Rik Mayall Dead At 56 – the alternative comedian who starred in The Young Ones, Blackadder, Bottom and The New Statesman has died today aged just 56-years old.
Rik Mayall had his first brush with fame while performing with his University of Manchester pal Ade Edmondson at London’s famous Comedy Store in the early 1980s. He first met Ade Edmondson together with Ben Elton and Lise Mayer at the University in 1974 when he started his drama degree.
One of his early comic characters was the anarchist poet Rick (who was soon to be turned into the classic student character in The Young Ones) and the awkward investigative journalist character Kevin Turvey who gained Mayall his first tv exposure with a regular slot on BBC sketch show A Kick Up The Eighties.
Things really took off for Mayall in 1982 when The Young Ones first aired on BBC. The series was also written by Mayall together with his then girlfriend Lise Mayer. As well as his Cliff Richard and politics obsessed character of Rick the show also starred Ade Admondson as the psychotic Vyvyan, Nigel Planer as laid back hippy Neil and Christopher Ryan as Mike “the cool person.” Also appearing on the show was Alexei Sayle, who played a variety of characters but most notably Jerzei Balowski the four students’ landlord.
Although The Young Ones is fondly remembered, and still shown on tv now, like the all-time classic comedy show Fawlty Towers there were only ever 12 episodes made of the show.
Other shows followed including the very violent Bottom which he co-starred and co-wrote with Ade Edmondson. The shows 2 characters of Richard “Richie” Richard (Mayall) and Edward “Eddie” Elizabeth Hitler (Edmondson) were invented after Mayall and Edmondson had appeared in Waiting For Godot at The Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End in 1991. They said the 2 main characters were cruder versions of their Godot characters. There was also a strong link to an earlier pair of characters from earlier in their careers the similarly violent Dangerous Brothers who had first appeared on the 80s tv show Saturday Live.
Another well-loved series which featured several Mayall cameo roles was Blackadder. Mayall appeared in the first series (just called The Blackadder) as Mad Gerald, in Blackadder II he played the explosive Lord Flashheart. The Flashheart character was revived in Blackadder Goes Forth when he played Squadron Leader Flashheart.
His other major tv role was playing the sexist, crooked, far right Conservative MP Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman. The programme ran for 4 series and also spawned some stage shows as well as a number of tv specials. Unsurprisingly Mayall himself was an acknowledged supporter of left-wing causes.
In addition to these major tv roles Mayall also had parts in a number of other shows including Filthy Rich and Catflap, Jonathan Creek and Midsomer Murders.
There were also a number of movie roles in films such as Drop Dead Fred, Whoops Apocalypse, Guest House Paradiso and The Wind In The WIllows to name but a few.
There were many tributes from the great and the good of British comedy today on hearing of Rik Mayall’s untimely death. These included his longtime co-star Ade Edmondson who said “There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree, stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.”