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Obituary: Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall

Obituary by Jack Foley

BRITISH comedian and actor Rik Mayall has died at the age of 56.

Best known for playing the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in The Young Ones, he also won widespread acclaim and popularity for roles in Bottom – again, alongside his friend Adrian Edmondson, The New Statesman (pictured) and as a recurring guest in Blackadder.

It is not yet known what caused the death but, confirming the news on Monday, June 9, 2014, his manager Roger Davidson said: “It is a terrible shock. All we know at this stage is that Rik died at home. We are all deeply saddened by this news, from the enormous number of fans Rik had to those who worked with him and knew him as a man as well as a fine actor. He touched many lives, and always for the better.”

Police said they were called to reports of a sudden death of a man in his 50s at 13:19 BST in Barnes, south west London, although they have since added that the death was not believed to be suspicious.

Mayall was widely considered to be one of the pioneers of the 1980s alternative comedy scene, earning his big break at The Comic Strip Club, where he performed with comedy partner Edmondson as 20th Century Coyote in the 1980s.

This, in turn, led to cult television hit The Comic Strip Presents and The Young Ones, which he co-wrote with Lise Mayer and Ben Elton and which ran for 12 episodes between 1982 and 1985.

Using the cult success of both shows as a platform, Mayall went on to enjoy a career on both the small and big screen, with film roles in Drop Dead Fred and Guest House Paradiso as well as regular TV stints, including another of his most popular roles as scheming Conservative politician Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman, which ran on ITV from 1986 to 1992.

He also played the loud-mouthed and lecherous Lord Flashheart in BBC comedy series Blackadder alongside Rowan Atkinson.

Born in Harlow, in Essex but raised in Worcestershire, Mayall developed a passion for the arts from an early age, when he appeared in plays that had been written by his parents, who had both attended London’s Central School Of Speech and Drama.

After leaving home in 1976, he studied drama at Manchester University and it was there that Mayall met Edmondson, with whom he would form one of the most successful comedy partnerships of the 1980s and 90s.

Edmondson was among the first to pay tribute to his friend, saying: “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.”

Mayall was married with three children.

Among other tributes paid was one from writer Laurence Marks, who created The New Statesman, and who described Mayall as “a quiet, polite, caring gentleman”.

“He was the antithesis of the characters he played,” he added.

David Walliams, via Twitter, said: “I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up Rik Mayall has died. He made me want to be a comedian.”

And The Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding added: “Growing up there was no one funnier. We will really miss you Rik Mayall you genius.”

Alan Davies, who starred opposite Mayall in Jonathan Creek, described Mayall as “great to be around”, adding: “Funny, funny man and a comic hero in my teens. Terrible news.”