RIK Mayall’s been on my mind. This summer I’m coming to Edinburgh for my first Festival in 30 years. Since I was here with Rik in fact. And Ben Elton.
The three of us were doing a stand-up comedy show imaginatively entitled Stand-Up Comedy. And now Rik’s left us.
I can’t believe it. I know he’s up there on his comedy cloud leering down at me - “So you’re going back to Edinburgh, Andy, only this time you didn’t’ ask me to come with you, you old b’stard”.
You see, back in 1983, at first it was just going to be Ben and me doing the show. Ben was unknown (almost), I was definitely unknown and we hoped to get in 50 punters a night, 75 at a stretch. But Rik asked if he could join us. He was already famous (just), so Ben and I ummed and aahed for about a nanosecond and said, “Well if you insist”.
The four-week run was virtually sold out when we arrived in town. To be fair, there were only half a dozen comedy gigs fighting for an audience and we did have the small advantage of having ‘Rik’, the angry poet from the cult television series The Young Ones on our bill.
We pretended we were all equal. “Mmm, what about the running order of the show?” I enquired. “I suggest we change it every night on a rota”, says Rik, the democrat. “Don’t be a prat” says Ben. “You’re the comedy king, Rik, you go on last. “Yes, you’re absolutely right” beamed the comedy king.
We only did 20 minutes each, probably all the comic material we had. No-one did hour-long solo shows in the early alternative comedy years, not like the 8000 stand-ups strutting their stuff in Edinburgh nowadays.
Oops, that includes me this year.
I’m on my own with Stand-Up or Die in New York, an account of my recent trips to New York to do some stand-up after a pause of 20 years.
I’ve no idea how it’ll go. I doubt my show will be so packed out that Billy Connolly has to be squeezed into the lighting box to see it, as happened back in 1983.
I’ll get some punters of pensionable age checking me out after my few decades’ absence. Some younger ones, too, who want to know what it was like in the bad old days when stand-up comedy was reinvented by Rik and Ben and Alexei and Dawn and Jennifer and Nigel and... well, me too in my small way.
But I won’t be talking about that really, I’ll be telling you about New York. But I’ll still be thinking about 1983, about the best summer of my life, when Rik and Ben and I would laugh, more or less all the time. Stand-up comedy was fun in those days. I hope it still is, I hope the Festival hasn’t lost its innocence completely.
I’m coming to Edinburgh to enjoy myself, I’m sure you are too. See you at the Gilded Balloon one night. Mine’s a large Sauvignon.
Andy De La Tour: Stand Up Or Die In New York, Gilded Balloon, Billiard Room, until 25 August (not 12), 5pm, £11.50-£12.50, 0131-226 0000