Berserker by Adrian Edmondson – Review (Audiobook)
By Roger Crow
It’s hard to remember a time when Adrian Edmondson wasn’t in the public eye. For about 40 years, since The Young Ones burst onto BBC2, he’s been a constant presence. And though only a few episodes of that anarchic sitcom were made, the characters achieved an immortality thanks to constant playground and office impressions. “Yes, we’ve got a video!” being one of Ade’s oft-repeated phrases in the mid-1980s as the novelty of VCR and actually having such a magical device went from being a rarity to commonplace.
Adrian’s rise from Bradford-born obscurity to actor, and comedy icon, is one filled with glorious anecdotes and often touching stories.
His school days in Yorkshire, when he was subject to physical violence at the hands of the odd teacher in Pocklington, are often heartbreaking.
It’s leavened by that feeling of elation when the acting bug bit hard, and Edmondson’s eventual meeting with Rik Mayall. Of course for years his comedy partnership with Rik was the stuff of comedy legend. They were a simpatico double act who graduated from the horrors of student digs in The Young Ones to the miserable, yet hilarious, Bottom, which turned the Tom and Jerry-style cartoon violence of two characters hitting each other with frying pans, into an art form.
Inbetween all of these TV hits are the first dabbling with stage comedy via the Comedy Store, that fertile training ground for many a rib-tickling legend, and the offshoot that became The Comic Strip. Channel 4’s series of usually one-off films didn’t always hit the spot, but creative genius Peter Richardson (original choice for Mike in The Young Ones) helped turn the show, and assorted film features, into memorable slices of escapism.
The memories of making The Pope Must Die, and Adrian being wrongly arrested, are chilling.
Naturally there are stories about the time he met Jennifer Saunders, and they fell in love, and the effect their respective projects had on the famous. One story in which Adrian was working on a pop promo and attracted a surprise reaction from Joni Mitchell, a massive Young Ones fan, is a real ‘Pinch me – did that just happen?’ moment. As is the time Jennifer and Adrian were invited to Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger’s house, because she wanted to star in a reboot of Absolutely Fabulous. As Jen liked a glass of wine, Jerry and Mick’s attempts to find any in the house were surreal.
Most touching of all in Berserker are Adrian’s thoughts on his own mental health, and the fates of a couple of friends who took their own lives. There are more than a few times during the audiobook, which is beautifully read by the man himself, when you may find yourself tearing up. The death of his own father is also incredibly moving.
“One of the most touching autobiographies”
Far from being a laugh-a-minute series of anecdotes, Berserker is one of the most touching autobiographies of 2023, written by one of British entertainment’s greatest creative forces.
Adrian rarely ever watches old episodes of The Young Ones, so if you see him on the street, don’t bother asking if he remembers that relatively obscure line from one of the classic shows as chances are he won’t. That’s all history, and what a history it is.
Yes, he does mention the time he appeared in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, because writer/director Rian Johnson was such a fan of Bottom, he filmed his own version based on one of the scripts.
And yes, there is a moving section in which he discusses life after Rik’s quad bike crash, and how the now much-missed funnyman couldn’t understand why they weren’t working together anymore. The fact Mayall and Edmondson pitched an apparently dreadful script for a new series, (in Ade’s hope it would get turned down) then got a green light, is testament to how beloved the duo were.
There have been so many great celeb autobiographies this year, but Berserker may be the one that is hardest to get out of your head.