Monday, 9 June 2014

RIP Rik Mayall (1958-2014)

Monday, 9 June 2014

Tragic news that comedian and writer Rik Mayall has died at the age of 56. I'm not sure how to gauge his global popularity (as that Drop Dead Fred movie killed his attempt at a Hollywood career back in 1991), but I'm sure British comedy exports like The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesman, and Bottom are enjoyed by most Anglophiles. For Brits, Rik was one of the best physical comedians we've had and, while his 'naughty schoolboy' brand of humour wasn't to everyone's taste, he always gave performances 100%. As a pre-teen beginning to value comedy in the late-'80s, he was one of my favourite performers. I was the perfect age for his wacky man-child antics, I guess.

Rik Mayall seemed to thrive best whenever he was channelling anarchy, and will forever be remembered for his signature roles as "people's poet" Rick in The Young Ones and deviant loser Richie in Bottom. Of course, his passing also dismantles a popular double-act with Adrian Edmondson—who partnered Mayall in many of his projects, beginning with The Dangerous Brothers on Saturday Live, through into The Young Ones, and onward to Bottom and its many stage shows. Their partnership faded once Edmondson grew weary of being whacked around the head with frying pans, and ventured into the world of presenting instead, although there was a recent attempt to revive Bottom for the BBC that collapsed when Edmondson realised he couldn't work with his old comedy pal again. Mayall was a difficult personality to be around, it would seem...

But there was a quieter side to Mayall that proved he was also a very decent actor, and not just a purveyor of crazy antics and cartoon violence. I particularly remember his often overlooked early-'90s series Rik Mayall Presents... which consisted of three comedy-dramas that allowed Mayall to flex some dramatic muscles. For that series, he won a Best Comedy Performer award at 1993's British Comedy Awards, ahead of a second series in 1995. I really hope those get repeated on GOLD, because I have particularly strong memories of the episode "Dancing Queen" with a young Helena-Bonham Carter—which I notice has been uploaded to YouTube, albeit in poor quality.

Oh, enough words. Mayall was all about his grandstanding performances. Here are some choice moments from the career of Rik Mayall:

His fantastic entrance as Lord Flashheart in BLACKADDER II:

A compliation of classic moments from THE YOUNG ONES:

Some funny Richie-orientated moments from BOTTOM:

Rik on JACKANORY reading Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine:

Live stand-up from 1981

As one half of The Dangerous Brothers on SATURDAY LIVE:

A sequence from THE COMIC STRIP PRESENTS...:

There's also this wonderful letter he sent to a fan, that perfectly captures his sense of humour.

RIP Rik Mayall. If there is a Heaven, it's a much rowdier place to be right now...