Skip to main content

British comedian Rik Mayall dead at 56

By CNN Staff
June 9, 2014 -- Updated 1931 GMT (0331 HKT)
Click through to see<a href='http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/world/obituaries-2014'> people who passed away</a> in 2014. Click through to see people who passed away in 2014.
HIDE CAPTION
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
People we lost in 2014
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British actor and comedian Rik Mayall is dead at 56
  • Mayall is best known for starring in TV series "The Young Ones," "Blackadder" and "Bottom"
  • He had lead role in movie "Drop Dead Fred," playing imaginary friend of Phoebe Cates
  • Comedian survived a near-fatal quad bike accident in 1998

(CNN) -- Tributes are flowing in for much-loved British actor and comedian Rik Mayall, who died in London Monday at age 56.

Mayall, one of the leading lights of Britain's alternative comedy scene in the 1980s, is best known for starring roles in hit TV series "Blackadder," "The Young Ones," "The New Statesman" and "Bottom."

His agent, Kate Benson, of Brunskill Management, told CNN Mayall died suddenly Monday; she did not know the cause of his death.

Mayall first found widespread fame in student sitcom "The Young Ones," which ran for two years on the BBC, and was later shown on MTV in the United States.

The series, which he co-wrote, focused on the lives of four roommates at "Scumbag College." Mayall played politics-obsessed poet Rick alongside his long-term comedy partner Ade Edmondson as violent punk Vyvyan.

Edmondson led the tributes to Mayall Monday, telling Britain's Press Association news agency: "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."

Writer and comedian Ben Elton told the Press Association Mayall had "changed his life" by asking him to work on "The Young Ones." "He always made me cry with laughter, now he's just made me cry."

In cult favorite "Blackadder" -- also co-written by Elton -- Mayall was memorably cast in the guest role of the womanizing Lord Flashheart, who steals the anti-hero's fiancé from under his nose -- at the altar. His lines were regularly repeated in schoolyards and student pubs.

In the 1990s, he reunited with Edmondson for "Bottom," a slapstick-filled series about two unemployed flatmates who spend most of their time attacking each other violently with anything that comes to hand; the pair are reported to have come up with the idea for the show while starring in a production of Samuel Beckett's nihilistic "Waiting for Godot."

On Twitter, writer Hugo Rifkind suggested that fans of the show should pay homage to Mayall in true "Bottom" style: "Go home tonight, find someone you love, and hit them with a frying pan."

Mayall also branched out into movies, taking the lead role in 1991's "Drop Dead Fred," in which he played the imaginary friend of Phoebe Cates, returning years later to wreak havoc in the now grown-up Cates' life.

Mayall survived a near-fatal quad bike accident in 1998; he was in a coma for five days after the crash, on his farm in Devon, southwest England, and developed epilepsy as a result of the severe head injury he suffered when he was crushed under the bike.

In an interview several years later, he joked that he "beat Jesus" by coming back from the dead after so long. In 2006, he told Britain's Observer newspaper: "I was dead for five days. Jesus was only dead for three, so I beat him -- 17 April 1998 was the day I was sent back from heaven."

He said the accident left him "more aware of being alive."

House star Hugh Laurie, who worked with Mayall on "Blackadder," took to Twitter to recount a story about his co-star: "A young girl, stricken with terminal cancer, once asked Rik Mayall for an autograph. He wrote: 'Young Ones are never afraid.'"

People we've lost in 2014

CNN's Lindsay Isaac and Bryony Jones contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 2308 GMT (0708 HKT)
Click through our gallery to remember those we lost this year.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1954 GMT (0354 HKT)
Acclaimed actor-director Richard Attenborough has died at 90, the actor's agent said.
August 24, 2014 -- Updated 2203 GMT (0603 HKT)
The founder of the University of Phoenix, Dr. John G. Sperling, has died. He was 93.
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Don Pardo, the announcer whose velvety baritone voice introduced "Saturday Night Live" hosts on NBC for decades, has died at age 96.
August 18, 2014 -- Updated 1934 GMT (0334 HKT)
Jim Jeffords, who shifted the balance of power in the Senate when he bolted from the Republican Party in 2001, died at age 80.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 2132 GMT (0532 HKT)
Former Z-Boys skater Jay Adams died after a heart attack while vacationing in Mexico with his wife. He was 53.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Actress Arlene Martel, who "Star Trek" fans know as Spock's bride-to-be, died of complications from a heart attack. Martel was 78.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2048 GMT (0448 HKT)
Ed Nelson, best known for playing a doctor in the 1960s nighttime soap opera "Peyton Place," has died at 85.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 0308 GMT (1108 HKT)
Actress Lauren Bacall, known for her distinctive, husky voice and sultry sensuality, has died at age 89.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 0219 GMT (1019 HKT)
Robin Williams, who first made America laugh and eventually touched "every element of the human spirit" in a remarkable range of performances, died at age 63.
August 13, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Charles Keating, best known for his role as villain Carl Hutchins on the NBC soap opera "Another World," has died at 72.
August 12, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
JJ Murphy, an actor who was set to join the "Game of Thrones" cast, died at age 86.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Actress Marilyn Burn, a "scream queen" in the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," has died at age 64.
August 5, 2014 -- Updated 1150 GMT (1950 HKT)
James Brady, former press secretary to Ronald Reagan who was severely wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt on the President, has died at age 73.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
Nearly 69 years ago, Theodore "Dutch" Van Kirk navigated a U.S. B-29 Superfortress called the Enola Gay over Hiroshima, Japan, on a sunny August day.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 2139 GMT (0539 HKT)
James Shigeta, a prolific and pioneering Asian-American actor whose 50-year career includes the movies "Die Hard" and "Flower Drum Song," has died at age 81.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
Actress Skye McCole Bartusiak, who played Mel Gibson's youngest daughter in "The Patriot," has died at age 21.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1334 GMT (2134 HKT)
James Garner, the understated, wisecracking everyman actor who enjoyed multi-generational success on both the small and big screen, has died. He was 86.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Actress Elaine Stritch, known for her brash persona, gravelly voice and versatility over seven decades on Broadway, has died at age 89.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1628 GMT (0028 HKT)
American blues guitarist and singer Johnny Winter died in a hotel room in Switzerland at age 70.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 2159 GMT (0559 HKT)
Nadine Gordimer, the Nobel Prize-winning South African author and anti-apartheid activist, has died at age 90.
ADVERTISEMENT