Richard Michael “Rik” Mayall, who forged a cult classic of a comedy career in the 1980s with his comedy partner, Adrian Edmondson, died today in his home in Barnes, London. Mayall was 56.
Audiences best knew Mayall as Rick, the loud, anarchist poet in The Young Ones, which aired for two seasons (1982-1984) on BBC2, but kept popping back up in America over and over for the following two decades; first on MTV; later, on PBS, USA, Comedy Central and BBC America.
Mayall also appeared on the telly in Blackadder, The New Statesman and Bottom, and most memorably on the big-screen in 1991’s Drop Dead Fred opposite Phoebe Cates.
With Edmonson, Mayall formed a duo that first found audiences at The Comedy Store in London, then broke off with several other comedians to form The Comic Strip collaborative, which also appeared on TV in the early 1980s.
In 1998, Mayall crashed his quad bike near his home and fractured his skull, left in a coma for several days. He’d recover and return to work, with much of his later efforts being heard in voice-over roles.
As the BBC piece on his death today noted, Mayall’s attitude changed over the past 15 years. “The main difference between now and before my accident is I’m just very glad to be alive,” he said in 2013. “Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s – men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy.”
Police said Mayall’s death did not appear to be suspicious.
Other British comedians, writers and directors were quick to pay tribute to Mayall today.
From Eric Idle: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Rik Mayall. Far too young. A very funny and talented man.”
From Edgar Wright: “Shocked & saddened that a comedy hero is gone; for those who grew up on ‘The Young Ones’, Rik Mayall was one of funniest performers ever.”
From Russell Brand: “And all the grown-ups will say, “But why are the kids crying?” And the kids will say, “Haven’t you heard? Rick is dead” RIP”
Simon Pegg wrote simply, “R.I.K.” and posted this video of him from The Young Ones:
And one more, for good measure. “Hands up, who likes me?”