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The best of Rik Mayall (1958 – 2014), master of the grotesque

Sad news reaches us at Culture House that Rik Mayall, one of the mainstays of my TV-addicted teenage years, has died at the age of 56. A virtuoso of all that was most grotesque and loathsome in man, Mayall made his name leading memorably in a number of game-changing sitcoms, including Channel 4’s the Comic Strip Presents…, ITV’s The New Statesman and BBC Two’s The Young Ones and Bottom. The delight with Mayall was that the more odious his characters became the more mesmerising he got. Here are some highlights:

1. Richie, Bottom

A lot of people didn’t get Bottom. I loved it. It was like a cross between Beckett and Feydeau. And well before I knew who either Beckett or Feydeau were, its sweaty nihilism worked a treat on me. It still does:

2. Lord Flashheart, Blackadder

Mayall only appeared twice in Blackadder: as the macho Elizabethan best man Lord Flashheart and his 20th-century mirror-image Wing Commander Flashheart. Both became Blackadder classics:

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3. Alan B’Stard, The New Statesman

I never quite got The New Statesman, but Wendy Cope liked it when she reviewed it for the The Spectator, ‘I liked Mayall’s unusually restrained performance as the new-style young Tory MP. The face handsome, wholesome, manic, calling to mind a slightly deranged but utterly committed school prefect — seemed exactly right to me.’

4. Rick, The Young Ones

Mayall’s mastery of low-lifedom was all-embracing. He could do them all: the neurotic and cruel, arrogant and cuntish, and, as demonstrated in The Young Ones, snivelling and self-righteous (I always imagined Rick becoming a vicar):

5. The Comic Strip Presents…

And here he is in one of his earliest TV roles in The Comic Strip Presents… War from 1983:

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Show comments
  • Roger Hudson

    Some politicians can’t grasp what British values are, Rik’s characters usually give good examples. RIP.

  • Bert

    All right men, lets doo,oo,oo it.
    The first thing to remember is, treat your kite like you treat your woman.
    Get inside her five times a day and take her to heaven and back!

  • The Bellman

    And his turn as the SAS commander in the under-rated gem *Whoops apocalypse*.

  • The Bellman

    Kevin Turvey – especially ‘The man behind the green door’ – was another high point. “He’s always been a bit of a loner, a bit of a Clint Eastwood figure. You know – people don’t like him very much. And he once had a hat.”

  • lookout

    Filthy, rich and catflap

  • sir_graphus

    Honourable mention for Kevin Turvey.

  • Paddy Nolan

    Rik….spelt with a silent P.

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    Okay, dig out your best booze and let’s talk about me ’til the car comes. ..

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    Loved The Young Ones, Blackadder, The New Statesmen. RIP.

  • Lucy Sky Diamonds

    Cheese and onion flavour union jack tickler it is then!

  • Wessex Man

    Now, he was a real Comedian, God Bless Rik.

  • Sarkis Zeronian

    “Mayall only appeared once in Blackadder” – except he didn’t, he appeared twice. He reprised Flashie in Blackadder Goes Forth as Squadron Commander the Lord Flashheart.

    • Lucy Sky Diamonds

      ‘If a bird wants to chain herself to my railing and suffer a jet movement she gets my vote!’

    • Igor Toronyi-Lalic

      Quite right. Copy amended.

    • Nigel Korwin-Mikke

      trice even, he played Robin Hood too! can’t believe he is gone.

      • Kerr Mudgeon

        Umm. Why is everyone overlooking Mayall’s appearance as Mad Gerald in The Black Adder?

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