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
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
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
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
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.