Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ by Rik Mayall

A review of the comedic memoir satire Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ by Rik Mayall.

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I’ve never been a fan of autobiographies. There are very few celebrities that I would be interested in reading what their childhood was like. As a fan of Rik Mayall’s comedy, my sister lent me her copy of his autobiography, Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ. If the title hadn’t have informed me about what the book was going to contain, the blurb would have done.

He invented alternative comedy with The Young Ones, he brought down the Thatcher administration with The New Statesman and he changed the face of global culture with his masterpiece Bottom. Not only was his number one single ‘Living Doll’ the saviour of rock ‘n’ roll but he also rescued the British film industry with the vast revenues created by his legendary movie Drop Dead Fred.

Bigger Than Hitler Better Than Christ by Rik Mayall

The book was released in 2005 at what can only be described as the tail end of Mayall’s career. The successful Bottom tours had ended in 2004, his long-term on-screen partnership with Adrian Edmondson had come to an end, his acting rolls were dwindling to bit-parts and his health was declining after his quad-bike accident in 1998. This stark contrast between Mayall’s prevalence in the 80s and 90s contributed quite heavily in the book’s mediocre success.

The book is written in a semi-autobiographical way, with enough embellishment and fiction added to make it more of a fiction novel than a classic autobiography. Mayall co-wrote it with novelist and scriptwriter Max Kinnings, and their partnership has created a truly unique voice that’s the written embodiment of Mayall. It’s (aptly) much like reading the diary of an egotistical narcissist, and very funny.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it wasn’t without its flaws as an autobiography, often resulting from in-jokes within the text. For example, Mayall repeatedly insists that he doesn’t need an editor, and as a result the book is littered with deliberate spelling and grammar mistakes that take some getting used to. It is also not very personal, as his life is told through the lens of his performance, even on the page. If you were looking for an insight into his history and how he became such an icon in British comedy you’ll be sorely disappointed, and should probably find a biography instead. There are a few moments when the grandiose fiction gets replaced with a genuine look at who Mayall was as a person but these are very few and far between. It is also plagued by the difficulty in trying to do two different things at once. It’s trying to be a comedic piece of fiction while maintaining its autobiographical origin and, because of the different directions Mayall pulled the book, it does struggle at times to do either well.

Instead of reading this as an autobiography, it is wise to interpret it as a satire. In that case, it is very funny, and absolutely hits the mark.

I really enjoyed reading the book but, having said that, it did take me a while to get through. After a while the comedy does start to get a bit repetitive and wear a little thin. At these stages I’d take a break and return to it after a few days had passed and I’d start enjoying it again. This book definitely isn’t for everybody, it isn’t even for all fans of Rik Mayall’s work. But if you did enjoy his particular brand of humour I’d strongly recommend giving the book a try.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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