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TV Feature

Rik Mayall's 5 best roles: From Young One Rick to Drop Dead Fred

By and Tom Eames
I feel sorry for you, you zeros, you nobodies. What's going to live on after you die? Nothing, that's what!

This house will become a shrine! And punks and skins and Rastas will all gather round and all hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader! And all the grown-ups will say, 'But why are the kids crying?' And the kids will say, 'Haven't you heard? Rick is dead! The People's Poet is dead!'

And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, 'Why kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?'.

Rik Mayall as Rick in The Young Ones


Rik Mayall has died at the age of 56.

As tributes pour in from the world of entertainment, Digital Spy pays homage to Rik in a way we hope that a man with an autobiography called Bigger than Hitler - Better than Christ would appreciate - by lauding his genius and celebrating his finest comedy creations.

1. Rick in The Young Ones


Rik Mayall's breakout role that cemented him as one of alternative comedy's leading stars. Along with Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Christopher Ryan, Mayall became an icon of British TV in the 1980s for his portrayal of anarchist student Rick.

Despite Rick's insistence on being a radical 'People's Poet' and 'Spokesperson for a Generation', he is actually a wetty Cliff Richard fan who is desperate for attention and praise from his friends. Despite being generally hated by his flatmates, he genuinely believes himself to be universally popular.

The role helped Mayall show off his impeccable comedy timing, and his outrageous anarchic performances, often fighting with Edmondson's Vyvyan and picking on poor Neil at any opportunity. Rick remains an icon for student hipsters everywhere to this day.

2. Richard "Richie" Richard in Bottom


Mayall reunited with Edmondson for this 1990s comedy gem that was in many aspects even more wild and grotesque than The Young Ones.

The series focused on two miserable, sexually frustrated 'friends' living together in London, and that's about the whole plot. Yet it remained hilarious and ridiculous for its three series on the BBC.

Mayall and Edmondson managed to bring slapstick back to the mainstream, and essentially became the kings of the comedy genre, managing to be almost cartoonish in the way they constantly bickered, smacked each other over the head with various appliances, cut off limbs and sewed them back together.

They were the modern Odd Couple or Steptoe & Son, in which they desperately needed each other despite a mutual hatred. Their several live shows and one-off movie were even more outlandish and rude, as they were able to break away from the restraints of TV.

A new TV series based on their Hooligan's Island live show was expected to air last year, but it was eventually axed due to Edmondson backing out. This could either have been a huge shame, or a good move on his part. Either way, hitting people over the head with a frying pan and fart and nob gags will never quite be the same.

3. Lord Flashheart in Blackadder


Originally a short appearance in series two, Flashheart's descendant returned in Blackadder Goes Forth (spelt Flasheart this time).

The arrogant and suave Squadron Commander managed to attract all women and be admired by all men, and was basically the exact opposite of Rick in The Young Ones. A stereotype of particular English heroes, he was best known for the phrases "Woof!" and "Let's do-oo-oooo it!".

Despite only appearing in two episodes altogether (Mayall played a different character - Mad Gerald - in original series The Black Adder), Flashheart remains one of Blackadder's most popular and well-remembered characters, which is a testament to Mayall's ability to take over the screen in the best way.

4. Alan Beresford B'Stard in The New Statesman


Best known for his work in a duo or team, here Rik more than proved that he could lead a project by himself. The link between Yes, Minister and The Thick of It, The New Statesman had all the satirical subtlety of a sledgehammer and was all the better for it.

As Alan 'Beresford' B'Stard in the sitcom from Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran (who wrote Birds of a Feather and Goodnight Sweetheart together), Mayall used a javelin rather than a safety pin to prick the bubble of the political elite.

That he shared a middle name with Norman Tebbit was no accident. A scheming, selfish lech of a Tory bastard, Alan was everything we, deep down, suspect our politicians to be.

B'Stard was a man so in-it-for-himself that he seemingly believed his own bulls**t about his self-serving greed being for the good of all. The cure for waiting lists? Shut down the NHS! Alan sadly becomes more relevant with every passing day.

5. Drop Dead Fred in Drop Dead Fred


While most famous for his TV work, Mayall will for many people always be Drop Dead Fred. A kids' movie for grown-ups, Drop Dead Fred was at times silly, dark, clever, scary, utterly disgusting and tear-jerkingly heartbreaking.

Playing an imaginary friend freed from his jack-in-the-box prison, Fred works to ruin/save Lizzie's (Phoebe Cates) life once more. Only, now she's a grown-up, and Fred's antics are less welcome than ever before.

It's impossible to imagine this film working with anyone else in the title role. Picture any other actor and Fred would be utterly unbelievable or just plain creepy. Mayall somehow makes Lizzie's gross pal charming and fantastic despite all his bogey-flicking excess.

Currently at 9% from the heart-of-stone critics on Rotten Tomatoes, Drop Dead Fred has a whopping 83% from the audience. The people know the score.

What is your favourite Rik Mayall role? Let us know in the comments box below.

Rik Mayall - a life in pictures:

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