could not catch its breath from laughing so hard for the next onslaught of jokes and routines. The show was particularly memorable for its opening. Before Mayall appeared on stage, the introductory music was played on a turntable off set and was the theme from The Muppet Show scatched into the theme from Dallas on a revolving loop. Mayall could be heard getting angry trying to get ready off stage. Then suddenly the stage was in darkness and then light in quick succession. Mayall then jumped onto the stage, arms wide with an inane grin on his face before his trousers exploded! He then yelled manically ‘Hello Ladies and Gentlemen of The Carl!’ This was his own cool funny reference to Carlisle which he used throughout the show. Whilst the audience were still laughing at this, he spotted someone sitting very near to me who wasn’t laughing, promptly got down from the stage, grabbed the audience member’s arm and promptly threw him out of the theatre for the rest of the show. Even if this was a staged audience plant, the routine worked brilliantly and shocked the audience into more laughter. From then on, classic characters like Kevin Turvey, the stroppy and socially incompetent Midands accented journalist who lived with his mum and of course Rik, the left wing, Cliff Richard loving student from the classic TV series The Young Ones (written by Mayall, Lise Mayer and Ben Elton) all made appearances in the blisteringly funny show.
I next saw Mayall star in Bottom Live! in 1999 with his Young Ones co-star Ade Edmondson. Bottom was a successful TV comedy series that was an extension of their act The Dangerous Brothers taken from the their stand-up comedy early years working with The Comic Strip group of comedians that included Peter Richardson, Nigel Planer (who also appeared in The Young Ones as Neil the hippy student), Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Bottom Live! transferred the disorganised. Destructive, violent comedy slapstick of two London flatmates from television onto the stage and proved to be a well-made, very funny, chaotic evening.
After much success on TV, film and stage, in 2014, Mayall tragically died suddenly at the premature age of only fifty-six years old from a heart attack. He was a true modern comedy great and am blessed t have so many happy memories of watching this enormously talented star perform at his best live on stage.