So, Rik Mayall died today. Fuck. Such totally unexpected and seriously sad news. Unlike so many who die prematurely, and despite Rik’s penchant for ‘danger’, to read a deluge of tributes to the actor, writer and comedian just seemed so, so horribly wrong. At 56 he’s far too young to die, and well… he was in The Young Ones. No way can Rik be dead.
I was 16 when The Young Ones first appeared on the telly, and like the vast majority of British school kids I quickly became obsessed. Playground talk following a Young Ones episode was rife with quotes and anecdotes, and Rick was always the most quoted. Over thirty years later – anyone who was a teenager in 1982 – think of Rik Mayall and you think of Rick from The Young Ones. That’s despite the fact that his talents, whilst rooted in black, alternative and physical comedy, expanded into a multitude of renowned roles and characters.
I loved Rik as Kevin Turvey, the Investigative Reporter, I loved him in The Comic Strip Presents series. I loved Bottom, The Dangerous Brothers and The New Statesman. I can even go as far as to say I liked Filthy Rich and Catflap. I didn’t see his first steps into Holywood; hearing so many bad reviews of Drop Dead Fred put me off watching. No way could I see Rik in something unfunny. His performance as Lord Flashheart in Blackadder stole the show; considering his co-performers that says it all about the magnetism and brilliance of his performances. He was unique; a comedy legend and the leading light in ‘alternative’ comedy.
The Young Ones was the ‘80s equivalent to Python. It was a groundbreaking cult TV series and when viewed alongside Terry and June, Keep It In The Family and ‘Allo ’Allo it hit you beautifully, smack between the eyes like a bolt of comedy sent by the devil. More than anything, whenever you saw Rik Mayall interviewed or quoted, or away from a character performance he seemed like the sort of bloke you hoped he’d be; intelligent, sharp, unconventional and unafraid to shock. Sly, mischievous, cheeky and cantankerous. Totally loveable and funny as fuck.
Amongst the array of tributes from friends and fans on Twitter today, and as is often the case, Russell Brand said it best:
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”
I can say nothing here that a million others aren’t saying today. Just, thanks for the laughs, Rik.