Mark Fisher on Andy de la Tour and touring partner Rik Mayall (below) and Ross Parsons on performance artist Bobby Baker (overleaf). Also: The diverse talents of actor/writer Stuart Hepburn.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 43 CABARET 53 DANCE 54
Mark Fisher gets up to date with full-time writer and part-time comic. Andy De La Tour and picks six moments from the career of Rik Mayall.
‘I don‘t think the audience know what they're going to get.’ says Andy De La Tour about his opening set on Rik Mayall's current national tour. ‘lt‘s quite exciting. I‘ve got my picture on the poster with Rik and the billing is very generous: my name is up there with Rik's. So they know I‘m on. but I don‘t think they've got a fucking clue who I am!‘
He has. ofcourse. been around on the comedy scene since those days when the word 'alternative‘ seemed to mean something. He was last seen in these parts alongside John Cooper Clarke in the 1984 Edinburgh Festival and the year before that with Rik Mayall and the then relatively unknown Ben Elton in a hilarious triple bill at the Assembly Rooms. Nonetheless. while Mayall has gone from cult to mainstream success (see below) and the ever-prolific Elton has just about taken over the monopoly of'I'V comedy writing. 41 year-old De La Tom has maintained his low public profile.
I The Young Ones.The two series at the radical sitcom appeared in 1982 and 1984 respectively and gave students across the land a new set 01 sketches to recite instead 01 all the old Monty Python ones. Rik was everything you hated about students and more. and was perhaps at his nauseating best when The Young Ones took on Footlights College. Oxbridge in University Chaﬂenge.
I Kevin Turvey.Single highlight 01A Kick Up The Eighties and central subject at Man Behind the Green Door, Mayall's 1981 creation put Redditch on the map and lurthered the cause 01 the investigative reporter. His ‘Fish thatl llke' routine wasthe eel thing. Sadly missed. but making a reappearance on his current tour.
‘I go on at the beginning and the audiences are really generous.‘ he says. "They're really warm. because they assume I'm going to make them laugh. otherwise I wouldn‘t be there. I walk on and they don‘t know who I am. so I have to say.
this is me and I can be funny too. By the end of my
set. nearly every night I've got a tremendous reception and they feel quite pleased. because they‘ve discovered some new guy who they didn‘t know before. They get a buzz out of that.‘
De La Tour is well aware that he is in a privileged position. Apart from a few guest appearances on The Young Ones and the odd slot on Friday Night Live. he has largely put stand-up comedy behind him to concentrate on his own writing. He’s got a play opening in next year’s debut season ofthe West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. 21 film-script due to be shot by (iranada TV and a recently-screened episode of Boon amongst his many credits. So to be able to pop off on a month-long tour to sell-out audiences is a
I The Government lnspector.hlayall attained mainstream credibility when he took the lead role in Nikolai Gogol's bureaucratic comedy at the National Theatre in 1985. He brought all the well-established mannerisms oi hisTV personas. but injected a strain 01 much-needed raw comedy to the giant Olivier stage. Richard Eyre directed.
I Bad News Tour.0ne olthe several Comic Strip Presents. . . episodesto teature Mayall blurred with real lite when his cod heavy metal band genuinelytook to the road. much tothe annoyance ol the Reading Rock Festival's bona lide head-bangers. It not up to the standard at Spinal Tap. some sharply observed moments.
‘Working with Ben or Rik you get spoiled.‘ he admits. ‘because you‘re playing really big venues. I wouldn‘t want to go back to doing the cabaret circuit again. It's so much more fun and exciting doing the big venues. It‘s unlikely that I'd end up doing a lot of telly stand-up and it‘s only by doing telly that you can get really big. It also makes it more fun for me. because it takes the pressure off. It’s a side-line. but it‘s a sideline I‘m committed to while I‘m doing do it.‘
Being committed means making sure you‘re material is fresh and not trading round the same gags as everyone else on the circuit. Unlike Mayall‘s character comedy. De La 'I‘our's mainstay is the kind of routine-based material used by Ben Elton who has himselfjust done a national tour. ‘Ben and I talk a lot on the phone.‘ says De La Tour. ‘because we find ourselves covering the same subjects. I constructed some new gear for this tour and I wanted to check with Ben that he wasn‘t covering the same jokes. Rik and I are following Ben round the country and there's only a limited amount ofsubjects.‘
I suggest that adopting a style closer to Mayall's could avoid the problem. but De La Tour who worked with Mayall to develop both their acts. is well aware of his own abilities. ‘No. I never could.’ he says. ‘Rik is a performing genius. Apart from Kevin 'I’urvey and Rik from The Young Ones. the re‘s all sorts ofother characters that keep emerging. Not actual characters from actual series. just all these different personas. I'm just amazed at that. Ican’t do that. [can just patter.‘
Rik Mayall and Andy De La Tour play the Pavilion. Glasgow on [0 and I 7 Dec a! 7. 30pm.
I Filthy. Rich and Catllap. Under-rated 1987 series, while lacking the excitement ol the Young Ones or the maturity at the later New Statesman. did actually have more to it than its reputation lor cheap innuendo might suggest. Mayall's Richie Rich was perhaps not enough ola development on the character at Rik but as ever there were some splendid comic moments and
I The LisLThings really “WWW”-
started to look up torMayall when he and Ben Elton got themselves on the coveted lront cover 01 The List's lourth issue. Overnight success and instant stardom beckoned — but would it go to his head, we wondered? It's interesting that Mayall has regularly interspersed his busy TV _ career with stints 01 live J stand-up.
The List 8 - 21 December 1989 43