Rik Mayall’s only major bit of crossover into Hollywood was Drop Dead Fred, a not-particularly great movie enlivened by his particular brand of shtick. Had he started nowadays in the post-Office, post Ali G world, I suspect he’d get a larger following rather quickly.
But there’s no time for that any more. He died this morning at the age of 56.
As part of a whole group known as the Comic Strip, which also included others you may have heard of peripherally like French & Saunders and Alexei Sayle, Rik had a comedic persona that was perfect for the ’80s – a manic, hyperactive spoiled brat who nonetheless behaved as though he was a great human being – a bit of a cross between Moe of the Stooges and Butt-head, but with an English accent. First as one of a duo known as the Dangerous Brothers, and later on both The Young Ones and the less-seen Filthy, Rich and Catflap, he played the entitled, politically correct brat opposite Adrian Edmondson’s violent, destructive id. He riffed on this persona in the movie Whoops Apocalypse, as the leader of an SAS team that manages to lose a gunfight against a museum full of waxworks, and would have had it immortalized for the widest audience yet as Peeves the Poltergeist in Harry Potter…except he got cut from the first film, and never appeared in any of the sequels.
If Drop Dead Fred is all you knew him from, you’ve seen at least the tip of the iceberg, but there’s more. Every episode of Filthy, Rich and Catflap, in which (I think – been a while) he played a former child star, used to deliver at least one painful, gut-busting, laugh till I hurt moment. The best way I can think to pay tribute is to dig up a few good moments.
Hilarious stuff, still.