Here’s a celebration of the second stage show adaption of Bottom. It’s anarchic, anti-monarchy, violent, and the type of thing you can’t get away with now.
Bottom Live: The Big Number Two Tour
After a successful first live tour of the UK in 1993, Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson followed it up with a second.
Already famous here thanks to The Young Ones, they weren’t resting on their laurels at all. The BBC sitcom Bottom was a violent hit and the third series concluded in mid-1995.
Later in 1995, the live show began from 6th November. For the VHS recording, that was done at the Apollo Theatre in Oxford.
We first watched it in 1997—the VHS was a Christmas present that we pretty much watched right down to wearing it out.
At the time the significance didn’t really hit us. We were too young to really get the Royal family in any way (but not young enough to watch an 18 rated, violent, sweary show for adults!).
Bottom Live 2 is blitzingly anti-monarchy. In remarkable fashion.
It wasn’t uncommon back then. Nicholas Hytner’s The Madness of King George hit cinemas in 1994 and was subtly clear with its message.
But Mayall and Edmondson went all out with their second live show, painting a rather negative picture of the Royals and their uselessness.
The show, simply put, would not be able to run in a post-Brexit, pro-nationalistic 2020 Britain. There’d be riots if it did.
Not so in 1995! When we were a tad less mindlessly nationalistic.
Good! As what’s here is a searingly funny and sharp social commentary about two losers living in Hammersmith of London.
Bottom Live 2: The Plot
Spread across two acts (three, sort of), the show is about Richard “Richie” Richard (Mayall) and Edward “Eddie” Elizabeth Hitler (Edmondson).
They’re two unemployable societal rejects at the bottom of society and live in London. Violent and unsophisticated, the pair constantly hatch plans to try and escape from poverty.
The show begins with Eddie drunk and lost in a fridge. Meanwhile, Richie has been shopping and returns home with a disastrous selection of English food.
He casually announces The Queen is coming for tea (i.e. dinner), much to Eddie’s astonishment.
Richie’s plan has been this for many months, but his flatmate remains too drunk to remember anything.
Richie also has a pet parrot—he’s looking after it for the local vicar. Unbeknownst to Richie, Eddie has drunkenly been teaching the bird foul and perverted English.
After this it emerges Eddie has some sort of memory of things as, by happenstance, he’s bought 400 pounds of Semtex.
The flatmates decide to detonate that as The Queen drives by their flat during a rally.
Richie’s goal is to get The Queen’s attention (“*Gasp* What the fuck was that!?” as the pair envisage her reaction to the explosion) to seduce her and gain access to her wealth.
Before she drives through Hammersmith, Eddie concocts some mustard gas under the belief it’s “love gas” that’ll make The Queen fall in love with Richie.
The first act ends with Eddie setting off the Semtex as The Queen drives by.
The curtain opens to Richie and Eddie in jail. Their attempted seduction plan has, instead, been viewed as a major act of terrorism.
They’re now languishing with 350 year sentences for sedition and:
- Attempted asphyxiation of the entire population of West London.
- Detonating 400 pounds of Semtex under contravention of the Anti-Terrorism Act.
- Attempted regicide.
- Causing an affray.
- Wiggling their “todgers” at the Queen.
What follows is their discussion about the court case (which lasted 20 minutes) and an attempt to escape from the prison.
They also come up against the prison psychopath, Geoffrey the Psychopathic Penis Remover. Meanwhile, another lunatic “Mr. Big” has fallen in love with Richie after the latter’s barbarous insult is considered a sweet sentiment.
Eventually, the pair are able to escape the prison and flee to their London flat.
Act I—Part II
In the closing segment, the flatmates attempt to rig the remnants of Semtex together to blow up their flat.
The aim is to fake their deaths and flee to the Caribbean. However, The Queen arrives having fallen in love with Richie.
But their flat blows up anyway and all three of them die in a fireball explosion. Cut to applause from the audience and the two actors enjoying the standing ovation.
The Bottom Live Premise
Due to Bottom’s mixture of puerile humour, scatology, and slapstick violence, it’s often forgotten just how sharp the social commentary was.
It’s the type of crazed sitcom that was no doubt very divisive back in the day (“Think of the children!” etc.). In fact, Mayall and Edmondson toned down the lunacy for the BBC.
The live shows allowed them to really go all out for it. There’s a lot of profanity, silliness, and violence in Bottom Live: The Big Number 2 Tour. It’s right there in the title.
Whilst silly and good fun, they were also really trying to plumb the depths of social degeneration.
Richie and Eddie are utterly hopeless losers lost in life.
Richie’s pathetic existence is such he’s entered a world of delusions, fantasy, and repression. Meanwhile, Eddie is cheerfully drinking himself to death.
We saw a documentary once that said, when Bottom first started airing in 1993, women were drawn to Richie.
Rik Mayall was a very good looking chap, so his incredible portrayal of Richie’s lunacy clearly had a mothering appeal to it. He needs looking after and smothering with affection.
But as it stands, he’s locked in poverty. And that leaves him to fester in bizarre perversions and latent homosexuality.
We mention all this as Bottom presents an anarchic character study. Mayall and Edmondson developer the concept after starring in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.
And they took it to an incredible extreme here, whilst taking a very working class dig at the establishment and the impossibility of social mobility.
All of which is wrapped up sweary violence and childish humour. This crazy mix will either impress you, or make you roll your eyeballs.
But Mayall and Edmondson wrote the script together and performed it all across the country. With incredible vigour and character. That’s impressive talent right there. Brilliant, even.
Thankfully, we did get to see them live twice. That’s with Bottom Live 4 (somewhere in Lancashire in 2001) and Bottom Live 5 (in Nottingham, 2003).
The pair then agreed to call it a day as they were in their early 50s. Edmondson said he was starting to feel a little ridiculous on stage during the final tour.
So, they called it quits at a fine moment. And what’s left now is to look back, watch, and enjoy. In our opinion, Bottom Live 2 is the best of the lot.
And it’s particularly notable for its astonishing onslaught towards the Royal family.
All of Bottom Live 2!
Well, the good news is the whole thing is available on YouTube for free.
If any of this sounds of interest, then you can do worse than spend a few hours watching a live show from 25 years ago.