Goodbye, Rik Mayall (1958-2014)

Rik Mayall

Rik Mayall

As a child of the 1980s raised on MTV, I remember three things about that channel:

1. World Premiere Videos by Journey, Michael Jackson, and Duran Duran

2. Headbangers Ball on Saturday night

3. The Young Ones

Gen Xers should know The Young Ones, the utterly demented British TV series about the four worst college students in the whole world: Neil the Hippie, Vyvyan the punk rocker, Mike the vertically challenged Casanova, and Rick the anarchist.

The Young Ones: Nigel Planer (Neil), Rik Mayall (Rick), Christopher Ryan (Mike), Adrian Edmondson (Vyvyan)

The Young Ones: Nigel Planer (Neil), Rik Mayall (Rick), Christopher Ryan (Mike), Adrian Edmondson (Vyvyan)

Though it ran for only 12 episodes, The Young Ones made a lasting impact on us MTV children. Everyone had a favorite character, but every good sitcom has a villain, and in this case, that villain was Rick. Played to the max by comedian Rik Mayall, he fancied himself a budding Che Guevara but, to his endless frustration, was viewed by the rest of the world as a pimple-faced twit.

Mayall went on to star in the cult hit Drop Dead Fred (1991) and appeared on hundreds of BBC shows since. He died today at age 56.

Sayonara, Mr. Mayall. You made me laugh.


A few Young Ones clips featuring Rik Mayall and friends (see if you can pick out some famous faces amongst the guest stars):

20 responses to “Goodbye, Rik Mayall (1958-2014)

  • Created by RCW

    Loved the Young Ones, even if I missed almost every reference at the time, and then loved Mayall as Lord Flashheart in two of the Blackadder series!

  • nrhatch

    I am clueless about everything you talked about in this post. I think I was studying to be a lawyer at the time and never turned on the TV.

    But I’m glad he made you laugh.

  • Janna G. Noelle

    I was a child of the late 80s, so I’ve never even heard of that show. Still, it’s sad when childhood heroes or heroines pass on.

    • ericjbaker

      No so much a hero, but a symbol of a specific moment of my life as a socially awkward, insecure tween/teen. It was so off-color and bizarre. In retrospect, watching it made me feel “at home.” Like my weird sense of humor and my too-long hair and eclectic music taste was represented in pop culture suddenly.

  • mobewan

    The Young Ones, Blackadder, Bottom. Such a legacy. Was truly sad to hear of his passing yesterday. Far, far too young. Ade Edmondson’s words about him were truly brilliant.

    Lovely post.

    • ericjbaker

      Do you have a link to Adrian Edmondson’s comments by any chance? No worries if not. I’ll track them down.

      • mobewan

        Sorry Eric just seen your reply. You’ve probably found them now, they are on most news websites, but here’s the best part:

        “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.”

  • Arkenaten

    I had left Mud Island by ’79 so missed all of this. Have no idea who this bloke is.
    Scary that he was only 56….

    • ericjbaker

      See my response to Janna a few comments up. The early to mid 80s in the US was an era of conformity. Everyone was supposed to play sports and wear the same clothes and revere Ronald Reagan. I was none of that. I had long hair and liked “weird” music and felt like a social misfit. The demented humor of this show appealed to the outcasts (the metal heads, punk rockers, Ska kids etc). The satire was quite satisfying, and I’m sure it’s the first sitcom that regularly killed it’s characters, only to have them return the next week as if nothing had happened.

  • Jill Weatherholt

    I’ve never heard of The Young Ones. I wonder if he did the video Rio for Duran Duran. I thought it was so cool, the band racing on the sailboat. I’m sure it would look silly now.

  • shelleyhazen83

    Drop Dead Fred is the standout film of my childhood. Probably saw it 100 times.

    • ericjbaker

      I’ve come to realize that since I learned of Mayall’s death and saw all the thread comments on IMDB and elsewhere. People adore that film.

      • shelleyhazen83

        It’s a generational thing, I think. My sis and I (31 and 27, you guess which is which) grew up on it. He was by far the best part.

        • ericjbaker

          It seems that way. To Gen Xers like me, Rick Mayall represents the Young Ones. To Gen Yers, he was Drop Dead Fred.

          I wonder if he knew the impression he mad eon people? I’ve been to a few sci-fi/Horror cons/expos that featured an obscure genre personality who was clearly blown back by the fan turnout, so I’m sure it would work the same way for comic actors if there were some equivalent event.

  • sepultura13

    I was saddened to read of this man’s passing…as a fan of British comedies, I’d seen Rik Mayall in a number of shows: The Young Ones, Black Adder, and Absolutely Fabulous – he might even have been in a couple of Doctor Who episodes, if I’m not mistaken.
    “Drop Dead Fred” – hadn’t heard mention of that movie in ages!

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