Daily Mail Interview

Whilst promoting his book The Gobbler, Adrian was interviewed by The Daily Mail.

For about five minutes, Adrian Edmondson does a creditable impression of a smart young comedian-turned-novelist.

God knows there has been precedent enough. Stephen Fry, Ben Elton and Rob Newman have all sat where Edmondson sits today, up to his ears in plush upholstery and publishing hype, defending his literary vision to the world. A sensitive novella by Jim Davidson cannot be far off.

The editing of Edmondson is impressive. 'Ade', the shouting anarchist of the Eighties, aka Vyvyan, the steel-studded punk from The Young Ones, and Eddie, the scabrous sad-act of Bottom, has, it seems, matured into Adrian, as scholarly-looking an individual as ever graced a dust jacket. Slickly groomed and glowing with health, draped in a quietly classy suit, the new improved Edmondson could turn up on The Late Show and not a dog bark at him. Until, that is, the cafeteria moment.

The cafeteria is the banana skin of the Nineties, a slapstick scenario waiting to happen. Bang on cue, the earnest young author presses home a point about character development with a sharp tap on the plunger and sends a geyser of ground coffee into the air and all over his new suit. Edmondson leaps around, laughing like a psycho, swearing robustly. 'It was a brown suit anyway. The old jokes are always the best.'

Edmondson is a gag man at heart. His favourites include a lot of shouting and swearing and falling over, with a full complement of bodily functions. He claims there are no jokes in his first novel, but when his hero finds himself brained by a toilet cistern while engaging in dubious sexual practices, it is hard to read The Gobbler (published on September 4) as a serious comment on the post-modern condition.

The book charts the plummeting career of Julian Mann, a mildly alternative comedian, star of a cult sitcom well past its prime-time slot. Pushing 40 and pursued by the usual demons - lust, booze and a generation of younger, funnier comics - Julian finds salvation at last in the bosom of his family. Similarities to any living comedians in coffee-stained suits are entirely coincidental.

'I find writing an autobiographical novel the most extraordinary idea,' says Edmondson in the shocked tones of someone accused of unspeakable deviancy. 'I mean, I wouldn't let someone into my house to find out private things about me, so why on earth would I put it all in a book?'

The lecherous, liquor-sodden Julian is, his creator insists, a kind of latter-day Everyman. 'There is a part in the continuum of most men's brains which is all about drinking and sex,' says Edmondson bluntly. 'I think it's a measure of how civilised we are that we're not all doing it all of the time.' He claims he was always better at the drinking side of things. His dealings with the opposite sex were disastrously retarded by a public-school education. The son of an ex-pat teacher, the young Adrian spent his childhood in hot spots - Cyprus, Bahrain, Uganda - until he was sent 'to be made a man of' at school in Yorkshire.

'It's no wonder so many middle-class boys are so screwed up when they don't see girls from the age of 11 to 18,' he says. 'I wasted a couple of years at university working the whole thing out, but it wasn't until I was about 28 that I began to feel secure with women.'

Happily, this breakthrough coincided with Edmondson's marriage in 1985 to Jennifer Saunders. It wasn't a whirlwind romance. The pair had been bumping into each other on the alternative comedy circuit for six years, but somehow it all fell into place when they were working together on the Comic Strip film The Supergrass.
'It wasn't a matter of being under the thumb, but a realisation that there were other ways of having fun,' says Edmondson.

The couple now live in 'nice, normal, middle-class suburbia' in Richmond and have three daughters, Beattie, nine, Ella, eight, and Freya, four. They are strict about guarding their children's privacy, but Edmondson, in the manner of the truly besotted, cannot resist divulging that 'they are all incredibly attractive'.

Saunders is from a military background and spent most of her childhood moving around. Unsurprisingly, both she and Edmondson are passionate about the benefits of stability. Working schedules are planned meticulously around school holidays, and there is no question of the girls being sent away to school. 'We're not interested in getting them ready for their O-levels at the age of six,' says their father firmly. 'We want them to learn how to read and write, how to be sociable and talk to people and to have the happiest time they can.

'Both Jennifer and I have a fairly jaundiced opinion of academic excellence. We feel we've educated ourselves more in the past ten years than in all our time in formal education.'

Edmondson's time at university was not, however, entirely wasted. On the drama course at Manchester, he fell in with Mayall and Elton. The Young Ones, which the three co-wrote, was heavily based on an unsavoury flat-share where Mayall lived and Edmondson was a frequent visitor.

Here they honed their 'throwing skills', throwing back industrial quantities of lager, throwing punches and throwing up. Edmondson was, by his own admission, 'quite vicious' and prone to violence, but he hasn't been in a 'proper fight' for years now.

'I only shout at inanimate objects these days. I wish I could argue when I get angry, but I can't. Jennifer, on the other hand, gets very eloquent in anger. She cuts people in two, whereas I'm left just starting to find a swearword. So these days, when I do get angry, I tend to walk away.'

Certainly, it is hard to equate the old 'Adrian Dangerous' image with the beatific paterfamilias of today. 'I'm aware that I feel happy and I can't explain it,' he says tentatively. 'I'm actually an incredibly anxious person. I've always had this worry that I'll be found out, that someone will turn round and shoot me down for a perfectly good reason I haven't spotted yet.' It is hard to imagine a less driven personality than Edmondson. With a second novel in progress and a new live show of Bottom starting in the autumn (despite sniffy critical reaction, the show invariably sells out on its nation-wide tour of university campuses), Edmondson, who not so long ago entertained hopes of Hollywood, declares himself perfectly fulfilled.

You might think that the meteoric rise of his wife's career since the phenomenal success of Absolutely Fabulous might rouse him to a show of macho rivalry. But not a bit of it.

'A lot of people imagine Jennifer is a lot more high-powered and ambitious than she is,' he explains. 'To be honest, we don't really spend a lot of our lives talking to each other about work. Jennifer spends more time gardening than she does writing.

'We have a joint love of cynicism. We like sitting in front of the telly and hating everything that's on it. We just strive to be normal, and I think we're doing pretty well.'

Another reason to be cheerful came to Edmondson recently. He'd heard a view on the radio that 90 per cent of everything is rubbish. 'It's true, isn't it?' he says, with proselytising zeal. 'Ninety per cent of buildings, 90 per cent of books, 90 per cent of telly, and even 90 per cent of people. 'It's not a gloomy observation at all. It's actually rather a liberating theory, like a big metaphorical rubbish filter. It just means that you have to seek out your ten per cent. You have to look for what's really important in life.'


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