If you’re American and you’ve never seen “The Young Ones” — and if you haven’t, you need to rectify that ASAP — you may not know Rik Mayall. But for fans of that classic British TV series, as well as the singularly abrasive yet strangely charming movie “Drop Dead Fred,” Mayall’s death comes as a blow, not least because he was only 56, and because he’d spent the last decade-plus coming back from a horrific quad-bike crash that nearly ended his life.
“The Young Ones,” whose two six-episode seasons aired from 1982 to 1984, was broadcast in the U.S. on MTV, back in the days when the fledgling network was desperate for cheap programming. Watching as a kid, presumably without close parental supervision, in my suburban living room, my mind was blown. The story of four penniless flatmates was at once adult and flagrantly childish, packed with surrealist humor and dumb puns, and centered on the conflict between Mayall’s snotty would-be anarchist and Ade Edmonsdon’s Johnny Rotten wanna-be, Vyvyan. While American network TV was airing “Quincy’s” infamously tone-deaf “punk” episode, “The Young Ones” made room for two discrete types of punks, a distinction I was too young to understand but which boggled my mind anyway. (If you have Hulu Plus, you can watch the entire series here.)
Mayall and Edmonson worked together many times subsequently, and though neither became a major star outside their native country — Mayall appeared briefly as the poltergeist Peeves in the Harry Potter series, but most of his scenes were cut — they remained beloved figures to comedy fans around the world.
I was such a huge Rik Mayall fan that in my 20s I spent money I didn’t have to make my own version of “Bottom” on 16mm.
— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) June 9, 2014
Shocked & saddened that a comedy hero is gone; for those who grew up on ‘The Young Ones’, Rik Mayall was one of funniest performers ever.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) June 9, 2014
Very, very sad to hear about the death of comedic genius Rik Mayall.
— Rodney Anonymous (@RodneyAnon) June 9, 2014
I am terribly sorry to hear about Rik Mayall, whose stand up was the first great comedy I ever saw live (@ The Heaxgon, Reading!) RIP RIK!
— Wesley Stace (@WesleyStace) June 9, 2014
Oh damn. I memorized every episode of The Young Ones, especially Rik Mayall’s rants. So very sad to hear he passed. RIP.
— Mo Ryan (@moryan) June 9, 2014
Rik Mayall was just pure wiry, energetic, unpredictable humour poured into the shape of a human. You couldn’t not watch him.
— Charlie Brooker (@charltonbrooker) June 9, 2014
Oh really truly sad re Rik Mayall. First time I ever saw him was live, doing Kevin Turvey. Laughed myself SICK. What a sad loss.
— Tracey Thorn (@tracey_thorn) June 9, 2014
Rik Mayall spread a lot of fun and laughter. Very sad to see him taken before his time.
— Irvine Welsh (@WelshIrvine) June 9, 2014
I never meet a person named Rick that I don’t ask if the “P” is silent. Thanks & RIP Rik Mayall.
— Mary Beth Williams (@embeedub) June 9, 2014
Rik Mayall? Seriously? Awful news; hate to lose the funny ones.
— Michael McKean (@MJMcKean) June 9, 2014
My brother once met Rik Mayall on the street. “Can I shake your hand dude?” he asked. Rik shook it. “Now give me a fiver,” he said.
— Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran) June 9, 2014
Such sad, shocking news about the brilliant Rik Mayall. Remember having the record of him doing this wonderful thing: http://t.co/yKFza9TwPk
— Simon Blackwell (@simonblackwell) June 9, 2014
Very sad to hear about Rik Mayall’s passing. ‘Bottom’ was a huge part of my youth. Even his single tweet was funny. pic.twitter.com/iNePxzCy6X
— chris o’dowd (@BigBoyler) June 9, 2014
Very sad to hear of the passing of Rik Mayall. Far too young. A very funny and talented man.
— Eric Idle (@EricIdle) June 9, 2014
Half of the fake moustache I’m currently wearing has just come off in tribute to Lord Flasheart. So long, Rik Mayall.
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) June 9, 2014
Shocked and saddened to see that Rik Mayall has passed. R.I.P. to a very funny man.
— Joshua Malina (@JoshMalina) June 9, 2014
Thanks Rik Mayall because of you I got no O levels. I spent all my school days bunking off and watching video tapes of The Young Ones. RIP
— Eddie Marsan (@eddiemarsan) June 9, 2014
— ChristopherMcQuarrie (@chrismcquarrie) June 9, 2014