More sad news from the world of comedy. Rik Mayall (pictured at left below), the co-creator/writer and star of The Young Ones has passed away at the age of 56.
Not long after I was introduced to the likes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Fawlty Towers on public television, along came this somewhat indescribable British sketch comedy series, The Young Ones. As a viewer of British comedy back in the early 80’s, it wasn’t hard to recognize the comedic talents of Rik Mayall as being very pioneering in the alternative comedy scene. Reading the comments that have flooded social media from comedy colleagues all state the obvious about what a shock this was. But, what might have gone unnoticed was how many people Mayall influenced, knowingly or unknowingly, over the years during his years of The Young Ones, Bottom and Blackadder.
David Walliams (Little Britain, Blandings, Old School said, “I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up Rik Mayall has died. He made me want to be a comedian.”
“Growing up there was no one funnier,” said The Mighty Boosh comedian Noel Fielding. “We will really miss you Rik Mayall you genius.”
The BBC’s director of television Danny Cohen called Mayall a “truly brilliant comedian. His comic timing was outstanding and his screen presence unique. For a generation of viewers he was a true comedy hero,” said Cohen.
In the early 80’s, Mayall played the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick in the cult sitcom classic, The Young Ones, alongside his friend Adrian Edmondson. Edmondson, who later went on to co-star with Mayall in the sitcom Bottom, 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.”
What many who watched Mayall on the small screen probably didn’t realize was what a good actor he was. From the smooth, scheming Conservative politician Alan B’Stard in The New Statesman to his more recent guest roles in Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, Midsomer Murders and Jonathan Creek, Rick Mayall was much more than a comedic genius. His on-screen persona of the obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick, in The Young Ones was 180 degrees in the opposite direction from real life. Writer Laurence Marks, who created The New Statesman, summed it up by describing Mayall as “a quiet, polite, caring gentleman“. You will be missed.