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British comic actor Rik Mayall dead at 56


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British comedian and actor Rik Mayall, who found fame in the cult TV series The Young Ones, has died aged 56.

The star, whose portrayal of puerile anarchist Rick in the BBC comedy endeared him to a generation of viewers in the 1980s, became one of Britain’s best-known comic actors.

He also appeared in Blackadder alongside Rowan Atkinson, as a cynical Conservative politician in The New Statesman and was reunited with Young Ones co-star Ade Edmondson in Bottom.

Police said on Monday officers were called to a house in the upmarket southwest London district of Barnes and “a man, aged in his 50s” was pronounced dead at the scene.

They said the death is not believed to be suspicious.

In 1998, Mayall survived a potentially fatal accident on a quad bike but had been working until recently.

Speaking about the accident last year, Mayall said he had been kept alive on a life-support machine for five days and doctors were considering turning it off when he began to show signs of life.

He said the brush with death changed his life – for years afterwards, he would mark the occasion by exchanging gifts with his wife and three children.

He said: “The main difference between now and before my accident is I’m just very glad to be alive.

“Other people get moody in their 40s and 50s – men get the male menopause. I missed the whole thing. I was just really happy.”

Below: a 2006 interview with Rik Mayall on satire and politics

Paying tribute, Blackadder producer John Lloyd said Mayall was “just extraordinary”.

“It’s really a dreadful piece of news,” he told the BBC.

“I remember going to the very first night of the Comedy Store (club in London) and thinking ‘Where does this come from?’.

“It was the most extraordinary thing, him and Ade Edmondson doing the Dangerous Brothers, they were called, and you just felt you were in the presence of something, a whole revolutionary thing.”

BBC director of television Danny Cohen said Mayall was “a truly brilliant comedian”.

“His comic timing was outstanding and his screen presence unique. For a generation of viewers he was a true comedy hero.”

Edmonson offered an aptly profane tribute to his long-time collaborator.

“There were times when Rik and I were writing together when we almost died laughing,” he said.

“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.”

Blackadder co-star Stephen Fry said he was “simply distraught” about the news, describing Mayall as “an authentic comedy genius and a prince among men”.

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