Monday, June 9, 2014

The Late Great Rik Mayall

Actor and comedian Rik Mayall died today at the age of 56. Among other things he was known for the shows The Young Ones, Bottom, and Blackadder. He had suffered an accident on a quad bike in 1998, but it is not known if that had anything to do with his death.

Rik Mayall was born  Harlow, Essex on 7 March 1958. His parents both taught drama. When Mr. Mayall was three years old his family moved to Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. It was there that he grew up, often appearing in his parents' plays. He attended The King's School in Worcester and then the University of Manchester. It was there that he met Ade Edmondson, as well as Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, with whom he would later write The Young Ones. It was at the University of Manchester that Messrs. Mayal and Edmondson formed the comedy group 20th Century Coyote. The group developed a reputation at the Comedy Store. They later created their own venue, The Comic Strip, alongside French and Saunders, Arnold Brown, and Alexei Sayle. The Comic Strip developed a following, and Rik Mayall's career was well under way.

Rik Mayall made his film debut in 1980 in The Orchard End Murder. The same year he made his television debut in an episode of The Squad. In the early Eighties he appeared in the television specials The Comic Strip and Kevin Turvey: The Man Behind the Green Door, as well as guest starred in episodes of Wolcott and Whoops: Apocalypse. Along with Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, Rik Mayall created the television show The Young Ones, which aired from 1982 to 1984. In addition to writing The Young Ones Rik Mayall also played Rick, the anarchist poet who was obsessed with Cliff Richard. Also starring on the show were Ade Edmondson (Vyvyan), Nigel Planer (Neil), and Christopher Ryan (Mike). Rik Mayall also wrote and starred in the shows Filthy Richa & Catflap and The New Statesman. He appeared in the Blackadder series The Black Adder, Blackadder II and Blackadder Goes Forth. He guest starred on the shows The Lenny Henry Show, Happy Families, Saturday Live, Jackanory, and Grim Tales. He appeared in the films Couples and Robbers (1981), Shock Treatment (1981), Eat the Rich (1987), and Whoops Apocalypse (1988).

In the Nineties he continued to star in The New Statesman and starred in the show Bottom, which he also wrote. He provided the voice of Keehar in the animated series Watership Down. He guest starred on The Bill and In the Red, and appeared in the special Blackadder Back & Forth. He appeared in the films Drop Dead Fred (1991), Little Noises (1992), Carry on Columbus (1992), Remember Me? (1997), Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis (1997), Guest House Paradiso (1999), and Merlin: The Return (2000).  He provided voices for the animated feature films The Princess and the Goblin (1991) and The Snow Queen (1995), as well as the animated TV specials as The Wind in the Willows (1995) and The Willows in Winter (1996).

In the Naughts he starred in the TV shows Tales of Uplift and Moral Improvement, Believe Nothing, and All About George. He provided voices for the animated series Shoebox Zoo and King Arthur's Disasters. He guest starred on Murder Rooms: Mysteries of the Real Sherlock Holmes, Gina's Laughing Gear, Minder, Agatha Christie's Marple, and Midsomer Murders. He appeared in the films Kevin of the North (2001), Day of the Sirens (2002), Cold Dark (2003), Oh Marbella! (2003), Chaos and Cadavers (2003), Churchill: The Hollywood Years (2004), and Just for the Record (2010). He provided the voice of Cufflingk in the animated feature Valiant (2005).

In the Teens Rik Mayall appeared in the shows Damo and Ivor, and Man Down. He guest starred on Jonathan Creek. He appeared in the films Errors of the Human Body (2012), One by One (2012), and Don't Fear Death (2013).

Rik Mayall was a comic genius with an anarchic brand of humour that very few comedians have matched before or since. He was also a genius when it came to creating memorable characters. He may be best known as Rick the sociology student and anarchist who wrote bad poetry and was obsessed with Cliff Richard. His other characters differed from Rick on The Young Ones a good deal. He played the showy Flashheart on the Blackadder series, scheming Conservative MP Alan B'Stard on The New Statesman, perverse lunatic Richie on Bottom, and irresponsible journalist Kevin Turvey in various comedy routines. Rik Mayall was a comic genius with a madcap style of comedy who was also capable of creating and portraying three dimensional characters. That made him a very rare talent.

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