Rk Mayall passed away yesterday. Not many in America are familiar with him, except for those who were weaned on The Young Ones. I was one of the lucky ones to get clued in early on his work. My first trip to the UK, I had the good fortune to see him in person. In the comic tent of Glastonbury Festival, I prodded my way through the dark and beer soaked muck to see a bit of Rik Mayall’s insane amphetamine stand up. I had only just become aware of him that week as well. I was staying with my roommates friends, and watched what turned out to be the final ever episode of the Young Ones as it aired live. With references to Marillion and Hawkwind, I was fascinated that British TV could reference such obscure ( in America) and cool bands. But it was the humor of the ensemble, which bordered on surrealism, that was the draw. A fading ladies man, a hippie, a metal head and a pseudo punk activist were four college kids living in squalor and poverty. Hilarity ensued. The show was repeated in America on MTV in 1985, and later in the 90’s on Comedy Central.
He also had a stint on Black Adder, with an appearance in the first season as Mad Gerald (with an uncanny resemblance to Hawkwind’s Harvey Bainbridge), and later as the sexually explosive Lord Flashheart. His work with Ade Edmondson (Vyv from the Young Ones) in Bottom continued to push the boundaries of uncomfortable humor. (Sadly this show is little known in America). But it was as the punker Rick, the People’s Poet, that Mayall made his mark on the world.
Mayall’s character, Rick, was the was the punk with the overactive social conscience and a hyperactive need to be liked. Oblivious of his flatmates general disdain for him, Rick plowed through life energetically alienating everyone he encountered, but in a fashion that was uniquely annoying. World’s biggest bottom burp? Rick, Britain. The title of this article comes from one of his most famous quotes on The Young Ones, when he asserts to his flatmates that he will one day be remembered as the voice of the people. And for a while? He was exactly that.
More of his interplay with the full cast of the Young Ones should be looked up immediately on Youtube, if you have not seen him work. Now. Because the children are actually crying. The People’s Poet is actually dead.
I will leave you with a quick youtube clip of his Young One antics. I will be opening a lager for you later, Rik: