A great, sad echo passed through an entire generation yesterday following the untimely death of Rik Mayall.
For many, too young for punk, he was their first introduction to genuine anarchy. As the self titled 'Rick' in the sitcom 'The Young Ones', Mayall alongside comedy sidekick Ade Edmondson and others paved the way for glorious schoolyard misbehaviour. It was one of the few television programmes made by the young for the young. A pure riot that stuck a glorious inverted two fingers up at their own corporation. Even today there has never been anything quite like it.
For Mayall, it was a genre he revelled in. Rather than satire something like a certain generation of British comedians, he just looked at his subject with an arched eyebrow and hit it over the head with a cricket bat. It would have been monotonous in any other hands, but with his comedy pal Ade Edmondson, the pair had a creativity for cartoon violence that was unrivalled. In their shared sitcom 'Bottom', they even managed a hint of genuine pathos in amongst the slapstick. Thrillingly for the viewer however, you always knew a glorious kick in the knackers was never far away.
Although these kind of roles were perfect for Mayall, he also showed a different side to his comedy skills too. In his brilliant portrayal of slimy politician Alan B'stard in ITV's 'The New Statesman' - he put a glorious skewer through the ideals of the Tory government with a knowing glee. Although still at his hurricane best, Mayall captured the slimy gait of a narcissistic politician perfectly. It was as close to derision as you could ever get. Bending the truth and a caricature through a comedy mirror until it's reflection had certain people at Whitehall laughing nervously at their own measurements.
It's to his credit too that Mayall is one of the few British comedians to have made a Hollywood role entirely his own. In 1991's 'Drop Dead Fred', he played an anarchic, imaginary friend from Phoebe Cates childhood returned to create chaos. It was a role that was originally turned down by Robin Williams and to his eternal credit Mayall didn't dilute his performance for an American audience. He turned it up to eleven. Whilst stateside critics despised it, audiences loved it. To this day it has one of the most bizarre Rotten Tomatoes ratings in the sites history, with 9% of film writers hating the picture compared to its rank opposite of a near 80% of it's paying custom. That in itself would have appealed to Mayall's brilliant gallows humour.
That same twisted humour was never more evident following a near personal tragedy of his own. Following a quad bike accident during the Easter holidays in 1998, he had a near fatal accident. Induced into a coma for five days, he would eventually recover. When he did he displayed none of the soul searching or sympathetic tones usually displayed by performers returning from a near death experience:
'Jesus resurrected himself after three days and I resurrected himself after five,' he said. 'So you could say I beat Jesus 5-3'. In typical Mayall style he then cast that typical crocodile grin that the great British public fell on love with the first place.
On Monday the 9th of June that twisted sense of fun went to another place. Far too soon and far too unexpected. But in its wake is a legacy that inspired a whole generation of comics and crossed the age barriers of front rooms with absolute ease. Everyone in fact loved Rik Mayall. Absolutely everyone and despite all the sadness today, there's something truly wonderful about that.