Comedy legend Rik Mayall of ‘The Young Ones,’ ‘Bottom’ passes at 56

For four series Rik Mayall played an ultra-conservative minister on "The New Statesman." Credit: Photoshot/Getty Images
For four series Rik Mayall played an ultra-conservative minister on “The New Statesman.”
Credit: Photoshot/Getty Images

Rik Mayall, the English comedy legend best known for the TV shows “The Young Ones,” “The New Statesman” and “Bottom” as well as the film “Drop Dead Fred,” has died at age 56. Causes are not yet known.

Only the hippest (which is to say Anglophilic) Americans had much of a chance to know Mayall, likely through “The Young Ones,” which was picked up by MTV in the ’80s. Though the show featured four mismismatched roommates dwelling in a squalid home, it really took its restlessly absurdist energy from Mayall’s Rick, a sneering failed anarchist prone to spastic, temperamental outbursts but cowardly whenever confronted. It was here that Mayall’s style of violent, alternative comedy broke through to a mainstream that wasn’t always sure what hit them.

On the show and elsewhere, Mayall established a peerless gift for uncontainable energy that spouted forth like a blender with the lid off. The extremity of his style could be an acquired taste; despite being one of Mayall’s heroes, Spike Milligan despised his work, calling him “the arsehole of British comedy.”

Mayall made a brief volley for American crossover success with 1991’s “Drop Dead Fred,” playing the lunatic imaginary friend of a young woman (Phoebe Cates). Mayall did not temper his approach, playing the role as full-tilt obnoxious. Either way, audiences largely stayed home, not even getting the chance to be turned off or on.

He functioned better in his homeland anyway, and usually on TV. Apart from his legendary run on “The Young Ones” (see above for one of many best-of mash-ups), he reunited with the show’s co-star Adrian Edmondson for the very popular show “Bottom.” And he made numerous guest appearances, briefly stealing the likes of “Blackadder,” on which he played the cartoonishly swaggering Lord Flashheart, he of the pelvic thrusts.

Perhaps even better was his turn as Alan B’stard, the ultra-right-wing monster in the Thatcher-era show “The New Statesman.” There he fully gave himself over to evil, embodying every deplorable conservative impulse and then some more, including murder. It was the rude, blustering evil twin of the posh and tasteful “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister,” and Mayall’s performance remains one of the great forces of nature on television.

Details of his passing will be released soon.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Many deaths as boat with African emigrants sinks…

BENGHAZI Libya (Reuters) - A boat packed with up to 250 African emigrants trying to reach European shores sank on Sunday off the Libyan coast…

Local

State health department warns against rare respiratory virus…

The New York State Department of Health is calling upon parents to be aware of the symptoms of enterovirus EV-D68. More than 12 children across the…

National

Liberal Vermont Senator Sanders may seek U.S. presidency…

By Will DunhamWASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bernie Sanders, one of the Senate's leading liberals, said on Sunday he is thinking about running for U.S. president in…

Money

Second Shift: Turning fun into money

In this week's Second Shift series, meet a New Yorker who has established two successful careers around having fun.

Movies

Dan Stevens kisses Cousin Matthew goodbye

Dan Stevens wanted a change and he certainly got one. After quickly developing a devoted fan base as Matthew Crawley on "Downton Abbey," the 32-year-old…

Movies

Nerd alert: Genesis Rodriguez, robot-maker

Geeks of the world, you're about to fall in love with Genesis Rodriguez. There's no point in resisting. The actress, appearing in Kevin Smith's totally…

The Word

The Word: Kanye West wants everyone on their…

Maybe we can blame this one on the migraine, too. Kanye West is drawing ire for halting a performance in Sydney when his demands that…

Movies

That's a wrap on TIFF 2014

This year's Toronto International Film Festival closes without the satisfying sense of certainty that had become a mainstay in recent years. Last year, for example,…

NFL

3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.

NFL

Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…

NFL

Giants vs. Cardinals: 3 things we learned

The Giants heard all week about how ragged their new offense has looked, but even when they finally answered the bell they still can’t find a way to win.

NFL

About a quarter of football players will get…

About one in four National Football League players are likely to end up suffering cognitive impairments during their lifetime, according to a report.

Home

DIY design: Try this upcycle furniture project

Tiffany Threadgould is living a DIY life. The Chief Design Junkie at TerraCycle, an international waste management company headquartered in Trenton, New Jersey, grew up…

Parenting

The downside of a BFF

For teenage girls a best friend can mean everything, but the way they deal with their problems together can lead to depression

Education

How many colleges should I apply to? Your…

To the average high school senior, creating the perfect college application can seem like a golden ticket into their future. Students and their parents spend…

Career

How Generation Z will change the way Americans…

What to learn how to establish a career in this new economy? Look no further than the current generation of young people - that is,…