Rik Mayall, who plays the imaginary companion of Phoebe Cates in ''Drop Dead Fred,'' has been in the entertainment business for some 10 years. ''It took me five years to get an Equity card,'' he said. ''I was writing and doing little plays.''
He's 33. He got his first big break when he did ''The Young Ones,'' an MTV series in England.
MTV? They had a series?
''Yes, ours was the very first,'' said Mayall. ''It was about four guys living together. They had a heavy metal band. I had my hair dyed red. When I washed it out, I discovered I had a touch of gray in the temples.''
The character he plays in ''Drop Dead Fred'' is not unlike the character Michael Keaton played in ''Beetlejuice.''
''I've never seen the film,'' said Mayall. ''I may see it now that 'Fred' is in release, but this is nothing new for me. I once did a film for TV called 'Bad News.' It was a spoof of heavy mental, and a short while later, 'This is Spinal Tap' came out.''
''Drop Dead Fred'' was filmed in Minnesota, and Mayall was delighted. ''I was alone for a few weeks, then my wife and children joined me, and we all loved it.''
The producers of ''Drop Dead Fred'' signed Mayall after they saw him in ''The New Statesman,'' a comedy series he did for English television.
''The series was all about Margaret Thatcher,'' he said. ''When she resigned as prime minister, we had to change the series. With her gone, we couldn't refer to her any longer, and her successor, John Major, is so bland, so gray, we can't do any jokes about him. We rewrote the series. We based it away from that.''
Mayall's parents were teachers. He became interested in acting when someone put him in a production of ''Waiting for Godot.'' ''I was just a little boy, but I knew it was what I wanted to do,'' he said.
He's been likened to the Monty Python people, but he doesn't welcome the comparison. ''I'm another generation,'' he said, ''and they were Oxbridge. We're red brick.''
He thinks he will stay in the United States. ''Everything is so green here, and you have a great education system,'' he said. ''The English education system has been severely damaged. It's all right for the rich but not for the poor. All the money has been taken away, and the class system has been reinforced. I don't know what the answer is. I think we should pool our resources. I think that when we become part of Europe, that might do it. It might also solve the Irish problem, but we don't want to get into that.''
''Drop Dead Fred'' is showing at local theaters.