The entertainment world has lost another icon today. British actor Rik Mayall — who played the blustery, maladjusted anarchist and "perfect example of an only child" on the offbeat 1980s TV series The Young Ones — died this morning at his London home.
Mayall, who also starred in the British show Blackadder and the Hollywood comedy Drop Dead Fred, died at 56; cause of death not yet disclosed, according to ABC news.
For most Americans, Mayall will be remembered as Rick, the "The People's Poet" — especially by Gen-Xers punk/rock new wave 30-to-40-somethings who were in their teens during the '80s/early '90s, when MTV aired the reruns late night on Sundays before its alternative video show 120 Minutes.
Loved for its outrageous slapstick and surreal, often nonsensical humor, The Young Ones offered a combo of National Lampoon's Animal House and Monty Python's Flying Circus. The show centered on four misfit college students who share a dingy London flat in a university housing row. Mayall was also one of the writers of the show.
A consummate character actor, Mayall created with Rick an insecure and idiosyncratic oddball on the short-lived series (1982-'84). His Rick was as incomprehensibly endearing as he was annoying. Rick appealed to teens as a satirical take on a punk activist —a self-styled critic of society and bed-wetter who launched into hilarious histrionics and consistently failed to win popularity points with his flatmates Neil, the hippy; Mike, the sleazy, diminutive ladies' man; and Vyvyan the angry metalhead with a perpetual sneer and bright orange spiky hair.
Rick had a strange obsession with Cliff Richard and shouted the series' final line, "Cliff!," when the roomies' van crashed into a billboard advertising the British pop idol and veered off a mountainside.
Here are some other favorite quotations from Mayall's Rick (images from Wales Online):
"Hands up, who likes me?!" (Followed by flatmates immediately reaching toward the floor; from the episode "Bambi")
"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?'" (From "Bambi")
Five pounds to get in my own bedroom?! Hah! What have you done, turned it into a roller disco? (from "Oil")
"[Grabs purse of party guest played by AbFab's Jennifer Saunders and pulls out tampon] You bought me a present. What is it? Let me guess: It's a telescope! With a mouse in it! [dunks tampon in drink of another party guest next to him]" (From "Party")
Shut up, you fascist Tories. No one tells me what time to go to bed! (Said while yelling at TV sign-off, followed by a London guard responding from the TV, "Go to bed, Spotty.") (From "Summer Holiday")