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
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

NBA

NBA great LeBron James sends 800 cupcake apologies…

By Kim PalmerCLEVELAND (Reuters) - NBA star LeBron James, whose recent return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in his home state of Ohio sparked a frenzy…

NFL

Jerry Reese confident with Giants, skipping countdown clocks…

Last year, Giants GM Jerry Reese installed a countdown clock in the locker room to inspire Big Blue to play in their own stadium for Super Bowl XLVIII.

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.