It is with great sadness that we learn of the passing of one of Britain’s most popular comedians. Rik Mayall died on the 9th of June, the cause of death not yet confirmed. A great loss of a comedian whose collective works shaped the course of British comedy.
For many of us, Rik Mayall is a large part of our childhood to teen years, his knack for energetic, physical and expressive comedy securing his position as a staple in British comedy for over two decades. Famous for a number of comedy roles, it was his portrayal of the obnoxious, poet anarchist Rick in The Young Ones, that made him and his fellow stars household names. The Young Ones was an influencing factor in the movement of alternative comedy in the 1980s, which went on to reshape the future of British comedy. Here for your enjoyment are some of his funniest moments from The Young Ones.
Mayall went on to star in Bottom, with long time writing partner Ade Edmondson. A show loved for its juvenile and rebellious nature mixed with ultra violent and crude slapstick comedy that focused on the story of Richie and Eddie – “a pair of repulsive, slobbish flatmates living in Hammersmith”. The double act of Mayall and Edmondson starred in the show for three TV series and five live stage tours, proving its popularity throughout the 90s, and remains a fan favourite to this day.
Although I grew up on the above shows it was his next character of which many have the fondest memories – Lord Flasheart. Appearing in Black Adder II and Black Adder Goes Forth, though brief, his character is one of the most memorable and quoted. WOOF!
Let us move on to Drop Dead Fred, another film I watched over and over again as a child. The 1991 comedy film starred Mayall as the title character, an imaginary friend to a young woman trying to find herself whilst being torn between her cheating husband and overbearing mother. Drop Dead Fred was the perfect role for his talents of physically animated and delinquent characters. Yet at the end I shed a tear, for all his comedy there was a piece of serious acting that still pulls on my heart strings. There are many a scene that I would love to show you, but I think this one illustrates why he was great in the role of Fred, classic Mayall.
But this, this is what brought a tear to my eye
The News Statesman was a parody of the political climate during the conservative leadership in the late 80s/early 90s. Mayall played the role of MP Alan B’Stard, the ultra right wing, greedy, dishonest, lecherous back bencher lacking any morals what so ever. Though a comedy, B’Stard was a change of role compared to the usual slapstick characters with which we initially associate Mayall. Nonetheless he embraced the little more serious and grown up acting and played the bastard beautifully. This clip I have picked due to its relevance in today’s political climate.
I hope this look at some of the works of Rik Mayall has been a trip down memory lane for many of you. Mayall’s death may be too soon and unfair, but it is safe to say that his work will live on, still loved and laughed at for many years. When learning of his writing partners passing Ade Edmondson said this, which I think about sums it up beautifully.