Rik Mayall: Mayhem and missed opportunities


So if it was a Thursday night in the early 1980s, I know what I was doing. I was huddled with the family around the TV screen, waiting for the next episode of The Young Ones to come on the ABC around 9pm.

We eventually taped all the episodes and watched them incessantly — and I do mean incessantly. When I was 14, I suspect I could have recited all 12 of them, word-perfect. And now Rik Mayall is dead, at 56, far too young.

Twice in the last decade, I tried to see Mayall on stage — once in Bromley in the stage version of The New Statesman, once in Cambridge for a production of Michel Frayn’s Balmoral. On both occasions, his understudy had to step in. It just wasn’t to be.

Mayall crammed a lot into his career, but three in particular matter to me. Two will be on a lot of lists being made by stunned Mayall fans today: The Young Ones (natch) and Flashheart in Blackadder. The third is his role as Richie Rich in Filthy Rich & Catflap, generally considered a “flop” but one of my favourite TV sitcoms. Time to dig out the (unedited) DVDs.

And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, “Other kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rik be dead when we still have his poems?”

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