Yes, I spooked surrounding patrons with a gasp upon reading. Yes, the tears came upon spotting Facebook stills of Eddie Hitler alone on the bench. Yes, I played “Summer Holiday.”
“Yes, the poison dart… shut up, give it a f***ing chance,” to quote a wall-breaking Adrian Edmondson. Because, alluding to the respective botch up during the show I’ll get to soon, a bout of “momentary amnesia” and “excessive giggling” still feels necessary to get over the fact Rik Mayall’s gone.
It wasn't right to put together a retrospective since there’s so much of his work left to watch, especially concerning Alan B’stard and the Comic Strip shorts. Meanwhile, Filthy Rich and Catflap doesn’t warrant any rush to view given its similar partnership dysfunction already seen in the Young Ones and later in Bottom. Instead, it’s probably best to focus on a performance (and/or lack thereof) recorded while the character duo (of Eddie and Richard Richard) were still at their peak and an effective chapter in one half’s life was still a year away.
What may account for their two best laugh-per-minute hours came during the third stage tour under the Bottom banner. As with the two prior tours plus the two that followed in the Noughties, the 1997 tour themed as Hooligan’s Island would feature one show recorded live for home video release. In the sandwiching four releases, each tends to feature breaking point moments that trump the actual plot jokes in audience reaction. From “Don’t you ever yearn for change?” to a malfunctioning rabid boar, the botch-ups remain exhibits of the argument that our most endearing moments are ones of absolute failure. Such bloopers became so endearing that Mayall and Edmondson supposedly scripted Hooligan’s Island with intentional screw-ups; a possibility hinted through Rik’s “You’re trying to make me lose the plot” accusation met with “Oh, we’ve got a plot this year, have we?”
Occurring at the Bristol Hippodrome, the show opens with what else, an explosive entry that forebodes the numerous bombings synoptically and unintentionally set to go off thanks in part to Rik himself. It’s live stage, so no matter how well laid the plan is, something WILL go wrong. The plot moseys on through breakfast brambles and an early sound effect routine, with everything on schedule until twenty minutes in, when the “plot” joke suffers an ironically real stumble. And with that, the really sharp language finally lets loose and Rik begins a rampant back and forth mince between knob… ahem, spectrum points concerning such slips. No one is safe when Rik and Ade combine poor prop execution for gross out intentions with the time honored Englishness of pissing off everyone, from the Japanese to their own British neighbors (both Scottish and Welsh).
The act continues on with regurgitation (and line recollection) troubles, cannibalism, and a now somber but nonetheless side-aching poison dart vignette. It’s during a segue into possible antidote options that Ade’s improper door-shutting attempt would spark the night’s biggest breakdown and solidify that both truly had fun in their professions. For a good two minutes, Rik struggles to maintain composure only to find himself keeling over repeatedly, now sunk closer to eye level with an audience just as hysterical. Just as he had caused the mess up, it would be Ade who rights the s***, *cough* ship with an diagnosis of amnesia concerning “the secret Japanese bunker until Act 2 when you’re supposed to f***ing find out about it!” It’s not this moment alone that belongs to Ade, the evening’s glue. The plot advancement throughout the show comes from his attempts to set Rik, the crew, even audience members straight on delaying the dialogue transition with head-through-the-window quips and personal shots (All past bastardness the man’s expressed should be redeemed after everything he’s had to endure this decade). It’s enough to make one feel bad that he’s the victim of Albatross droppings.
The act closes without further mishap, but the return from break escalates quickly with a "Have a w**k!" cry from what had to be a planted audience member. Once again, an interruption succeeds at putting Rik off-guard early, muffling a "dangers of the mighty Pacific" statement and finally setting himself up for a line-memorizing shot. The sexist/pan-offensive comments continue and the gross-out mentions coax a grimace, the nuclear bomb premise gets a fantastic buildup, the "Father Ted" ad lib is evidence of Rik's comedic respect, and the botch-up theme of the evening receives a wonderful send-off with a countdown gag involving signal rockets. But it's the final "Oooh, s***!" that woefully foreshadows the life-threatening quad bike accident that Rik suffered in '98, and that the tandem would never have as great a slagging chemistry as they did there and then.
Still, the show lives on through Mayall's bombast, Edmondson's shovel blows back down to Earth, and an endless range of moments that should've been gifs by now (I'm working on it). So rest in peace Rik. You earned it even if this one show was your lone fantastic contribution to comedy.
- "Fish are f***ing frisky tonight. If we even th-dare to think of taking on..."
- "Woooww! But Eddie, where did you..." and the subsequent breakdown/improv.
- The "Get real!" dance
- "So, Bruce shat in your pants?" and Rik's response.
- "Oh, we've got a plot this year, have we?" and the resulting flub.
- "Hey, Foxy. Yes, what is it, Muldie?"
- Eddie's rocket launch "dance" and prop frustration.
- "I thought you just f***ed off!" Yeah, well I just f***ed back on again!"
- The flying albatross.
- The "Welsh cannibals!" build-up.