Ade Edmondson, an alternative comedy pioneer in the 80s, says today’s comedians have lost the plot – but his latest project will put the smile back on your face
22:26 GMT, 19 October 2012
Ade Edmondson has just become a grandfather for the first time.
The comic and actor’s eldest daughter Ella has had a little boy, and after three girls Ade is already eagerly planning to take his grandson to watch his football team Exeter City.
‘Children are great, they’re what life’s about,’ he sighs. So does that mean Ade, who found fame as the punk Vyvyan in The Young Ones, has grown up now he’s a grandad Not a bit of it.
Comic Ade Edmondson has just become a grandfather for the first time
At 55 he’s about to go on tour with his new group The Idiot B****** Band. ‘Some people don’t like the name, but it’s about people who are happy to be idiots, who don’t care what people think. We peddle joy. Maximum joy.’
Joy is something Ade could do with a bit of. Two years ago his wife Jennifer Saunders underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer – which is now in remission – and he was left bereft when his daughters flew the coop.
But today he’s filled with excitement about the tour and the new series of ITV1’s Ade In Britain, in which he explores forgotten corners and delicious foods of the UK.
He’s been away from home a lot this year with the TV show, which will air early next year, and his other band The Bad Shepherds, but couldn’t resist the idea of taking his new group, which includes fellow comics Phill Jupitus, Neil Innes and Rowland Rivron, on tour singing a mix of old novelty songs and comedy compositions. ‘We do it to amuse ourselves and hopefully we amuse others too,’ he says.
The idea of musical comedy harks back to an older age and it’s entirely different from anything doing the rounds today. ‘Modern comedians have all these routines about how rubbish everything is,’ says Ade. ‘But we’re not as cynical as they’d have you believe.
'We live in a wonderful and fascinating country. Doing Ade In Britain, I meet loads of people who are genuine nutcases but have passion. Someone who’s keeping an old windmill going, for example. We need people like that.’
Two years ago his wife Jennifer Saunders underwent chemotherapy for breast cancer – which is now in remission- and he was left bereft when his daughters flew the coop
So what about the supercomics; the Michael McIntyres and Peter Kays who are raking in millions ‘Let’s talk about the ones I like,’ he says dismissively.
‘I don’t like the modern trend for comics to do hour-and-a-half-long shows. Even the best ones – I’ve seen Billy Connolly live and I think it’s too long. You want more than just one man and his ideas. I’d love to see variety come back, like when Laurel and Hardy would perform followed by some spoon benders.’
It sounds a far cry from Ade’s first steps in the comedy business. He met Rik Mayall at university and the pair started writing comedy sketches together. ‘Before punk music came along we’d have worked our way up in variety,’ he says.
‘But punk showed us we could do it our own way.’ Rik and Ade became favourites at London’s Comedy Store, where they met Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson. The alternative comedy movement was born, and they set up their own comedy club, The Comic Strip.
It’s almost exactly 30 years since their first appearance on TV on 2 November, 1982 – Channel 4’s launch night; they provoked immediate controversy with their satire on Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. A couple of years ago they were commissioned to do a new version of the sketch called Five Go To Rehab. ‘It was weird getting into a dressing room with our shorts and sandals,’ he says.
‘I looked a lot heavier, Dawn looked a lot lighter. We reunite after my character, Dick, finds a holiday company that recreates the 50s.’ But Channel 4 canned the project so it will appear on Gold next month instead.
Ade is also working with Rik again after the pair split professionally eight years ago. They’re writing an updated version of their hit show Bottom, but he admits it’s not going well. ‘Rik and I are like brothers who are having trouble getting on. We’re a bit like Liam and Noel from Oasis at the moment.’
So life still isn’t easy. But Ade seems content. ‘I’ve figured certain things out,’ he says. ‘I’m enjoying myself. I think I know how to live.’
For more details on The Idiot B****** Band’s UK tour, visit www.midnight mango.co.uk. Five Go To Rehab, 7 November, 9pm, Gold.