Adrian Edmondson plays the lead role of Vernon in Teenage Kicks. He describes the character he plays as pretty typical: You see men like Vernon everywhere these days - the guys that spent two years on the barricades but the next 20 in Homebase. He grew up through Punk, the Anti-Nazi League, and the miners' strike with the certain knowledge that if you had the right badge and the right haircut, you'd bring down the government... or possibly get your leg over!
In a world full of grown-up slacker children coming back home to sponge of their parents, Vernon is one parent who's come to sponge off his kids for one last helping of 'Teenage Kicks'. He's a hyped-up version of me really.
The show is a third autobiography, a third nightmare, and a third fantasy. It's true because a lot of the frustrations Vernon feels are the frustrations I feel - am I missing something? Am I living life to the full? Does anyone care? Why doesn't everyone give me unconditional love all the time? It's a nightmare because this is what could possibly happen to me if my lovely wife ever threw me out - I would be as lost and hopeless as Vernon. And it's also fantasy because, let's face it, we all occasionally wonder what it might be like to be single again. Would we be the coolest thing in town, a beer swilling babe magnet - or a super-sized, headless chicken?
Because there are only three bedrooms in the flat, and because Vernon's got no money because his wife's screwed him in the divorce court (the first time she's screwed him for some considerable time), Vernon has no proper bedroom, but lives in the cupboard under the stairs. It's there on the set, and I do quite a number of scenes in it, I really like it. It's surprisingly cosy. Everything to hand, warm and womb-like. If my own life went completely tits up I think I could be happy in a cupboard. I say womb-like, but actually a real womb's probably a bit wet and sticky isn't it?
Like Vernon I imagine I'm very cool, and my hope is that my kids think I'm cool too. But the truth is they probably don't. I don't want to ask them directly because I don't want to burst the bubble.
I think it's misleading to suggest this show is a return to Young Ones madness. This is much more of a family sitcom. It's aimed at anyone who's been a parent or a child. Which, of course, is everyone. It's about parents and children. For my character it's about getting old and pretending you're not, about thinking you're hip when you're obviously not, about wanting to be loved but being treated like a horrible burden. For the kids it's about trying to free yourself from the obligation to look after your own parent. I'll admit there are occasional explosions - (I just can't help myself) - in fact there's a fair bit of slapstick - I do ski down Parliament Hill, I do get dragged along the street by a pack of dogs, and I do ride a bicycle at 60mph down Kilburn High Road. But at heart it's based on the truth of being 49 and trying to be happy.
Vernon doesn't do anything that I haven't done, or haven't wanted to do, or haven't thought of doing. We're all pretty disgusting at heart aren't we?
I don't think Vernon is an older version of Vyvyan from The Young Ones. Vyvyan was a medical student and when I was at uni in the 70s most medical students were as psychotic as Vyvyan. Now they're all consultants with yachts and expensive golf-club memberships, and I imagine that is what would have happened to Vyvyan. He's probably married to someone called Camilla whose daddy owns most of Shropshire.
It's great to be back filming in front of a live audience - I really love the live TV sitcom experience. I'm not knocking comedy shows that don't have an audience (after all, I've made a few myself), but there is something beautifully simple about testing your material in front of an audience. If they laugh it stays in. If they don't it's out.
I always feel sick when actors say "Oh we got on so amazingly well", but the truth is we did. Never a cross word. Lots and lots of laughing and too many biscuits.
I simply adore my fictional kids, Laura Aikman and Ed Coleman. I love them to bits, I look on them as my own sort of honorary kids. Mostly because there's a dream sequence in one episode where I make them say how much they love me, and it's just so fantastic to hear your kids (even fictional ones) say 'I love you'. That sort of thing doesn't happen in real life much.
I also got on so well with Jonathan Chan-Penseley who plays David the lodger. You should watch out for him - he is going to be a big comedy star. He was in the radio version of the show, and having worked out how good he was we really enjoyed writing for him. I spent most rehearsals just laughing at him. Of course I'm laughing at my own material - which means I'm a conceited idiot - but he just spins it into gold. He's brilliant. Mark Arden I know from the early days, we were doing the Comedy Store at around the same time. And he and his comedy partner Steve Frost did quite a few Young Ones episodes. He was in Bottom too (he's the fairground stall-holder that kicks me in the testicles).
Teenagers are funny creatures. I know because I've had three of my own. They can turn from being responsible and adult like one second to being ridiculously petty and childish the next. I think it's to be encouraged actually - the sooner they stop their wild mood swings the sooner they turn into boring, sensible grown ups. Do you ever see those people who may not be very old (30s, 40s) but they have no childish qualities left at all? They look like the saddest people in the world.
Rik Mayall and I did our last Bottom tour in 2003. I think we'd both had enough of it by then. We had been doing it since 1975. But I'm enjoying the buzz of the live studio, and I can imagine developing some kind of Vernon-related live show at sometime in the future.
I haven't met anyone that hasn't gone through what Vernon 's going through. It's not a mid life crisis so to speak - it's a state of being. We all want to know if we're having enough fun. We all want to be younger, thinner, sexier, groovier, hipper, god's gift, the life and soul, the 'it' person. And once you hit 50 like me (yes, I'm actually playing a character that's younger than me!) you begin to worry that time is running out and that you've got to cram everything in before your hips go and your teeth fall out. I'm always shocked when I look in a mirror. From the inside I feel like I looked when I was 30 - a dashing, rakish, handsome rogue - in reality I look like a sad, fat, balding git.
About three years ago a mate and I suddenly realised that we hadn't been to see a band for over a year! It seemed preposterous. Like we'd given up on life all together. Since then I've seen loads and loads of bands, from The Young Knives, Ray LaMontaigne and Bat for Lashes to the recent Led Zeppelin and sing-a-long-a-Sex-Pistols gigs. I sometimes go to the Dublin Castle in Camden as well, and just watch all the young bands that are trying to make it. Some of them are total rubbish, some of them are exciting, and I'm usually the oldest person in the room - but I love it.
I am an idiot. And I'm no longer ashamed. That's what getting old is all about!
Quotes From The Other Cast Members:
ED COLMAN: If I had children of my own I would fully intend to be as embarrassing as possible, that's all part of the fun isn't it? As I get older I can't think of anything more enjoyable than being purposefully obtrusive in to my children's lives. If I had a daughter, I'll be an absolute nightmare to potential suitors - I'll probably come across like a complete psychopath. I'll almost certainly spread a whole load of kitchen knives around the table when they come over while I strangely whittle away in the corner and the suitor will be saying to my daughter 'Why is your Dad whittling away at a little wooden effigy of me? And why now has he cut its head off?'. Filming in front of a live audience was great, it's almost like a hybrid with the audience but also you're aware that there's a camera in your face. So if you've got to be big enough to entertain people there you've also got to remember that if you start gurning in a theatrical fashion then you're going to look like you're having some sort of aneurism on camera. It's an interesting art form to be aware of the audience but also keeping it measured enough to not look completely ridiculous on camera... which I may have failed at.
LAURA AIKMAN: My real dad used to embarrass me all the time. He was a stunt man and was forever pushing me off buildings and taking me along to work thinking that I'd enjoy being fired in to a burning building. Obviously these are great exaggerations but I've lost count of how many times Dad would do 'stunts at home' which would normally involve terrifying my friends with stunt guns and grenades. I've not done any stunts with my dad but I have done a few in some of the shows that I've worked on. A lot of the time you have a stunt double in acting but sometimes you're allowed to do some of the stunts yourself. Most of the stunt coordinators know who my dad is and as a consequence assume that I'll be absolutely fine, when in reality I've drowned a couple of times in the freezing waters of the Thames.
There's this one episode in the show where Vernon tries to sleep with Milly's tutor from university, which is horrible quite frankly as he manages to make a complete mess of it. Vernon has no concept of the complete and utter horror that he inflicts on Max and Milly when he talks about sex. I can agree with this wholeheartedly as I believe parents should never talk about sex when in front of their children, there is an unwritten rule that says so. If my dad sat me down and started telling me that he wanted to get his leg over with my tutor like Vernon does then I think I'd be reaching for the sick bucket. The first time I filmed in front of the studio audience I was absolutely terrified. The scariest thing was before we even started a show, we had to come out and introduce ourselves to the audience and say which character we were each playing; once we started the scene I would be fine. Another thing that helped filming in front of a studio audience is that you got an instant reaction to whether or not something in the scene was funny so it gave us an idea of what worked and what didn't.
JONATHAN CHAN PENSLEY: David, who I play, is a massive stereotype. It is slightly based on truth at university as there were loads of guys like him. With regards to his accent no one really talks like that. If you speak English you tend to have a really good grasp of the English language, and if they don't speak English then their English is really bad. It's a slightly extravagant twisting of the truth and with my own play on it - I've made him somewhat bipolar and very polite. David has an unrequited love for Milly and as a result gets taken advantage of, a lot. If Vernon's not being abused by his kids then you can bet your life it'll be David. I first auditioned for the role back in 2005. I did the original pilot with Adrian for the BBC and was in the radio show as well. When I went for my interview the first thing the casting director said to me was 'are you funny?' I said 'I haven't got a clue, give me the script and you can tell me if I am funny,' and I just did it. They were laughing so that was a good sign and as the scripts developed they began to have a greater understanding of where to take David's character. I get a great buzz filming in front of a live audience, I think in rehearsals it helps acting in front of a crew who have not seen it; that's quite a good start because if they laugh you know you're doing something right. You can go 'ok that gag is working there' but it also allows us to get over the giggles. So when you actually go on you are pumping with adrenaline and you are just going for the gags and you can get them right. My parents haven't done anything nearly as embarrassing as some of the things Vernon does in the show. That doesn't mean my parents never do anything to make me feel completely mortified. It doesn't seem to matter how old you get, I'm in my thirties and I still get embarrassed by my parents.
MARK ARDEN: Luckily I don't know anyone like Vernon in real life; if I did I think he would have quite a few broken noses from offending everyone he meets. Most of what he says and understands about the world around him is a complete fabrication of the truth; he's completely dishonest to himself about everything. I have twins who are only nine years old and the tragic thing that I've realised that I'm already embarrassing them. God only knows what it's going to be like when they become teenagers. I get told what to wear outside the school gates just so my attire doesn't humiliate them.