Rik Mayall sadly died today at the stupid age of 56 which in 2014, is far, far too early to go. Mayall was an enormous influence upon me growing up at the right age for The Young Ones, or his Dangerous Brothers act (which I was lucky enough to see live at Glasgow University union in support to Ben Elton back in the 1980’s) he did with Adrian Edmondson.
Social media is full of tributes for someone who has influenced so many people, though the shape of comedy today in the UK is so totally bland (is there any reason for Jack Whitehall?) it’s hard to spot Mayall’s influence. So many comedians now see comedy is a stepping stone to doing presenting or being a personality which is exactly what Mayall didn’t do. Looking back at his work there’s a thread of utter contempt for the cult of celebrity running from Kevin Turvey to The Young Ones, though to the sublime Filthy, Rich and Catflap which has never, ever been repeated on a mainstream BBC channel as the rumour is it upset far too many people, though Mayall had a reputation for upsetting people such as Stephen Fry.
For me though this attitude is best summed up in an episode of Rik Mayall Presents, a series of one-off comedy programmes he did for ITV in 1993. One episode, Mickey Love, is sheer brilliance, not to mention it’s an utterly vicious look at television, and the cult of celebrity. Written by Peter Morgan (who would go on to write The Queen among other great works) and co-starring Peter Capaldi, Alan Cumming and Nick Hancock (there’s also a cameo from Stuart Hall which is creepy in hindsight) while they were incredibly young, it’s a wonderful satire. It also serves as a reminder that Mayall was a good, solid actor as well.
So enjoy this. It’s a fantastic film and a great way to remember Mayall.