10 years on, I’m still mourning the death of comedy legend Rik Mayall

I miss Rik’s irreverent humour more than ever (Picture: Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Today marks 10 years since the death of inimitable comedy genius Rik Mayall.

10 long years (if you read that in Richie’s voice, you’re my people).

I’m not over it. In fact, a decade on, I miss Rik’s irreverent humour more than ever.

In interviews after his recovery from a near-fatal quad bike accident in April 1998, Rik Mayall revealed that his family had dubbed that day ‘Crap Thursday’. The crash happened the day before Good Friday, and Rik had remained in a coma until Easter Monday. He often joked that he ‘beat Jesus’ by being dead five days before coming back to life.

Well, 9 June 2014 was definitely ‘S**t Monday’. S**tter than the s**ttiest of s**t-smeared s**tty s**t Mondays.

I was travelling home from a hen-do and had no idea how bad my hangover was about to get. Upon reading that Rik Mayall had died of a sudden heart attack, I burst into tears and felt sorrow in a way I hadn’t thought possible from a celebrity death.  

Such is my love of ‘The Rik’, texts started to ping in from friends reassuring that they were thinking about me. Of course, my thoughts were with Rik’s friends and family; his wife Barbara and three children Rosie, Sid and Bonnie.

Bottom exploded onto TV screens in 1991 (Picture: Don Smith/Radio Times/Getty Images)

In the years since Rik died, I’ve lost my own beloved mum and dad – and, while I must not diminish the insurmountable devastation felt when your nearest and dearest are snatched from this earth, the pain of Rik’s untimely death at age 56 deeply affected me.

British comedy had lost an irreplaceable master of the craft.

I’ve been a fan of Rik Mayall’s work for as long as I can remember. Aged seven, Grim Tales was a series of adapted Brothers Grimm stories that Rik brought to life with such hysterical flair, my young mind was indelibly transformed. Soon, Drop Dead Fred became my favourite film with repeated viewings too numerous to count – it remains my go to comfort watch.

Then Bottom exploded onto TV screens in 1991. Yes, aged eight, I was too young to be watching the show but you couldn’t have stopped me and my older brother from tuning in to the live-action cartoon depicting Richie and Eddie’s hilariously depraved existence. It was like nothing we had ever seen before, or since.

Bottom formed my funny bone into the best possible shape with its stupendous slapstick, witty wordplay and naughty nob gags – it’s comedy dynamite. To say I love it is an understatement.

In the years since Rik died, I’ve been inspired to work in comedy and study Bottom quite a lot (‘while I’m alone in the house’). I’ve waxed lyrical about why it’s the best British sitcom, I co-host a podcast Talking Bottom and have even co-authored a Bottom book, due to be published by Unbound.

Rik inspired Angela to get into comedy (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Rik Mayall is arguably (and fight you about it, I will) the finest comic actor of his generation. From his early days in the 1980s, forming one half of an iconic partnership with Adrian Edmondson in The Dangerous Brothers, Rik took the comedy world by storm.

Following their anarchic live performances at The Comic Strip club, Rik co-created and starred in The Young Ones and changed the face of British comedy in its wake. Rik went on to steal the show in sitcoms including Filthy Rich & Catflap, The New Statesman, Blackadder, Believe Nothing and Man Down. 

In sharp contrast to the public persona Rik cultivated – an effervescently confident ego-maniac – at his core, he struck me as someone humble. Grateful to be sharing laughter. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the most wonderful gift you can bestow on your fellow humans, and Rik dished it out in custardy pants-filled bucketloads.

It’s often said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes but I had the honour of meeting Rik on several occasions (one of the many ‘ordinaries’ he nicknamed fans with mocking affection), and he never disappointed.

Rik was generous with his time. He made you feel special, he’d embrace you in a life-affirming hug, if female fans offered him their breasts to sign (consent was never in question), he’d gladly oblige while flashing his trademark pervy grin. He’d fall to his knees pretending to give male fans fellatio – anything for the giggle, especially when there was a camera around.

Angela (L) with her comedy hero Rik Mayal (R) (Picture: Angela Pearson)

Some may interpret these exchanges as overtly exhibitionist, sexual, inappropriate… but that was the point. Rik’s behaviour was so gleefully outrageous and welcomed in a way that’s hard to explain to anyone who didn’t encounter it first-hand.

Rik possessed a unique warmth of character. An endlessly playful energy exuded from him – it was infectious. All-consuming. Awe-inspiring. Addictive.

Fans still feel this connection, even without having met him, as it’s present in his performances. We’re all invited in on the joke of his faux grandiosity. It’s glorious.

On 9 June 2014, grief-stricken fans poured out their love via social media – tributes to Rik Mayall ‘the man, the myth, the legend’ were, quite rightly, everywhere.

In the months that followed, a petition for a commemorative bench in Hammersmith, located near the spot from the iconic opening credits to Bottom, was actioned. I attended the bench unveiling in November 2014 and it was healing to share the loss with fellow fans.

Humour helps heal the darkest of situations. It builds memories, forms bonds and connects you on a level that seeps deep into your bones.

I shared many Rik inspired laughs with my parents over the years. When my mum was ill in bed in her final days fighting cancer, I remember walking through our front door and hearing her shout the classic Richie line ‘I’m in the cupbooooard’ from her bedroom. We shrieked with laughter, all thanks to Rik’s comedy shared in years gone by.

Angela (L) wither her late dad (R) on Rik Mayall’s commemorative bench (Picture: Angela Pearson)

In the months after Mum died, I took my dad on a trip to Rik’s bench in Hammersmith. While there, I promptly pretended to punch him in the nether regions.

I’ve hundreds of photos with Dad, but it’s an image I especially cherish now he’s sadly gone, too. You rarely have a chance to take a picture so hilariously inappropriate with your own father. I have my parents and Rik to thank for my wicked sense of humour.

Rik may no longer be here but his legacy endures. New generations of comedy fans are discovering his work and that gives me comfort. It gives me hope for the future.

What are your favourite Rik Mayall moments? Have your say in the comments belowComment Now

The Young Ones fans know there’s solace to be taken from the fact Rik will never truly be dead when we still have his (poems) comedy. 

9 June may be the anniversary of S**t Monday but it has become a date on which fans around the world will be sharing Rik clips, memes, happy memories of meeting the comedy legend, witty letters he sent, arrange to meet each other at the bench and raise a glass to toast his memory.

As such, every year, I now find myself looking forward to seeing ‘Rik Mayall’ trending on socials. The sadness turns to joy.

It’s important to mark this milestone by celebrating Rik’s humour – today and always.

So no, I’m still not ‘over’ Rik’s death, I never will be… I never want to be.

The best way to honour The Rik Mayall is to share a laugh every chance we get.

Do you have a story you’d like to share? Get in touch by emailing jess.austin@metro.co.uk

Share your views in the comments below.

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