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ADE: IT'S TIME FOR RIK AND I TO SPLIT
 
Dec 1 2004
 
 It's 25 years since Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall started committing acts of mindless violence on one another.
But as they approach their 50th birthdays, the duo have an astonishing announcement to make - they're splitting up.
It hardly seems possible but the brilliant double act which brought us The Young Ones, Bottom and Filthy Rich & Catflap have reached the end of the line.
 
"It's definitely time to stop," says 48-year-old Ade. "We're getting too old. We both realised that the show wasn't as engaging as it used to be. We were starting to look a bit ridiculous.
 
"We're both nearly 50 and we're starting to feel slightly undignified talking about w**king and knobs constantly."
And it is not just their pride that has suffered. Years of being hit by frying pans, cricket bats, hung from meat hooks and head-butting have left their legacy.
 
Ade's back is permanently damaged and both his shoulders have been dislocated by years of throwing exaggerated, cartoon punches at Rik.
 
At night he often finds himself having to lie face-down on the bed next to his Absolutely Fabulous wife Jennifer Saunders.
He groans: "It's impossible to get comfortable. I try all these different positions, end up snoring and Jennifer goes mad."
In over two decades, Ade and Rik ended up in casualty five times - usually for stitches to gaping head wounds.
He cackles: "We used to get carried away in the fight scenes. We would have so much adrenalin in us that we'd forget we were acting.
 
"At our live shows the audience never really quite knew how to handle it when they saw all the blood - and heads do bleed rather profusely when they get cut.
"Rik would tell them 'Don't be scared, it happens all the time.' We'd just carry on, then go off to hospital afterwards to be sewn up."
 
The pair are marking the end of their partnership with a DVD of their favourite moments called: Bottom: Mindless Violence. The Very Best of the Violent Bits. But while they will not work together again, Ade insists they remain close.
He says"
"We're a bit like brothers. We take each other for granted and like it when we see each other.
"We sometimes socialise together but Rik doesn't drink any more and so he's less fun that he used to be. He used to be quite a good drunk."
 
Even as a child, Bradford-born Ade wanted to perform. He reveals: "I knew what I wanted to be from an age I can't remember. For a long time, I thought I would be a serious actor - doing Shakespeare."
 
His father Fred was an Army teacher and a keen fan of amateur dramatics on the British camps abroad where Ade was raised by his hairdresser mum Dorothy.
 
He says: "It was a bit like Butlins, but with guns."
At 12 he was sent to Pocklington boys' boarding school in North Yorks. Looking back, Ade exclaims: "It was boring. I used to invent art festivals and comedy sketches."
 
He then went to Manchester University where he met his future comic collaborator. Rik was 17. Ade was an 18-year-old drama student.
 
He laughs: "We had identical Marks & Spencer paisley satin dressing gowns. Our mothers sent us off with exactly the same ones."
 
Ade says their cartoon-style violence was inspired by cartoon characters such as Wile E. Coyote.
But he also admits to a fascination with fighting and anger. He reveals: "When I was younger I got into fights because I used to be a bolshie big mouth when I was drunk.
"I thought it was good fun to needle people until they hit me. I wanted to see how far I could go."
 
While those days are far behind him, the bloodshed continues at the idyllic Devon farm on the edge of Dartmoor where Ade lives with Jennifer and their three daughters, Ella, 18, 17-year-old Beattie and 14-year-old Freya.
 
He had no experience of farming when he and Jennifer left London to live full-time in their 400-year-old farmhouse and had to learn quickly.
 
Now a hands-on farmer, Ade learned how to butcher a lamb last week. "It was fascinating," he says.
 
"They're not cute by the time they get slaughtered. Sheep are so dull. They have no character. They deserve to be eaten."
An avid Chelsea fan, he named his bull Frank Le Boeuf after the football club's former centre half. He adds: "Jennifer named the cows after singers from the 1960s. We've got Dusty, Cilla and Lulu."
 
"I'm the farmer and Jennifer's the gardener. She does most of her writing talking to the chickens or dead-heading the roses."
Married for 20 years, they have one of showbiz's more enduring marriages.
 
Explaining how they have lasted together so long, he explains; "I've never had any affairs. I haven't worn a strapless dress for a long time, I don't do drugs and I have never been to a Spearmint Rhino Club."
 
In a more serious moment, he describes the marriage as "extraordinary", and admits: "We have a wonderful life."
Ade is now writing a sitcom for the BBC about a punk dad.
He explains: "He's grown up, playing the guitar and living off his wife. She throws him out and he goes to live with his grown-up son and daughter in their student flat.
 
The comic smiles: "I'm very excited about it. I haven't been as pleased with myself for a very long time."