TV

Adrian Edmondson: 'Rik Mayall and I were in love with each other’

Adrian Edmondson told The Big Issue he wishes he and Rik Mayall had been more open with each other about their emotional closeness

Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall in Bottom

Adrian Edmondson and Rik Mayall in Bottom. Credit: YouTube / BBC Comedy Greats

Adrian Edmondson has revealed he wishes he and fellow comedy legend Rik Mayall, who died after a heart attack in 2014, had been more open with each other about the depth of their relationship.

Though they were “reticent” with each other in everyday life, the pair – best known for their partnerships in sitcoms The Young Ones and Bottom – expressed their mutual affection through their work. 

“I think Rik and I were in love with each other in a platonic way,” he said in an interview for The Big Issue’s Letter to My Younger Self. “The characters we played were always extensions of who we were and we loved those extensions too. I used to write a lot of his characters, and he wrote a lot of my characters. That’s a kind of symbol of love, isn’t it? It’s a way of showing affection.”

Edmondson said he regrets that he and Mayall were not open with each other about their emotional closeness. The two met when they were drama students at Manchester University in the late ’70s, and worked together as members of The Comic Strip (along with Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French & Nigel Planer), and then in sitcoms The Young Ones, Filthy Rich & Catflap, and Bottom

But despite the decades of successful partnership, Adrian Edmondson says they “never really showed much affection to each other”.

“One thing I would tell my younger self is to not be afraid of affection,” he added. “[Mayall and I] were always rather reticent with each other,  so we expressed our feelings through writing each other’s characters to express more love of each other.”

After the two stopped working together in the early 2000s, Edmondson took on a number of serious acting roles, including in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Eastenders, the BBC adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Twelfth Night. Mayall also did solo work, including playing Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman, but Edmondson says Mayall was always keen to resurrect their comedy partnership.

“Rik did a few things on his own but I don’t think he enjoyed it,” he said. “I think he needed to be in a partnership with someone to make it work. There’s a film of Morecambe and Wise at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon and there’s a bit where Eric does 10 minutes on his own and it just doesn’t work. Yet he’s one of the funniest people in the world. Same with Laurel and Hardy, you never see them on their own. It’s part of the fun, having this counterpoint. 

“It was a regret that Rik became more dependent on me as I became less dependent on him. There was no malice from me, it was just a reflection of the fact that I thought we’d peaked and it seemed mad to continue. And I was a bit bored and wanted to do other things in life.”

Read Adrian Edmondson’s full Letter To My Younger Self in The Big Issue, on sale until 15 October.

The Big Issue magazine exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work, buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today. Or give a gift subscription. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available from the App Store or Google Play.

Support your local Big Issue vendor

If you can’t get to your local vendor every week, subscribing directly to them online is the best way to support your vendor. Your chosen vendor will receive 50% of the profit from each copy and the rest is invested back into our work to create opportunities for people affected by poverty.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Jenna Coleman on policing the town that MeToo forgot in The Jetty
TV

Jenna Coleman on policing the town that MeToo forgot in The Jetty

Spent star Michelle de Swarte: 'Someone had to tell me I was homeless – I was in such denial'
Michelle de Swarte
TV

Spent star Michelle de Swarte: 'Someone had to tell me I was homeless – I was in such denial'

Karen Gillan: 'It's better to tell the story of Douglas is Cancelled than not tell the story'
TV

Karen Gillan: 'It's better to tell the story of Douglas is Cancelled than not tell the story'

Supacell star Calvin Demba on race, male bravado and breaking the modern superhero formula
Calvin Demba, star of Netflix's Supacell
TV

Supacell star Calvin Demba on race, male bravado and breaking the modern superhero formula

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know

The Big Issue

Sign up to get your FREE Doctor Who Archive Special

Celebrate the 14th series with your FREE edition of the Dr Who Special Archives