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Rik Mayall: Globe critic Peter Grant pays tribute to a true star
Updated 10:04am Wednesday 11th June 2014 in News
I read the news today, oh boy.
Rik Mayall gone. At 56.
I remember coming home one night hearing that Dermot Morgan, who played Father Ted, had a last supper before going off to meet his maker.
His heart gave in. He left too early.
Couldn't believe it then - and I still can't.
But Rik Mayall?
Gone? Tell me it's a joke.
What a loss - what a shock.
I first met him when the BBC went all alternative.
He broke barriers. No, he smashed them to splinters.
The Young Ones broke the mould. And he made us laugh out loud - simple as that.
A Manchester arts graduate with style. Vision.
Yet, when I met this shy, softly-spoken actor in person, he was charm personified.
He was multi-skilled and yet complex.
Self-effacing, but a great listener who made you feel important.
Rebel Rick was only one of his characters: there was punk poet Kevin Turvey; slimy MP Alan B'stard and rancid Richie from Bottom.
And who can forget Flashheart in Blackadder - Rik Mayall was the only man to steal Rowan Atkinson's thunder.
He had so much charisma.
I recall with great affection Rik calling me “Matey.”
A term he used in character and on screen and stage.
As a TV editor talking to some very bland celebrities most of the time, I found Rik was so refreshing and...nice.
When he toured with the stage show of Bottom with his Ade de Camp, Mr Ade Edmondson, it was a sheer delight - a show that brought the screen versions to life - years before Reeves and Mortimer messed around.
This was Laurel and Hardy with attitude.
Rik and Ade fleshed out grotesque cartoon characters with them - having fun and making audiences relish the artistic anarchy.
They used huge frying pans and explosions and utter madness.
The set, their horrible sitcom flat, received applause even before the daft duo came on.
I spoke to him on the phone before he appeared at the Liverpool Empire.
He said: "How are you and that great city, Matey?"
He revealed to me that they were planning to call the on-stage toilet used in the show..."Liverpool"
I said : "That will go down well in Manchester,"
He laughed one of the loudest laughs I've ever heard and shouted to Ade in the same room doing chats on the phone.
"Ade, for the toilet gag we will call it 'Liverpool in Manchester' and 'Manchester in Liverpool."
It brought both houses down.
He always did.
I sat watching the TV tributes - bringing in people who had never met him, including a gushing Radio Times critic.
She had never met or spoken to him - or any of his alter egos.
He would have hated being called a “national treasure”. He disliked unfairness.
In that phone interview with me he was like a schoolboy. Laughing, laughing.
He asked what I was doing and that I shouldn't be reviewing - but getting out there, writing sketches and having fun .
I remember he said: "Forget about stage nerves (which plagued him) - get out there, it's better than a real job - and you will love it."
I ended our chat with a question about his family, his wonderful wife Barbra and their kids, asking if they would be coming to his shows.
"Got to go, Matey," he said politely.
He drew the line on his privacy.
He was an inspiration.
At 56 it is a real loss.
I am 56 - and I am thinking about my own life, going out and doing something like he did from when he was a drama student to the Comedy Store and all those well-deserved awards.
His pal, Alexei Sayle, summed it up when he said: " He was a sweet man."
Tara, maverick Rick.
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