Dirk’s Five: Rik Mayall

“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 kid will say, “Why kids, do you understand nothing? How can Rick be dead when we still have his poems?””

We normally do films on The Dirk Malcolm Alternative, but its impossible to let the sudden passing of Rik Mayall go by without acknowledging his contribution to British Television comedy. Its difficult to appreciate the energy that The Young Ones injected into 80s Television and displaced the old order with its bonkers blast of shouting manic behaviour. I remember the old guard, in the form of Eric Sykes, complaining about how nasty it was and that the episode that he saw featured the shameless waste of food by throwing it about. He clearly hadn’t seen a custard pie fight.

The essence of The Young Ones was old fashioned slap-stick – its stereotypes belonged to the seventies, (the hippy, the punk, the spiv and the politico-knob-head) but it was the sheer exuberance and visceral inventiveness that knocked us 80s teenagers sideways. For the last episode we gathered around the TV and felt sad as the Summer Holiday bus plunged over the cliff.

I felt the same sadness when I heard the news today. Rest in peace Rik.


1) Kevin Turvey in Kick Up The Eighties


A character that seems to be forgotten in some of the obituaries, but he was the first that caught my attention. He did a monologue to camera in the middle of the all-but-forgotten sketch show Kick Up The Eighties, which starred a young Robbie Coltrane, Tracey Ullman and Richard Stilgo. Kevin Turvey Investigates featured Mayall, with a brummy accent, looking in to some of the major themes of the day. They did a one off mockumentary too with Robbie Coltrane as Mick the Lodger who had gone AWOL from the army. I loved Kevin’s face as Mick described ‘sitting in our mess’ …

2) Rick in The Young Ones

Probably his greatest comic creation which took elements from his Dangerous Brother character poured into the mould of every dick-head student that gives sociology a bad name.

3) Alan B’stard in The New Statesman


Part of my Sunday night ritual as a student was unpacking my freshly laundered clothing while watching this satire of the vanity of a Thatcherite politician. We thought that the venal side of ‘me-first’ politicians would never end, thankfully things have changed **irony klaxon**

4) The Speaker in Comic Strip presents The Strike


Peter Richardson went on to overplay his hand with homily British history getting the Hollywood treatment, with CHURCHILL:THE HOLLYWOOD YEARS (2004) (featuring Dirk favourite Christian Slater). The Strike is the story of Welsh miner Alexei Sayle and how Hollywood adapts his hard-hitting screenplay about the effects of the miners’ strike had on his community. Al Pacino and Meryl Streep bring ‘the method’ to the roles of Arthur Scargill and his wife. Mayall is The Speaker in the House of Commons. I include it here to acknowledge his contribution to The Comic Strip, but also because he gets the biggest laughs despite his short screen time. There are no small parts, there are only small actors


5) DROP DEAD FRED (Jong, US, 1991)


Pheobe Cates (remember her?) has a manic imaginary friend played by Mayall. His manic performance seems out of place in his first Hollywood movie. It’s annoying rather than funny and the attempt to provide a psychological analysis within the madcap comedy misfires.

Fred’s dead baby, Fred’s dead.

4 responses to “Dirk’s Five: Rik Mayall

  1. He opened the new cinema at Horwich’s Middlebrook in 1998 so he will always have a place in Horwich hearts, a shame the film he was promoting was shit, Bring Me The Head Of Mavis Davis.

    • Yes … a FIST FULL OF TRAVELLERS CHECKS was great, but there were a couple of bummers in there too – BAD NEWS never sat comfortably with me because it was such a poor Spinal Tap rip-off.

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