The passing of one of Britain’s most beloved comedians at the tender age of 56 might have shocked and distressed his myriad of admirers, but had Rik Mayall become one of the forgotten jewels of the slapstick scene? Dom Kureen takes a look at the career of an extraordinary man.
It was more than 16 years ago that Richard Michael “Rik” Mayall suffered a life-threatening, coma-inducing quad bike accident on the grounds of his home in Devon.
Spending almost five days in a coma, a result of the double haematoma and fractured skull sustained during the crash, the star of shows such as Bottom, The Young Ones and The New Statesman thankfully regained consciousness and almost 100% of his motor skills after having blood drained from two fifths of his brain.
Mayall had always been a creature of instinct, renowned for a devil-may-care philosophy that extended far beyond his public persona, ensuring that he was never adverse to risk taking.
Post-1998 a very different incarnation of the man replaced a thrill seeking predecessor, with those closest to him hinting at a sporadic reclusive uncertainty that became more prevalent with time.
Conversely his career, which had bottomed out (no pun intended) to some extent post-Bottom in the mid-1990’s received a shot of adrenalin over the next decade.
Further tours with sidekick Adrian Edmondson throughout the first half of the noughties and appearances on shows ranging from cult animation SpongeBob SquarePants to rock-opera musical Jesus Christ Superstar ensured that Mayall’s career was flourishing into his fifties.
Tragically behind the curtain his health was slowly deteriorating, suffering with epilepsy as well as other permanent psychological afflictions following that fateful day in 1998. Indeed, Mayall revealed that the one occasion when he failed to take his medication resulted in a prolonged fit and further (brief) hospitalisation.
In contrast to the currently ambiguous nature of his death is the unflinching collective head bow that the world of comedy affords one of its most popular practitioners, a man never afraid to instinctively stray from the script and often bordering on genius.
Rik Mayall was part of a comedy revolution throughout Britain in the 1980’s and never took himself too seriously or suffered an inflated sense of ego.
It is for those reasons, amongst innumerable others, that his departure bequeaths a gaping chasm in the comedy landscape, a chasm that until less than 24 hours ago was embodied by wonderful absurdity and captivating charm.