Rik Mayall- an appreciation of genius/obituaryNo one gets the last laugh but maybe, just maybe, Rik Mayall is running around somewhere in the after life, smacking himself in the face with a frying pan and talking in that manic voice  whilst we all screech ‘he was only 56, God, you bastard..,’

If only.

Like everyone of our world the shock of losing someone so young is only just sinking in. I just want to say that Rik – you were a loveable and funny man and you tore up the blueprint and made a dark and fucked up time bearably hilarious for a few years. We liked the darkness but we liked to laugh like hyenas and you provided those laughs with a series of lunatic yet recognisable characters.

Rik Mayall could well have been the funniest man of my generation, if not the funniest then the most acidic and accurate reflection of the wet behind the ears seventies kids as they grew up though punk and beyond.

His rubber face, his manic leer, his manic energy and his explosive wit and his razor sharp timing made him the funniest man from the times and the key player in a generation of comics who matched punks frenzied war on culture and also it’s oddly conservative heart and celebrated this explosive contraction- after all true comedy is believing that nothing is holy.

They say every person who creates characters is really reflecting different facets of themselves and this could well of been true of Rik with his knife and fork hair and gurning brilliance but there is also the feeling that Rik’s brilliantly observed creations were actually reflecting the self obsessed edges of a generation that never grew up.

He was also brilliantly fucking funny- an hilarious pimple on the arse of a generation whose pomposity needing pricking (guffaw). He was also an oddly old fashioned comedian – slapstick was a big part of his armoury as he and his generation of comedians heralded in alternative comedy and managed the timely, and then daring and brilliant feat of telling jokes without all the racist claptrap of the old school comics who stank of fags and cheap lager and cheaper gags that were as stale and offensive as their aftershave as they leered their mean spirited way through seventies prime time TV.

If punk rock had sort of swept away the Jimmy Savile seventies show is world then the Comic Strip of alternative comedy did the same to the smoke filled knocking shop of dead wood comedians and Rik was the prime source of this- the Johnny Rotten of the comedy crew.

Every character was yet another reflection of people you knew and the times we lived through whether it was the obsessive Kevin Turvey – perhaps his funniest creation with his self obsessed hobbiest take on the world. We used to have his Reddich documentary pastiche programme on video and played it endlessly, it was always funny and his manic leering madness was brilliantly observed and perhaps a slight exaggeration of his own self.

He found fame as Rik in the young Ones- an acidic take on the student prat of the early eighties- the spot infested, badge wearing, political animal who didn’t really have a clue- the Young Ones may not have dated that well but at the time it felt like a revolution managing the smart trick of laughing with and at its trendy audience.

In some ways it was the death knell of the counter culture student culture, those two years of dope and burnt pan revolution before settling down. It was sneering both at the ‘real world’ and the hazy cloud of pop revolution at the same time- it could have been Thatcherite and it could have been leftie – ultimately it doesn’t matter, it was just bloody funny and the stinking bedsit backdrop was the world we all lived in at the time.

Bottom was really the Young Ones grown up or in reality grown backwards- like giant babies hitting each other with lumps of wood and with all the subtle nuances of the Young Ones removed- who cared? it was slapstick gone insane and hilariously manic- as manic as TV comedy ever gets and captured the barely repressed violence of the seventies kids as the ran into the eighties supercharged by punk- if the Young Ones was the Sex Pistols of comedy then this was the Second wave of punk of laughs and a perfect example of how to gross out perfectly.

RIK Mayall’s other masterful creation was , of course, Alan B’stard- the leering Tory MP and a perfectly observed destruction of the other side of generation why…if everyone thought the battle had been won and that pop culture had turned the world into a softie liberal ooze then they would be shocked that there were still plenty of new Tories who were even more selfish and nasty than their forefathers- B’Stard was the Bullingdon club made into TV before anyone knew who those rank individuals were- a world of right to rule selfishness where he was the expenses hoovering, people trampling nasty piece of work turned into leering comic genius by Mayall.

I still piss myself laughing thinking of the series now.

After that Rik would pop up now and then- he seemed to be fading from the mainstream and there was the quad crash that left him in a brief coma. We thought he had beaten all that after all was years ago, and maybe he was still out there doing that gurning thing for the camera somewhere.

God bless you Rik, you were a fucking genius.

You made dumb slapstick into high art, you relentlessly took the piss out of the whole of my generation and we laughed out loud because you were loveable and ultimately just really fucking funny in a way that modern smug comics with their starched archness and irony overloads could learn from.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Good stuff John, I saw him live in Waiting for Godot (boring to be frank) and Bottom live which was a bit shit. His forte was wittily written TV and slapstick – from The Comic a Strip through The Young Ones and brief but memorable appearances in Blackadder. No one would deny him the money spinning Bottom tours because the TV show was so fucking hilarious. he was a genius comic with impeccable timing, a cheeky grin, a nod and a wink and he spoke for our generation. He’ll be sadly missed. 50 fucking 4!

  2. I was lucky enough to see the first ever ‘Bottom’ live tour and I’ve never seen anything as funny before or since.

    Good shout with ‘Whoops Apocalypse’ Mayall and Cook together doesn’t get any better.

    “NO! You can’t bring the FUCKING tiger Donald, it’s more trouble than it’s worth!”



  3. much respect for this piece, Rik was a massive part of our shared lives, for me Kevin Turvey was a comedy bomb blast, matched only by the shamelessly overlooked Filthy, Rich & Catflap, the brilliantly manic Dangerous Brothers and some of The Comic Strips, amongst them Dirty Movie & Mr Jolly Lives Next Door.
    The world is unfortunately a saner place without him


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