The Young Ones

By Angela and Dave Pressland

What was it?

"The Young Ones", from the left: Rik (Rik Mayall), Vyvyan (Ade Edmondson), Mike (Christopher Ryan), and Neil (Nigel Planer)

A TV sit-com from the early eighties about a bunch of students sharing a house in north London. Written by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer, this show had an extremely anarchic, often cartoon-like brand of humour. People would suffer the most outrageous injuries such as having a pick axe stuck straight through their head or, in one episode, having their head completely severed by a passing train, and yet in the next scene they'd be perfectly all right again. Things were forever exploding and inanimate objects would come to life when no one was watching.

The Cast

Rik Mayall as Rik (with a silent P), Ade Edmondson as Vyvyan, Nigel Planer as Neil (the hippie), Christopher Ryan as Mike (the cool person) and Alexei Sayle as various members of the Balowski family.

What have they done since?

A few years after The Young Ones, three of them (Mayall, Edmondson and Planer) appeared in another TV sit-com called Filthy, Rich and Catflap. Although much of what made The Young Ones so popular was present in this show too, it never captured a large audience and only lasted one series. All of them except Christopher Ryan have appeared in episodes of The Comic Strip shown on both BBC and Channel 4, and on Friday/Saturday Night Live. Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall are probably best known for the three series of Bottom recorded so far, in which Christopher Ryan also made occasional guest appearances. And speaking of guest starring, Mayall and Edmondson appeared in episodes of Blackadder and Edmondson and Ryan turned up several times in Absolutely Fabulous. They have all done some stage work, including an appearance together as The Young Ones for the Amnesty International show The Secret Policeman's Biggest Ball.

Their solo work includes ...

On TV, Rik Mayall has played the oily politician Alan B'Stard in The New Statesman, appeared in a 1997 episode of the police soap The Bill, and read 'Jack and the Beanstalk' on the children's programme Jackanory. His most notable film appearnces were in Drop Dead Fred and Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis.

Ade Edmondson has done some voice work on the satirical puppet show Spitting Image, played Father Rookie in the 1991 film The Pope Must Die and written a comic novel, The Gobbler. On TV he starred in two improvised films, Honest, Decent and True and Newshounds, the latter winning a BAFTA for best single drama. On stage he has played Estragon in the first ever West End production of Waiting for Godot, and Brad in the London revival of The Rocky Horror Show.

Nigel Planer provides a handy link back to both Monty Python and Beyond the Fringe by virtue of his appearances in the films Yellowbeard (written by and starring Graham Chapman and Peter Cook) and Brazil (written and directed by Terry Gilliam). He is also well known for his creation of 'luvvie actorrr' Nicholas Craig in Nicholas Craig: The Naked Actor. He co-wrote the spoof autobiography of Nicholas Craig, 'I, an Actor' and also wrote a book called 'A Good Enough Dad' about his experience of becoming a father. He had a UK hit single as Neil with his cover version of Traffic's 'Hole in my Shoe'.

Christopher Ryan played Lord Kiv in a 1986 episode of the cult science fiction series Doctor Who. More recently he has appeared in several feature films, including Santa Claus: The Movie, Michael Winner's Dirty Weekend, Blue Juice and the TV movie Requiem Appache.

As well as several TV series of his very own (The All New Alexei Sayle Show, Alexei Sayle's Stuff, Alexei Sayle's Merry-Go-Round etc.) Alexei Sayle has also appeared in an episode of Doctor Who and several editions of the topical news quiz Have I Got News For You. When he appeared on the children's show Jackanory he read 'The Diary of a Killer Cat'. Other TV work includes a guest appearance on Lovejoy and playing the part of Konrad Fischer in the mini-series Selling Hitler. Notable film roles include Gorky Park and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Young Ones material, especially for Paul . . .

. . . on explosions . . .

Each thirty minute show had its own 'theme'. For example, in the episode entitled Boring the boys were so bored that Neil dug his own grave and Vyvyan relieved the monotony of another tedious day by chopping off one of his own fingers. In Demolition, suits at the town hall wanted to demolish the students' house. But Vyvyan, a weapon of mass-destruction in human form, decides to beat them to it. Getting the gist?

As for quoting from one of the episodes ... You may remember an interview Paul gave to Dini Petty where she described him as "a man with an explosion fixation". He admitted to looking at completed episodes of due South and considering how they might be improved ...

    "Blow things up bigger!"
It would come as no surprise if Paul's favourite Young Ones episode was 'Bomb' ...
A nuclear bomb has fallen from an aeroplane, crashed through the roof and landed in the kitchen where it is blocking access to the fridge. Vyvyan, unable to get at the milk, is pouring tomato ketchup over his breakfast cereal...
Rik: Gotcha Vyvyan! Using my ketchup on your cornflakes.
Vyvyan: I couldn't get any milk out of the fridge.
Rik: Why, what are you, a spazzy?
Vyvyan: No, there just happens to be an atom bomb in front of the door.
Rik: That's the most pathetic excuse I've ever - Wood and Walters!
Mike: That's an atom bomb!
Oh no, it's the holocaust.
Rik: World war three! Heavy! What are we gonna do? Mike!
(looking at watch):
Hey, hey! Turn on the telly.
Mike: Good thinking, Vyv. We need information.
Vyvyan: No, I wanted to watch Afternoon Plus.

Later ...
Neil: Seriously, we ought to do something about this bomb. I'm going upstairs to get the incredibly helpful and informative "Protect and Survive" manual. Nobody better touch this while I'm gone.
He exits. Vyvyan picks up the ketchup bottle and smashes it against the bomb.
Vyvyan: Why won't it go off, Mike?
Mike: Why d'you want it to go off?
Vyvyan: Who can tell?
Mike: I can tell and I'm telling you to stop!
Rik: Just ignore him Mike, he's trying to show off.
Vyvyan exits and returns with a toolkit. He starts working at the bomb with a crowbar.
Mike: I'll tell you something, if we took this baby to the greengrocers we'd come away with more than a packet of tea.
Rik: What? Are you suggesting that we make a profit out of nuclear arms? She's just a devil woman, with evil on her mind...
Mike: Yes.
Rik: Oh, I think that would be very fine behaviour for a Cliff Richard fan wouldn't it? For someone who actually thinks the lyrics of 'Devil Woman' have got something to say.
Vyvyan is now pounding the bomb with a sledgehammer.
Mike: Rik, if we sold this bomb you could buy Cliff Richard.
Rik (screaming): Vyvyan, WILL YOU STOP IT?!?
The sledgehammer is now noticeably bent.
Vyvyan: What I need is the drill, the hedge-trimmers and some ordinary household bleach.

. . . on the smallest room . . .

Pleased to meet you!Let's shake on it ...There's no doubt that sense of humour varies from person to person and between cultures. Paul's 'absurdist' style does not appeal to everybody. In fact, there are those who hold him responsible for introducing what they see as some unwelcome 'toilet humour' into due South. And they're not just referring to his unconventional handshake with Leslie Nielsen in All the Queen's Horses! 'Toilet humour'? We're not so sure. Now this is 'toilet humour' . . .

Rik: Vyvyan? Ah, there you are Vyvyan. D'you think I could have a word with you?
Vyvyan: No.
Rik: It's just a ... just a little piece of information really. Er, why did you throw the toilet out of the window?
Vyvyan: To lower the rent.
Rik: Oh yes, of course, of course. Stupid of me. Er, just one other thing ... what are you talking about?
Vyvyan: Well now we can go to the rent tribunal. You don't have to pay as much for a house with an outside lavvy.
Rik: Really. Really. Well I don't believe you. I think you did it on purpose because you know I've got a runny bottom.

The Young Ones from Script extracts written by Ben Elton, Rik Mayall and Lise Mayer.

Series One and Two of The Young Ones are now available on DVD from

The Young Ones from