Obituary: Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall, who has died suddenly aged 56, was a phenomenal and outrageous performer, a leading light of the alternative comedy circuit that emerged from the Comedy Store in the 1980s, and a not inconsiderable comic actor, playing in Beckett and Simon Gray on the West End stage and in Gogol at the National Theatre. Part of his success lay in the timing. His crude persona Rick in the breakthrough television series The Young Ones (1982-84), written with Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, was a gimlet-eyed, nose-picking lunatic who nonetheless carried a terrible plausibility as a prissy radical student of the day.

Long gone were the serious political protests and scabrous, intelligent revues of the 60s student generation; here, student life was parodied as grotty and anarchic, with Mayall surrounded by Ade Edmondson as Vyvyan, a crypto-Nazi, Nigel Planer as Neil, a cartoon, out-of-date hippie in a haze and Christopher Ryan as Mike, a miniature smoothie; a bunch of total prats, in fact. Mayall even lived this role off-stage, telling an interviewer (half-seriously, no doubt) that he threw his satchel in the Severn on the day he heard he had got a place at Manchester University and resolved never to read a book again.

Television, and its audiences, was just ready for this sort of onslaught and Mayall and Edmondson — the two met at Manchester and remained longterm writing and performing partners __ scored a major popular success, too, with Filthy Rich and Catflap (1987), written by Elton, alongside Planer; and again in Bottom (1991-95), which ran for three series but also became a fixture of the touring circuit in the live show version — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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