Rik Mayall in 2004 at the UK Film Premiere in London of the classic novel by Jules Verne "Around The World In 80 Days". (Photo by Steve Finn/Getty Images)
Rik Mayall in 2004 at the UK Film Premiere in London of the classic novel by Jules Verne “Around The World In 80 Days”. (Photo by Steve Finn/Getty Images)

The sudden death of Rik Mayall on Monday saddened me as it simultaneously threw me back into a giggling classroom of 16 year old girls imitating Rik, Vyvyan, Neil and Mike from The Young One’s.

I often use the term ‘bastard’ ironically and was reminded I got that from his co-star Ade Edmonson, when I read him quoted as saying: “There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. Now he’s died for real, selfish bastard.”

The Young One's - courtesy of The Guardian
The Young One’s – courtesy of The Guardian

On a totally separate theme (but bear with me for a few hundred words – this does go somewhere), the treatment of women in many societies including ours, has also been in the forefront of my mind this week:

Last week’s Bite Size Memoir Challenge resulted in tales of First Jobs as initiation to a misogynistic world of work; then Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague and Actor Angelina Jolie have been campaigning at the four-day global summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict (ESVC) in London; And I’ve also been reminded with the story highlighting the terrible treatment of ‘fallen women’ and their children in Ireland, how many religions demonise women; how men’s ‘sins’ are cause for joke and camaraderie whereas women’s, seen as expression of evil and cause for banishment.

I know this is and has never been, all men and there are some wonderful men in my life. I had that first job in Productivity Services because a man was brave enough to stir up a whole department by throwing in a few women and even worse – some women graduates. He told me a couple of years later, when I had a major falling out with a rather senior manager, I was a further wild card – that my personality profile showed I was rebellious!

“No-one else was prepared to take the risk but I knew there was something about you.”

Many of the men in that department were in and out of his office with misogynistic complaints about our abilities, progress and promotions. He coached and cajoled them, fought our corner and reinforced we were up to it. Behind closed doors, I daren’t imagine the tactics were entirely ‘feminist’ but influence doesn’t often come from standing firmly in a dark and lonely corner.

I wonder why we cannot accept each other, build upon our individual strengths to get the very best out of everybody, instead of putting down others be they men, women, black, white, gay, heterosexual, old, young, accountants, lawyers or whatever, just to feel better about ourselves?

It troubles me how the feminist movement ended up with us trying to pretend men and women are the same to ensure equality of opportunity and value.  Why would I need to burn a perfectly comfortable and supporting bra to show I was as good as a man? Why can’t we each bring our strengths to society rather than equalising the playing field by rubbishing our differences.

Rachel Allen touches on the feminist dynamic as she explores some of the stereotypes around lesbianism in a humorous post 9 Things Assumed When I Say Lesbian and I was reminded how humour serves to facilitate an inch by inch change of mindset within society, even if it doesn’t influence every individual.

..Anyway, before I break my own rule of ‘posts under 1000 words’, I promised this would all go somewhere. There isn’t time here to get to grips with these questions, but I thought I’d come back to one of Rik Mayall’s totally brilliant characters – the rather sexist Lord Flashhart from the British comedy series Blackadder.

Geoff Le Pard discusses Rik Mayall’s death in a post for Sonnet Saturday and pointed me to Jenni’s Weekend Laughter Challenge on her blog Unload and Unwind – This week she asks for people to post something funny in tribute to Rik Mayall.

So in a very roundabout way, Rik Mayall’s stereotyped character, Flashheart brings his death and my constant search for progress in the ever continuing struggle between men and women, to close an improbable, inappropriate and incomplete circle!

Mayall and his writing partner Adrian Edmondson began their careers at London’s Comedy Store, with an intention to reinvent British comedy, having grown tired of the industry’s reliance on racism and misogyny. Small steps are sometimes hard to see but when you look back it’s sometimes easier to see the progress.

And humour does influence that progress – it’s often the bridge or voice for difficult and opposing views, it can highlight the ridiculous. And so: Please sit back, take a pinch of salt and laugh at this man’s genius.

 

 

 

And – if you’ve time, a glimpse of the history behind the Young One’s in this 2012 interview of Rik Mayall with scriptwriter Ben Elton – taken from a Channel 4 documentary – Laughing at the 80’s

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