Crackanory, Dave, review: All hail Rik Mayall, the much-missed king of manic comedy

The gleeful menace in his delivery made this a fitting epitaph

What will your afterlife be?

In most we’ll leave something behind, whether it’s a shed, an audit or a botched tiling job in the kitchen. But if you’re an actor, an artist, an architect, a Death Row/Bad Boy rapper then it’s common that the piece you’re working on – or have finished working on – will emerge after you’ve slid from this mortal coil.

And just as we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman in February and watched him in God’s Pocket and A Most Wanted Man in the summer, we lost Rik Mayall in June and only now witness his last stand on TV.

Mayall’s 15-minute piece of storytelling for the second series of Crackanory (Dave) entitled “The Weatherman” was filmed just before he died and is all the sadder for it. This is no Johnny Cash croaking the words of Trent Reznor’s Hurt as a death ballad at the gates, it was Mayall as we knew and loved him from the days of Kevin Turvey through to The Young Ones, Bottom and Man Down. It’s manic, intense, and very, very funny. The Crackanory format, one actor reading to camera, isn’t too dissimilar to how Mayall did Kevin Turvey, the Redditch “investigative journalist” who remains my favourite creation of his.

In “The Weatherman”, Rik gleefully told the story of Ken whose new-found powers to control the weather through his forecasts soon causes chaos. The tale itself, written by Tony Way, was a funny yarn, but it was the gleeful menace in Mayall’s delivery that made it a fitting epitaph. As Rik – sat in a woefully dad-ish combo of denim jacket and a tight white shorts – described a cloud of rain, he practically crunched over the delivery. This wasn’t “disgusting drizzle”, it was “deesgaasten driiizle”. It’s a performance worthy of his legacy.

One, it ought to be noted, at least matched by Vic Reeves. Reeves brought a surreal cheek to “In Space Nobody Can Hear You Clean”, Nico Tatarowicz’s tall tale of a Victoria Wood-like cleaning lady who accidentally found herself stuck on a spaceship. Again, clever stuff, with a sharp twist, but the joy here was watching Vic get his tongue around phrases like “boutique palliative care” and “who would drink the cola of an attempted murderer?” Mmm.

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