Rightly, there have been many tributes to Rik Mayall in the hours following his death so let me be brief. When I was 13 years old I decided that I didn't want to ever work for a living. Why would anyone want to be responsible and live a life decently when you could shout, pull faces and annoy people? I mean, if I could do that when I grew up instead of actually, you know, growing up then I think there's a chance that I could be happy. And the one and only reason that the idea even entered my head is solely down to Rik Mayall.
The first time that Rik and I ever hung out was in my living room in 1981. He was on TV and I was on the floor in front of him, a position I have never left. A brand new sketch show had started on BBC 2. It was called A Kick Up The Eighties, it starred Richard Stilgoe and it was completely and utterly awful. Yet everyone in my school talked about it the next day like they'd just witnessed the second coming of a V-flicking Christ. It was one of the worst comedies on television yet to miss a single episode would have been agony. I assume. I never, ever missed it. Why? Because of the rush and excitement of the silhouette of Kevin Turvey, an investigative journalist who would research any subject with pain staking detail, if it wasn't for the fact he was easily distracted. "My name is Kevin Turvey but you can call me Kevin Turvey", he said in that exotically nasal voice. "Alright, alright. Settle down".
It is the one and only time anyone has had me at hello. Everything that appeared on my TV screen in those few minutes were brand new. Those eyes, that voice, those hands. No one in television had eyes, voices or hands before Kevin Turvey. I grew up in 70's/80's Northern Ireland and for the very first time, I didn't feel safe in my own home. Someone had broken into the dust of television and shouted "RIGHT. I'M IN. LET'S BREAK EVERYTHING!"
I think I'm in love.
A million years later, I saw a trailer for The Young Ones, a brand new BBC sitcom. I thought it looked shit. I hated punks, didn't really know what hippies were and I'd absolutely no idea why these young men were all still living with their dad. But wait... Kevin Turvey's in it! Well, it's bound to be good.
It wasn't good. It was much more than that. It was the single most important thing in my life. It was wild, anarchic, surreal and gloriously stupid. A sitcom that destroys its "sit" in the very first episode. And I didn't just watch every episode, I devoured them. I memorised them. I loved them. I had no idea where this programme had come from but I did know that their disgusting, sick-and-snot-filled house was my home. And the star was Kevin Turvey. I didn't even care that Kevin was playing a new character called Rick because Kevin Turvey is great in everything. He's my new hero and I want to know all about him. The Young Ones is everything I've ever wanted. And therefore, The Young Ones got banned in our house.
Not for long. Just a few episodes. I'd called my Dad a "complete and utter bastard" once too often and so The Young Ones had to be switched off. Of course, Dad couldn't keep to his threat because in the Legge household, comedy isn't just comedy. It's romance. My Dad first noticed my Mum when he heard her doing Goons impressions and, 56 years later, he's still married to the funniest person he knows. Maybe Dad thought that I should watch The Young Ones because maybe someone will someday fall in love with me after hearing me saying "Neil, Neil, orange peel" repeatedly. I don't see why they wouldn't.
It seems too much of a corny thing to say that I wish I could say thanks to Rik Mayall for all he's given me but it's true. In the same way that The Beatles fans feel their lives were changed by music, my life is all the better for having The Dangerous Brothers, The Comic Strip Presents, Happy Familes, Filthy, Rich & Catflap, Blackadder, The New Statesman, The Bad News Album and Bottom. Let's face it, what is Pointless Anger, Righteous Ire if it isn't Robin Ince and I trying to steal Bottom and get away with it? When I found out that Rik had died yesterday, I was glad I was with Robin. I think when someone as important to you as Rik Mayall dies, you need to be with someone who loved him too. Or maybe you could just look on Twitter and Facebook and all forms of online media. Or you could turn on the TV or read a newspaper. It turns out that Rik Mayall was loved by everyone. We all felt a loss and we all celebrated his life. Everyone quoted him, everyone posted clips of him and... oh, Greg Davies... you beautiful, beautiful man. Imagine writing a sitcom and the sitcom gets made and you star in the sitcom and RIK MAYALL IS YOUR DAD!
I don't need to tell you which bits of Rik Mayall's work you should see because you already know. But if I was forced to, I'd say get a time machine and go back to 1991 and see Rik and Ade Edmondson performing Waiting For Godot, still the best production of the greatest play I've ever seen. Or just watch Mr Jolly Lives Next Door, my favourite comedy of all time.