When I was about 10, I watched a TV show that made me laugh so much, I actually cried. The Young Ones then later Bottom and eventually The New Statesman moulded my humour today. And this week, I cried at the same person, but because he’s died.
I watched Rik Mayall as a child, and now as an adult, I watched the news of his death, and cried. Without any shame.
Much the same as most of the country, I imagine.
Rik Mayall, born 7th March 1958, in Harlow, to Gillian and John Mayall, the second of four children. Attending The Kings School in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, and eventually a drama course at the University of Manchester, where he would go on to meet Adrian Edmondson, Ben Elton and Lise Mayer; who he would later have a relationship with.
In 1985, Rik eloped to Barbados with Barbara Robbin, with whom he would have three children. Over the years Rik created, co-created, wrote and starred in several dozen shows, adverts, films and guest spots. Cast as the poltergeist Peeves in J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, his scene, unfortunately, was cut. He wouldn’t find this out until the premiere. But, in classic Rik Mayall style, he laughed it off.
On 9th April 1998, he was badly injured in a quad bike accident that very nearly claimed his life. He was kept in a medical coma for 5 days to reduce brain swelling and any further injuries. He was said to say that he was glad to have another chance at life.
On 9th June 2014, he died at home, after a morning jog. A quiet and unseemly end to a man mentally, and comically, built to twice the scale of most mere mortals. Providing humour, skilled sarcasm, incredible line delivery and general mirth to the world at large. And I don’t think even his family realised how hard his death would hit the world. I, myself, was amazed at how quickly the news spread across the internet, bringing massive out-pourings of grief and well wishes on his family and close friends.
But I really shouldn’t have been surprised.
Adrian Edmondson, life long friend, cohort, aider and abetter, is quoted as saying “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.” And I believe it to be possibly the touching, caring and tear jerking tribute to a man we all felt we knew, and generally loved. Spike Milligan declared Rik Mayall to be “the arsehole of British comedy.”
I can’t help but think that Spike missed the point. Rik centred on the very core of simple, ridiculous humour. He zeroed in on the simple fart jokes, complex sarcasm and scathing wit that made us all laugh so much on such a regular basis. But also showed his sensitive side brilliantly, reducing, not just me, but hundreds, to the brink of tears with his work as Drop Dead Fred. A difficult, hilarious, caring and impish imaginary friend, who reminds us why we had imaginary friends; when we really needed them. He showed brilliantly that we must remember to love everything about our childlike glee and joy at the simple things. Reminded us to never take life too seriously, it’s not like we’re going to get out of it alive.
I for one, and I think, many others, felt the same pain, on a less personal level, that Ade Edmondson did, as he carried his friends wicker coffin to its final resting place.
Thank you for letting us enjoy you Rik, you gave us more than you’ll ever know, and your family must be proud to have been anywhere near the shining light that was you. Thank you.
Rest in peace, Richard Michael Mayall.
7/3/58 – 9/6/14.
By the way, that little dash in the middle, so much more than mere punctuation.