The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, June 9, 2014

In Memoriam Rik Mayall

I am very sorry to see that comedian-actor Rik Mayall has died, aged 56. He had a number of classic television programs, and guest spots on other shows (Lord Flasheart in Blackadder, to name but one.) He also enjoyed success in the theater.

But I have to admit my favorite of his projects was The New Statesman, the brutally funny, scathing takeoff of Thatcherism. As the perfectly-named Alan B'Stard, a corrupt, smug, libidinous, right-wing MP backbencher on the make, Mayall was the id to Ian Richardson's infamous Francis Urquhart, the ego of the same era.

The part was tailor-made for Mayall; as described by The Guardian:
In a series of what Marks calls 'almost psychoanalytic sessions,' they tried to find out what Mayall thought he was best at: 'I think,' says Mayall, 'I'm best at being unpleasant and looking crafty. And I didn't want to do another show where I pull faces and shout.'

But there are moments with B'Stard when the unmistakable pop-eyed spike-toothed face of the old Mayall shows through, and it's like suddenly seeing the rat behind the mask.

B'Stard is a new rich young Tory with no morals and - shades of the David Threlfall character in Paradise Postponed - a wife who's the daughter of the local Tory chairman, with a pedigree back to Edward II and B'Stard's Saphic [sic] secretary for a bed buddy.

Marks thinks that the comedy they have tried to evolve with Mayall, walking a knife edge between real and surreal, gives them the chance to deal with a lot of subjects that the Government would rather not dig into. B'Stard's private member's Bill to arm the police comes in the first episode, going out on Sunday - along with a chief constable who talks direct to God and a business agent who is played by a woman and will later turn into one.

And? And, says Marks, later - nuclear waste, the legal system, and Conservative members found in brothels.

It's being made as close to transmission as they can manage, with a live audience in the Yorkshire TV studios in Leeds, where the local young know Mayall better than their MPs - Denis Healey, Keith Joseph and Merlyn Rees.

They seem to be crowding in, maybe in the expectation of seeing the old Mayall, foul mouth and all. Which could also be why the IBA has made them schedule it at 10pm, though Marks and Gran decided straight off, no bad language.
The show was spectacularly offensive, Mayall over the top--and yet, in the high-octane 80s, it worked.

Only Rik Mayall could get away with trying to seduce Maggie Thatcher on Comic Relief:

Part 2:

Rest in peace, Rik Mayall. And thanks for many, many outrageously funny moments.

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