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Rik Mayall R.I.P.

Rik-Mayall_The-Young-OnesThe Young Ones, Bottom and The New Statesman star Rik Mayall has died. The British comedian and actor was 56. He passed away at home in London today, although the cause of death is as-yet unknown. The BBC reports that the Metropolitan Police said it was not believed to be suspicious. The Essex-born Mayall was a pioneer of alternative comedy in Britain in the 1980s. He was best known to TV audiences for such sitcoms as The Young Ones, the classic 1982-1984 BBC series in which he starred as a would-be anarchist. He co-created that show along with Blackadder‘s Ben Elton.

Mayall also starred in the series with Adrian Edmonson, his longtime collaborative partner. The pair, who met at university, formed The Comic Strip in 1982. A group of alternative British comedians, it included Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders. Together, they created spoof series The Comic Strip Presents on Channel 4. In the early 1990’s, Mayall and Edmonson also created and starred in BBC series Bottom. From 1987-1992, he played pompous the politician Alan B’Stard in ITV’s satire of the Conservative government, The New Statesman. And, throughout the ’90s he popped up as Lord Flashheart in episodes of Blackadder. Among Mayall’s feature credits are An American Werewolf In London and Drop Dead Fred.

His manager Roger Davidson said: “It is a terrible shock. All we know… is that Rik died at home. He touched many lives, and always for the better.”

Edmondson added: “There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing. They were some of the most carefree stupid days I ever had, and I feel privileged to have shared them with him. “And now he’s died for real. Without me. Selfish bastard.”

Nigel Planer, who played the hapless hippie Neil in The Young Ones, said he was “very, very sad and upset that we’ve lost Rik, who was inspirational, bonkers, and a great life force”. He described Mayall as “a brilliant comedian and someone who made everyone else’s lives more fun. He will be really, really missed”.

He co-wrote The Young Ones with Lise Mayer and Ben Elton, which ran for 12 episodes between 1982 and 1985. It shared cult status and schoolboy humour with later sitcom Bottom. The pair met at Manchester University before forming the on-stage comedy duo The Dangerous Brothers. It was there Mayall had befriended Elton, who said of his friend: “He changed my life utterly,” adding: “He always made me cry with laughter, now he’s just made me cry.”

Stephen Fry, who appeared with Mayall in Blackadder, described his co-star as “an authentic comedy genius and a prince among men,” adding he was “simply distraught” at the news.

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