Remembering Rik Mayall and His Top 5 Roles
Great Britain lost a comedy superstar and a thoroughly nice man yesterday, with the passing of Rik Mayall.
Great Britain lost a comedy superstar and a thoroughly nice man yesterday, with the passing of Rik Mayall. The actor and comedian, star of such classics as The Young Ones, Blackadder and Bottom, died suddenly on Monday 9 June and the exact circumstances are still to be revealed.
Mayall was a comedy dynamo, a pioneer of alternative, “post-punk” performance mixed with just the right amount of breathless slapstick. He played villains, egotists and ne’er-do-wells but away from the stage lights, and cameras, he was a wonderful friend, husband and father.
He inspired a generation of comedy performers and the UK funny business will not be the same without him. In his memory, we are celebrating his 5 most popular TV characters; those that quickly spring to mind when the man’s name passes your lips. Mayall could contort his face into a wild array of expressions and his razor-sharp voice would never be forgotten. Here are the best examples:
1. The Young Ones - Rick
Where better to start than with Mayall’s collaborations with the regularly cross-eyed wildcard Adrian Edmondson? The Young Ones was the first in a string of hit shows for the pair; and was written by Mayall, in collaboration with Lise Mayer, Ben Elton and Alexei Sayle.
Mayall played Rick, the arrogant anarchist wannabe, in the legendary show about four students sharing a house which was produced by the BBC to compete with the edgier comedy fare introduced by Channel 4. Mayall and Edmondson were already well acquainted as the comedy double act of 20th Century Coyote and then The Dangerous Brothers, but perhaps their most enduring collaboration was yet to come.
2. Bottom - Richie
From students to frying pan-wielding flatmates on the dole, Ade and Rik brought Bottom to the world in the early 90’s and once again changed the perception of what a sitcom could be. Joyfully exuberant slapstick was combined with surreally genius storylines for a show about very little in which the action moved forwards at 100 miles an hour.
Mayall’s character Richie was The Young Ones’ Rik to the power of ten; forever dreaming up desperately hopeless get rich (or get laid) quick schemes. Incredibly, the vast majority of the action played out within the confines of the pair’s squalid Hammersmith flat, thus demonstrating Mayall’s expertise as a writer; in addition to his gift for brash, physical performance. Deluded Richie was forever trying to prove his elevated social status, but in another classic British show he would play the real thing.
3. Blackadder - Lord Flashheart
Lord Flashheart joined the second series of Blackadder and left a lasting impression on comedy audiences; and it was the same effect as he had on his co-stars. Producer John Lloyd revealed to the Huffington Post that Mayall worked in secret with the costume department to create the noble and outrageous arch nemesis of Rowan Atkinson’s protagonist.
The crew loved him, and so did audiences. They loved him so much that the character made his return as a Great War squadron commander in Blackadder Goes Forth.
4. The New Statesman - Alan B’stard
Rik Mayall would be cast in his dream role, by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, in a show designed to satirise the conservative government which was running the country from the late 80’s to early 90’s. As selfish, dishonest and downright sadistic as anything Mayall had helped to create, B’stard symbolised the greed of the Thatcherites.
B’stard would do anything to scheme his way to the top; and in the show he did. Bribery, murder and the instigation of a trade union dispute were just some of the tactics employed by the Yorkshire MP. He also suffered a horrendous marriage of convenience to the equally devious Sarah. The character spawned stage plays and until recently a regular Sunday Telegraph column in which B’stard would reveal his hand in numerous topical events.
5. Filthy Rich & Catflap - Richie Rich
Perhaps lesser known than some of Mayall’s other roles, Richie Rich is nonetheless another terrific comedy performance by one of the greatest funnymen the country has produced. Filthy Rich and Catflap was written by Ben Elton and featured the central cast of The Young Ones, breaking the fourth wall and shaking things up in the world of TV comedy.
Mayall starred as Richie Rich, an un-famous and egotistical z-list celebrity with an entourage of one: Adrien Edmondson’s Eddie Catflap. The show follows Rich, as he “rests” and attempts to find the next opportunity to become a big deal. For Rik Mayall completists, Filthy Rich and Catflap is an oft forgotten gem that finds the performer on fine form whether shoplifting or appearing on TV.
We’ll never forget Rik Mayall and his untimely passing only reminds us that there isn’t another performer quite like him.
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