Rik Mayall 1958-2014

The comedy legend has died aged 56

Rik Mayall 1958-2014

by James White |
Published on


He was a live-wire bundle of energy barely contained in human form. He created loud-mouthed, opinionated, often gross characters and caricatures possessed of a driving self-belief and still we loved him. From pratfalls to satire, from comedy to drama, it’s a truly tragic loss that Rik Mayall has died at the age of 56.

There were fears we might lose the irrepressible performer in 1998, when he was left critically injured by a quad bike accident. But he recovered, and grasped the positivity of the incident full force. "The main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive. Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s - men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy."

Born in Essex to drama teachers, Mayall had acting – and acting out – in his blood. The biggest jump-start for his career and life came when he was accepted to the University of Manchester in 1976 to study drama, and met future comedy cohort Ade Edmondson, alongside Young Ones collaborators Ben Elton and Lise Mayer.

Edmondson and Mayall honed their comic chops and personas at the Comedy Store in London, working as 20th Century Coyote before starting The Comic Strip troupe in the Raymond Revuebar. That in turn led to TV opportunities, with Mayall breaking out as Kevin Turvey in A Kick Up The Eighties and on stage with Edmondson as The Dangerous Brothers, which pre-figured both The Young Ones and Bottom.

Mayall and his comic collaborators became household names thanks to memorable turns in The Young Ones and the Comic Strip Presents… short films, and Mayall in particular inspired a generation of comic performers and anyone looking to get a laugh with his portrayal of pompous sociology student and wannabe activist Rik.

There are so many striking characters and moments with which to remember Mayall – his turn as Richie in Bottom, the slimy Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman, his various stage roles and film work such as **An American Werewolf In London **and Drop Dead Fred. He stole scenes in the likes of Blackadder – Woof! – and even wrote a semi-fictionalised autobiography called Bigger Than Hitler, Better Than Christ. Though Bottom didn’t successfully translate to the big screen for Guest House Paradiso, it became a live stage sensation, with Mayall and Edmondson improvising lines and generally causing chaos.

Rik Mayall made the world more joyful, and his early death is a crushing blow. His wife Barbara Robbin and three children survive him, and our thoughts are with them.

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