Tag Archives: Rowan Atkinson

What A Character!

Good morning, dear reader.  I hope you’re feeling well-rested today.

Yesterday was a very sad day for comedy fans everywhere: it brought news that Rik Mayall had died at the untimely age of 56.  My heart goes out to his family and friends, and although there is sadly nothing I personally can do to comfort them, I would like to pay a small, silly homage to Mayall in today’s blog post.

Performers like Mayall are a rare and wonderful breed: not only do they portray truly unique and memorable characters, but they do it with a very individual skill and energy. We love these characters because they are like and unlike us at the same time: we could never (for reasons of practicality, society and/or the law) be these characters, but something about them speaks to us very clearly.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Rik Mayall – Flashheart

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The bolshy, boisterous and alarmingly cavalier Casanova of the Blackadder series – a perfectly outrageous foil for Rowan Atkinson’s devastatingly sarcastic protagonist.  In Blackadder Goes Forth, Flashheart’s daring exploits, enjoyment of adventure and constant references to his sexual prowess represented everything that the British public secretly wanted their men in the air to be.  We would all like to think that we could be as dry and witty as Edmund Blackadder, but there can be no question that we would also love to have Flashheart’s eye-watering confidence and bravado.  After all, it does seem to pay off.

Dylan Moran – Bernard Black    

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Moran’s performance perfectly captures the absurdity and lovable awfulness of this very unique character.  On the surface of things, there is nothing particularly sympathetic about a man who drinks, smokes and tyrannises his way through life; this is a bookseller who cannot stand to sell books.  The reason we love this man so much is because he is acting out all of the ridiculous, socially unacceptable and vice-based behaviours that we all wish we could get away with.  Narcissistic, alcoholic, abusive and anti-social: oh, to be allowed to behave like Bernard Black!

Richard Ayoade – Maurice Moss

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Setting aside for a moment that Ayoade is just a freaking awesome human being who has far too much talent for one person, Moss is one of the nation’s favourite comedy characters because he is a naive genius: his intellect is superior, but his experience is lacking.  Moss reminds us that it is possible to be unbelievably clever and endearingly ignorant at the same time.  We tend not to want that trait for ourselves, but the uncomfortable fact is that we all do it from time to time – we just couldn’t function with the same levels of extremity that Moss does.  Who else could become embroiled in the dark underground world of street Countdown?

 Emma Chambers – Alice Tinker

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Loyal, loving and full of joy, Alice Tinker is also (as the other characters constantly point out) very, very stupid.  If we went around saying the kind of things she says in The Vicar of Dibley, none of us would be able to leave the house unsupervised, let alone get a job, make friends or find true love.  Yet despite all of her eccentric idiocy (“I haven’t been so excited since I won that Beauty Contest, d’you remember?”  “Yes.  We were playing Monopoly at the time, weren’t we Alice?”) the other characters genuinely love her.  Sadly but truly, we could never live in her fantasy world, but we love her because she gives us hope that even those of us with the most extreme deficiencies can be happy and be loved by others.

I’m not suggesting that you have any extreme deficiencies, obviously.  You’re flipping wonderful.  Have a spectacular Tuesday.

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Television Teaches Us

Good morning, reader!  Did you enjoy the sunshine this weekend?  Oh good, me too.

As those of you who read yesterday’s slightly frantic blog post will know, my house mate and I have cause to revise our general knowledge in the next, er…twenty five hours.  I’m sure we can manage that.  You will also know that I have a fondness for the television show Dad’s Army.

It might seem strange that a television show from the seventies about the forties resonates so strongly with someone who arrived in the world right at the end of the eighties, but I love the show because I think it’s taught me quite a lot.  In general, television shows have given me an education that rivals my A Levels in terms of relevance to the world, and definitely overtakes my degree in terms of practicality.  Here are a few examples:

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1) Dad’s Army

Community is important.  Life is full of people with idiosyncrasies, funny foibles and general oddities, and they all matter as human beings.  However bizarre your colleagues, friends and family may be, you are stronger united than you are on your own.  Also, don’t panic (especially if your name is Mr. Mainwaring).

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2) Blackadder

This show is responsible for about ninety percent of my historical knowledge.  My sincere apologies to anyone who taught me History at school, but if you want me to retain information I need to hear it with a massive dose of sarcasm, preferably from Rowan Atkinson.

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3) How I Met Your Mother

Oh, so many things: nothing good happens after 2am; bros before hos (or sisters before misters, I suppose); the Hot/Crazy scale is scarily accurate; never invite an ex to your wedding.  Also, the best thing you can ask for from life is an evening in your favourite pub with your best friends.

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4) Red Dwarf

Similarly to the Dad’s Army ethos, when you’re stuck in a space ship three million years from Earth, you need to be a team.  Even if that team is made up of a robot, a dead hologram, a genetic mesh of cat and human and a Liverpudlian layabout.

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5) Friends

Of course Friends made the list.  There are many good lessons to learn from the show, but in my opinion the main one is that you can know someone for years and still be surprised by them.  You never know how your heart might change: Ross got the girl after more than a decade, and Monica and Chandler didn’t fall in love until they went to London.  (This raises some questions about London being the new Capital of Romance, but we can come back to that another time.)

Obviously it would be nice to think that the lion’s share of my knowledge comes from books, lectures and academia in general, but I don’t think that it does.  I’m not convinced that that’s such a bad thing, though: surely as long as we are learning something, the source is not too important.

That’s what I’ll tell myself while I stick BBC iPlayer on, anyway.  Have a great Monday.