By Niall McArdle
Oh, this is a sad day. I’m still reeling from the news that Rik Mayall has died at the appallingly young age of 56.
There are probably very few people of my generation from Ireland or the UK who aren’t equally shocked and saddened. The Young Ones – the brilliant, anarchic, surreal take on student life – was essential viewing when I was a teenager. My father hated it; I imagine a lot of parents didn’t like it or get it, but for us kids it was … well, it was ours, wasn’t it? It was one of those TV series that just worked.
And Rick was a lot of people’s favourite character, and we all later would run into the type at college. He’s a phony Lefty who prattles on about Lenin and Marx and whatever else he’s picked up hanging out with his fellow Sociology classmates: he wants to be right on and fight the power and stand up for the oppressed (“the People’s Poet”), but he’s a stodgily middle-class product of Middle England who would probably run the other way if he found himself in the midst of a trade union (remember, The Young Ones aired at the height of the Miners’ Strike.) I always thought it was a brilliant touch that he wore a Blue Peter badge, and he had very uncool, dreadful middle-of-the-road taste in music and fashion. And he was by far the nerdiest (and neediest) of the four housemates (“hands up who likes me”).
Like the equally revered Fawlty Towers, they had the good sense to make only a handful of episodes. The series ended with the four boys crashing a double-decker bus through a billboard advertising Rik’s beloved Cliff Richard, and plummeting to their deaths.
They united with Cliff Richard to record “Living Doll” for Comic Relief.
Mayall also made a memorable appearance as Lord Flashheart in that other cult BBC comedy, Black Adder
I didn’t much care for Filthy, Rich and Catflap, and never really got into Bottom (ooh, er!). I did, however, love seeing Rik as Alan B’stard, the amoral Thatcherite Tory in The New Statesman.
Mayall will be also remembered for what is generally considered the best Jackanory ever.
He will be missed.