Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fred's Dropped Dead! - RIP Rik Mayall 1958-2014

One may think that that first bit is somewhat callous for an obituary, but if you understood - or even believed you understood the comedic genius that was Rik Mayall then you'd agree that he'd find it quite hilarious, at home both as droll satire and schoolboy toilet-humour.

Mayall performed on stage in the early 1980's with long time comedy partner Adrian Edmondson whom he met at Manchester University. He co-wrote the TV cult-classic The Young Ones in which he starred as obnoxious, poetry-writing anarchist Rick alongside Edmondson before they both went on to star in their sitcom Bottom which also achieved cult status. Crass schoolboy humour, explosions, pyromaniacs and severe blows to the skull with frying-pans were the recipe for the majority of Mayall and Edmondson's slapstick comedy and they became famous because of it.

Mayall made some sporadic appearances elsewhere on television at the time. He is widely known as Lord Flashheart from Rowan Atkinson's Blackadder series shouting catchphrases such as "woof!" and "let's do-oo-oo it!". In contrast to his obnoxious and anarchic characters his last great TV character was Alan B'Stard a conservative backbencher MP for Haltemprice in The New Statesman, which ran on ITV for four series.

Mayall appeared in several movies including cult-classic Woops Apocalypse [1986] and in the final film in the Carry On series, Carry On Columbus [1992]. My post title is a pun on Drop Dead Fred [1991] arguably Mayall's most famous film role where he played the title character, an imaginary friend to Phoebe Cates. It was literally one of the worst British movies ever made probably because it was marketed as a children's movie but contained repressively dark black-comedy, profanity and themes of serious mental illness.

Mayall suffered a serious quad bike accident in 1998 and doctors had kept him on a life-support machine for five days. He began to show signs of life just before they were about to turn it off. He said the near-death experience changed his life and "the main difference between now and before my accident is I'm just very glad to be alive."

Mayall died at his home in Barnes, London on Monday from what is understood to have been a coronary event. He was 56. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Below is Mayall as Lord Flashheart in BBC's Blackadder Goes Fourth with Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Robinson and Adrian Edmonson as Baron von Richthofen.

Adrian Edmondson paid tribute to his friend, saying: "There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing... They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. "And now he's died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard."

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