Rik Mayall: King of Comedy

rik mayall2

Last night, news broke out that an actor by the name of Rik Mayall had died. Within seconds this news spread worldwide as tribute posts, famous one liners and images of this comedy genius swarmed social media, and fans everywhere shared their grief over the loss of this monumental man.

For many of his generation who grew up in the 80’s when The Young Ones first premiered, Rik Mayall was the epitome of the freedom and revolutionary spirit that was reminiscent of rock and roll a few decades before. For many more, he was a household name, loved by rik mayallfans worldwide who had grown up watching The Young Ones, Bottom, Blackadder, or Drop Dead Fred amongst his many other roles. My personal favourite Mayall performances outside of the former mentions, include Shoebox Zoo, a BBC children’s series in which Mayall voiced an eagle, and The Snow Queen, an animated adaptation of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale which I watched countlessly as a child. He was certainly a large part of many childhoods and teen lives, and could transform anyone into a fan of Cliff Richard. Rik Mayall is remembered for his clownish antics, childish persona, and his most notable utterance in The Young Ones – “You bastard! You complete and utter bastard!”. These memorable performances that contributed to the re-enactment of many of his most famous scenes by children and teenagers everywhere, lived on in Mayall’s later films and TV shows.

Here are a few of Rik’s best moments in The Young Ones:

Rik Mayall has starred in a diverse selection of roles from film and TV to live shows, but perhaps one of his most important and memorable roles is in Drop Dead Fred. This featureDrop Dead Fred length film tells the story of a young girl with an imaginary friend called Fred who returns to the adult girl, who is deeply unhappy, in order to bring back the life and “all the Fred” to her. Mayall, who stars as the man of the title is wonderful as the ghost-like clown who succeeds in making the audience drown themselves in their own tears of laughter and joy as he prances around, wiping snot on people’s faces, making Lizzie spill her drink over herself in a restaurant, and the famous looking under Lizzie’s mother’s skirt, pointing upwards and whispering ‘cobwebs!’ much to the amusement of Lizzie.

Here is a clip from Drop Dead Fred that I think perfectly captures just how hilarious Rik Mayall is, and it is a typical example of his child-like comedy genius:

Famously remembered for his role in Bottom, Rik Mayall was half of a double act alongside Adrian Edmondson who also starred alongside him as Vyvyan in The Young Ones. Bottom, which has a similar premise and style of performance to The Young Ones, is only three series long containing a total of 18 episodes, but has been endlessly watched on repeat by people of all generations, and it spawned numerous live shows and specials.


Sadly, Rik Mayall’s cameo as Peeves the Poltergeist in the Harry Potter films was cut from the film, and the deleted scene has never been made available to the public. For any who are familiar with the Harry Potter books, or even the original PC game of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, you can imagine how perfect Rik Mayall would be as the irritating, antic-loving, clownish poltergeist.

Here Rik is, talking about his role in the film:

After a serious quad bike accident in 1998, Rik Mayall was left in a coma for several days. He did however recover, but was left with epilepsy, and he returned to acting recently. The cause of his death is unknown but according to Peter Richardson, whose son was chatting to Mayall only an hour before he died, “he just had a seizure of some sort … He lived for another 16 years and it was just shocking that he was so happy and seemed so healthy when he did go.”

Rik Mayall’s twitter account was closed last night. He had famously only ever posted one tweet, (one which I had retweeted several times), and a new account was opened with the same name for generations to see. Here is the reposted original tweet, left by Rik as the only tweet he ever posted:

Rik Mayall tweet

Rik Mayall, who was a largely influential figure in my life, was a family man, a very warm person and a very loving father who, according to Peter Richardson, “did the washing up … He wasn’t as selfish and vain as he made out”. I was absolutely devastated when I heard of his death last night, and instantly cancelled by Johnny Depp birthday marathon in honour of a Rik Mayall-athon. No comedian will ever bring so much spirit and life to TV as he did, and indeed when I think of British comedy, it is Rik Mayall that I think of. No one quite holds an audience in the palm of their hand as they cry tears of laughter as he does, and no comedian has become such a household name the way Rik Mayall has.

He will be very sorely missed, but there is no doubt at all that generations to come will come to experience Bottom on Christmas day, or reruns of The Young Ones as their parents waffle on about how this man was a central figure of their youth. There is no one else like him, anywhere in the world. Rest in peace, you absolute King of Comedy.

And on that note, I leave you with yet another Rik Mayall compilation, highlighting some of his most memorable performances:


About Enchanted By Film

1st class Film uni graduate who has a love for films old and new. I write for Diegesis and Film Matters film journals. Currently saving to do a Masters and PhD in Film. My ambition is to be a University lecturer on film and write about film academically. I also wouldn't mind working for the BFI or writing for Sight and Sound :-)
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2 Responses to Rik Mayall: King of Comedy

  1. MIB says:

    Good write up but you failed to mention his hilarious turn as banker turned rocker Colin Grigson in spoof metal band “Bad News”…. :-\

    • I could have mentioned everything but then it would have been a biography. The tribute thing was kind of based on my own personal love for him, so I just really mentioned the things that to me make him Rik Mayall 🙂 like I could have said more about the Cliff Richard music video et because I watched it loads growing up, but I didn’t, just because I didn’t want to talk about him too much, but just draw on a few points 🙂

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