Pan Macmillan Australia
September 2023
Paperback, $36.99
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar

At first it’s rather incongruous to read Adrian Edmondson refer to himself as “an accidental comedian.”

After all, this is the man who influenced millions by bringing ‘very metal’ anarcho punk Vyvyan to life in Rik Mayall, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer’s The Young Ones. He was one half of The Dangerous Brothers. Edward Catflap in Ben Elton’s Filthy Rich & Catflap. Eddie Hitler in Bottom, and as co-writer with long term-comedy partner Mayall, ever proud of designing ever-more-inventive ways to perform gratuitous violence upon flatmate Richie both on screen and on stage. A pivotal member of the Comic Strip collective as actor, writer and director.

How can he be “an accidental comedian”?

In this fascinating memoir Edmondson delves deeply into his dysfunctional upbringing, the father who couldn’t and wouldn’t show affection, who dumped him in a violent and repressive boarding school while taking the rest of the family with him on teaching contracts to far away lands.

And then the penny drops: the Teenage Edmondson has a very simple dream: to be an actor or a rock god! He became heavily involved in amateur dramatics at high school and enrolled in a drama course at college before falling into comedy by… well… accident.

After all, he reminds us, he didn’t write The Young Ones – in fact, he mentions more than once that he only worked on it for about fourteen weeks, forty years ago!

As mentioned, Edmondson DID co-writer Bottom alongside lifelong friend and writing/performing partner Rik Mayall, with whom he had a mercurial relationship. He is, of course, more invested in this show, even if it’s not as culturally significant, or as important and influential a cult favourite.

He also had an interesting sideline directing music videos – including Zodiac Mindwarp & the Love Reaction’s pivotal Prime Mover, which I’d have liked to hear more about – which led to him being kissed by Joni Mitchell, and in more recent times has written a novel, a bunch of plays, and finally achieved his schoolboy dream of being an actor, appearing in many shows and a Star Wars film!

Lest we forget, for our sins, that he also achieved his dream of being a rock god – first by writing and starring in The Comic Strip mock documentary Bad News, which followed an inept and aptly named heavy metal band on tour in the UK. Made with a fraction of the budget of Spinal Tap and released around the same time, despite being less good than the American’s effort, Bad News did inspire a second film, and the band even released an album and a couple of singles (produced by Queen’s Brian May, of all people) and played at the Donington Monsters Of Rock festival.

More authentically and more seriously he’s toured worldwide with his own folk punk outfit The Bad Shepherds, playing mandolin- and traditional instrument-versions of punk and new wave classics as well as their own compositions. Childhood dreams achieved.

Throughout Beserker! – so named because he insists he must have some Scandinavian heritage due to his name and early lifestyle, despite DNA results declaring that is not the case – he carefully protects wife Jennifer Saunders and friends from any gossip or insinuation, whilst still name-dropping Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger in one hilariously awkward meeting, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Star Wars director Riah Johnson and more – simply because he CAN, having such a diverse and extensive CV.

Accidental comedian or not, he writes with great humour and – more interesting still – muses at length on some of the things which really matter, including his turbulent childhood and the effect it had on the rest of his life, and the sad end to his partnership with Mayall. It all adds up to Beserker! being a real page turner, an emotional journey and a very satisfying read.


Shane Pinnegar
Shane Pinnegar is an author, chef and music/pop culture writer who lives in Western Australia. He has a lovely wife, two rambunctious dogs with no respect for personal space, especially on the sofa or bed, twenty-something koi, a flock of itinerate galahs who visit regularly, and a never-comprehensive-enough rock n' roll record collection.

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