Unheard 'Rik Mayall, Panglobal Phenomenon' coming to Radio 4

ExclusiveFriday 10th May 2024, 12:13pm by Jay Richardson

Filthy Rich & Catflap. Richie Rich (Rik Mayall). Credit: BBC
  • Rik Mayall is to be celebrated on Radio 4 with a new show featuring an hour of previously unheard material
  • Archive On 4: Rik Mayall, Panglobal Phenomenon has been assembled from 114 hours of conversation between Mayall and writing partner Max Kinnings
  • In character as The Rik Mayall, "you're hearing Rik absolutely firing on all cylinders here, he is really, really funny ... you're hearing them crying with laughter, riffing on abstract comic ideas" says producer Gareth Gwynn

Radio 4 is to celebrate Rik Mayall in a new show featuring previously unheard audio of the comic legend writing, joking and creating a new character, British Comedy Guide can exclusively reveal.

Set to air on 1st June, just ahead of the 10-year anniversary of his death, Archive On 4: Rik Mayall, Panglobal Phenomenon, is a 60-minute programme assembled from 114 hours of recordings that the late comic made between 2004 and his passing, in conversation and improvising with his collaborator Max Kinnings.

Most of the audio is taken from a two year period when the pair were writing Mayall's 2005 spoof autobiography, Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ. But the recordings continued up until a few weeks before Mayall died, aged 56 of a heart attack.

He and his uncredited ghost co-writer Kinnings originally planned to pen a more conventional memoir, but that "fell by the wayside as we enjoyed the comedic aspect of writing," Kinnings told BCG. "Jamming," as Mayall called it, they developed The Rik Mayall, a progression of the characters that Mayall had previously portrayed.

"He was different, a new character" says Kinnings. "He'd created Rick, the 'People's Poet' in The Young Ones. Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap and then Richie in Bottom. And he saw The Rik as a continuation of that kind of evolutionary line."

A reluctant interviewee who limited his chat show appearances, Mayall had wanted to "satirise the nature of celebrity autobiographies".

"You have to remember that 2004 was a golden age for them, people were getting big advances," Kinnings explains. "And we wanted to play around with that, hence The Rik's raging ego and self-aggrandisement."

Panglobal Phenomenon also features Mayall reflecting on the emergence of the UK alternative comedy scene, "the early days of the Comedy Store, The Comic Strip and his colleagues and associates".

The New Statesman. Alan B'Stard MP (Rik Mayall)
The New Statesman. Alan B'Stard MP (Rik Mayall)

"But a lot of it is simply Rik being funny, funny in a way that a lot of his fans and the viewing public have never seen before," he says. "He was so generous as a collaborator. And the way that he would riff on ideas, that's what we really wanted to capture.

"You get a glimpse behind the mask, to the point where we have him answering the phone, chatting to his family. He didn't really like talking about himself so I think there will be a lot of surprises for people.

"It's not often you have somebody of his stature, where there's this archive of them in a domestic realm. Fans will enjoy hearing how playful and kind, what a great guy he was. We used to talk about the fact that comedians often have their dark side. But I never saw that with him, certainly no more than the average person has."

Gareth Gwynn, an established archive producer, writer and performer in his own right, with credits including The Now Show and The Ministry Of Happiness, who produces Panglobal Phenomenon for Mighty Bunny (Wosson Cornwall, Jessica Fostekew: Sturdy Girls Club), concurs. "What's lovely is when you hear bits of him and bits of The Rik. The show is sort of trying to work out: who is Rik Mayall?

"He put a lot of things between himself and his audience. I found it fascinating because I don't think I'd ever really thought of someone like him sitting down and coming up with ideas."

Kinnings and Mayall were working on a computer game together when Mayall died. The former unearthed the recordings last year, "which was obviously very poignant". And, encouraged by executive producer Simon Nicholls and technical advances facilitating the audio being cleaned up, started curating his friendship and creative partnership.

That had begun when he sent Mayall the script for a sitcom he'd written. The Murderers was about a pair of serial killers living in the suburbs, one a "sort of Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre-type". The other was a very mild-mannered, typically British character called Eustace, whom Mayall wanted to play as "a kind of Tony Blair parody".

Although the comedy never made it to screen, it sparked a fruitful relationship. Kinnings is optimistic that elements of The Murderers and several other projects might yet see the light of day, including a more traditional biography of his friend that he is contemplating writing.

"We wrote short stories, a live show that never happened," he recalls. "Two years ago, I wasn't going to do anything with this archive and now it's going to be on Radio 4. I had to think long and hard about it and wanted to check that Rik's family would be happy, that [his wife] Barbara [and children] Sid, Rosie and Bonnie were happy. Getting the tone right was crucial to the process."

Despite having to produce so many hours of recordings, Gwynn is delighted to have been involved.

"You're hearing Rik absolutely firing on all cylinders here, he is really, really funny in these tapes" he enthuses. "You're hearing them crying with laughter, riffing on abstract comic ideas. But there's real feeling there too, he's preparing to take audiences along with him even as things are coming out of the ether. It's really exciting thinking about how it will be received."

The Rik Mayall - Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ

By Rik Mayall and Max Kinnings

In this electrifying autobiography, Rik Mayall stands naked in front of his vast legions of fans and disciples and invites them to take communion with the blood he has spilled for them during his thirty year war on show business.

He invented alternative comedy with The Young Ones, he brought down the Thatcher administration with The New Statesman and he changed the face of global culture with his masterpiece Bottom. Not only was his number one single Living Doll the saviour of rock 'n' roll but he also rescued the British film industry with the vast revenues created by his legendary movie Drop Dead Fred.

In 1998, he survived an assassination attempt and spent five days in a coma before he literally came back from the dead. Having completed countless phenomenal feature films, TV series, live extravaganzas and radio voice-overs since then, Rik Mayall is now poised on the brink of a whole new epoch-shattering revolution.

For the first time ever, Rik reveals in print the deep inner truth behind his gargantuan ascent to the pinnacle of international light entertainment - the mental hospitals he has broken out of, the television executives he has assaulted, the drugs he has definitely not taken, the charities he has bankrupted, the countless pregnancies he has engendered, and so much more.

First published: Monday 3rd April 2006

Buy and sell old and new items
Search for this product on eBay

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

  • Published: Thursday 24th June 2010
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Download: 7.91mb

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

  • Published: Monday 5th September 2005
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Pages: 352
  • Catalogue: 9780007207275

Buy and sell old and new items
Search for this product on eBay

BCG may earn commission on sales generated through the links above.

Not in the UK?

Fear not! Many items can still be ordered. Amazon in the UK delivers to many international territories, whilst their Australia, USA and Canada stores also supply many equivalent or imported items.

If you are in the North America, look out for US/Canadian flag icons on popular product listings for direct links.

If you order from a UK store, please note that the UK is in Region 2 and B, respectively, for DVDs and Blu-rays - check your player's compatibility, or look for multi-region products if you are located in another region.

If you are in Australia or New Zealand (DVD Region 4), note that almost all DVDs distributed in the UK by the BBC and 2entertain are encoded for both Region 2 and Region 4. The UK and Australasia are in the same Blu-ray region (B).

Share this page