Rik Mayall

Comedian, actor and writer Rik Mayall has died at his London home at the age of 56, and life seems empty because of this fact.

He first appeared on my own personal radar when The Young Ones screened on TV in Australia, and it was probably not the absolutely first time that the show was on, for I was very young then, but perhaps when the show became so popular it was repeated at a more family friendly time, and so we are talking about the mid to late-1980s not the early ‘80s, and even still I recall the show starting at 8:30 or 9pm or something and sometimes I would see some of it, but it was beyond my bedtime by then and staying up wasn’t an option. That didn’t stand in the way though, because we recorded the episodes as they aired and made a point of not wiping them or recording something else over them and we kept them, most of them, all the ones we had, and watched them until they showed significant signs of wear and tear. The tapes, some of them, had been used for recording Life on Earth or some other kind of nature documentary and there were moments when you were watching The Young Ones and you would see a frame of a frog or some other kind of animal, which seemed right somehow, that the picture quality was never brilliant, even right from the start, and it was also right that this was the experience of operating VCR technology in the ‘80s – there were quirks but nobody complained.

We kept them: that’s the point. My sister and I kept them. It was first her thing, for she was older than me and knew what was popular, but it quickly became my thing too, and Mum and Dad liked The Young Ones as well any way. When we were on school holidays, my sister and I would watch The Young Ones all day, most days, and we got to know the lines before the actors said them and still produce quotes when we see each other.

This was the show which taught me most, at the most impressionable age, about being funny, how to construct a joke, when the rules of comedy can be ignored, how to insult someone or launch into a tirade. There were other shows, of course, before and after, including Fawlty Towers and Yes Minister and The Office much later, but this was the show I watched most and Rik Mayall was the source of most of the humour.

There were other shows, too, featuring the members of the cast, and I was a fan of all of these to an extent. There was Bottom and The New Statesman and Filthy Rich & Catflap and Believe Nothing. Rik was also Lord Flashheart on Blackadder (another hugely formative show for me). I’m not an expert on any of these, as I’m not a Young Ones expert either, and sometimes when an entertainer dies there becomes, in the minds of some people, a kind of competition to demonstrate that you are a bigger fan than the next fan, which is just silly. I was a fan, purely a fan, and still am.

It was great to see Rik Mayall on Jonathan Creek and other TV shows more recently, but now he is gone, too soon and too suddenly – a man who helped to form my character has left us and I shall miss him.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. A good post. Such terrible news. I wrote a piece on one of Mayall’s best characters two years ago… http://www.chortle.co.uk/correspondents/2011/06/10/13453/the_unforgettable_flashheart

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