Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Rik Mayall, left, seen with his wife, Barbara, was one of a generation of performers that injected post-punk energy into British comedy. (Peter Jordan/AP)
Rik Mayall, left, seen with his wife, Barbara, was one of a generation of performers that injected post-punk energy into British comedy. (Peter Jordan/AP)

Obituary

British comedian Rik Mayall known for his off-beat slapstick Add to ...

Rik Mayall, one of a generation of performers that injected postpunk energy into British comedy, has died. He was 56.

Mr. Mayall’s management firm, Brunskill Management, said the comedian died at his London home on Monday. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

In the 1980s, Mr. Mayall was one of a generation who performed what came to be known as “alternative comedy” – off-beat, often surreal and, particularly in his case, violently slapstick – routines in London’s Comedy Store club, with his long-time comic partner Adrian Edmondson, Alexei Sayle and the female double act Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

That troupe went on to successful TV careers, largely sweeping aside a previous generation of more traditional acts.

Mr. Mayall was best known for co-writing and performing in The Young Ones, a British sitcom about slovenly students that was much loved by those it satirized.

On television he memorably played Conservative politician Alan B’Stard in the BBC sitcom The New Statesman and lecherous Lord Flashheart in comedy classic Blackadder, which starred Rowan Atkinson.

Mr. Mayall and Mr. Edmondson also created and starred in Bottom, a surreally violent slapstick series about two unemployed slobs.

“There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing,” Mr. Edmondson said Monday. “They were some of the most carefree, stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him.”

Mr. Mayall made a brief foray into Hollywood in the 1991 movie Drop Dead Fred, starring opposite Phoebe Cates as a young woman’s obnoxious imaginary friend; although it earned him a cult following in North America, he was unable to recreate the enormous success he enjoyed in Britain.

Mr. Mayall also co-starred with Leslie Nielsen and Skeet Ulrich in the 2001 Canadian comedy film Kevin of the North. Other film credits included 1999 British comedy Guest House Paradiso.

In 1998, Mr. Mayall was on life support and in a coma for several days after an all-terrain vehicle accident.

“The main difference between now and before my accident is I’m just very glad to be alive,” he said last year. “Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s – men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy.”

Mr. Mayall’s edgy, aggressive performances were an inspiration to a generation that followed. David Walliams, co-creator of Little Britain, one of the BBC’s most successful comedy sketch shows of recent years, tweeted: “I am heartbroken that my comedy idol growing up, Rik Mayall, has died. He made me want to be a comedian.”

Monty Python star Eric Idle tweeted: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Rik Mayall. Far too young. A very funny and talented man.”

Actor Russell Brand added his tribute with the message: “All the grownups will say, ‘But why are the kids crying?’ And the kids will say, ‘Haven’t you heard? Rik is dead.’ RIP.”

Mr. Mayall leaves his wife, Barbara, and three children.

Associated Press with files from Reuters

Follow us on Twitter: @globeandmail

 

Topics:

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories