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Richard Michael "Rik" Mayall (born 7 March 1958) is an English actor, writer and comedian. He is known for his comedy partnership with Adrian Edmondson, his over the top, energetic portrayal of characters, and for being one of the pioneering members of the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s.

In the 2005 poll The Comedian's Comedian, Mayall was voted among the top 50 comedy performers of all time.

Early life

Mayall was born in Harlowmarker, Essex to Gillian and John Mayall. When he was three years old, Mayall and his parents — both of whom taught drama — moved to Droitwich Spamarker, Worcestershire, where he spent the rest of his childhood and performed in his parents' plays. After attending the King's School, Worcestermarker, he studied drama at the University of Manchester where he met his future partner and close friend Adrian Edmondson in 1976. He also met Ben Elton and Lise Mayer, with whom he would later write The Young Ones.

Career

The alternative comedy boom

Both Edmondson and Mayall gained their reputation by appearing at The Comedy Storemarker, debuting in 1980. The double act was then billed as "20th Century Coyote", which soon became a popular turn at the Comedy Store, and Mayall also developed solo routines using characters such as Kevin Turvey and a pompous anarchist poet named Rick. This success led to Mayall and Edmondson, along with Comedy Store compere Alexei Sayle and other popular acts French and Saunders, "The Outer Limits" (Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson), Arnold Brown and Pete Richens, to break away and set up their own comedy club called "The Comic Strip" in the Raymond Revue Bar, a local strip club. Mayall's rising popularity led to a regular slot for his Kevin Turvey character on the series A Kick Up the Eighties, first broadcast in 1981. It was also around this time that he appeared as "Rest Home" Ricky in Richard O'Brien's Shock Treatment, the "equal" to his cult smash The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He played Dentonvale's resident attendant as the love interest to Nell Campbell's Nurse Ansalong.

His TV appearances as Kevin Turvey were popular enough to warrant a mockumentary based on the character entitled Kevin Turvey - The Man Behind The Green Door, broadcast in 1982. The previous year, he appeared in a bit role in An American Werewolf in London. His stage partnership with Edmondson continued, often appearing together as "The Dangerous Brothers", a pair of hapless daredevils whose hyper-violent antics foreshadowed their characters in Bottom.

Meanwhile, fledgling Channel 4 offered the Comic Strip group a series of six short films, which became The Comic Strip Presents..., debuting on 2 November 1982. The series, which continued sporadically for many years, saw Mayall play a wide variety of roles. It picked up a reputation for anti-establishment humour, and for parodies such as Bad News On Tour, a spoof "rockumentary" which pre-dated This is Spinal Tap starring Mayall, Richardson, Edmondson and Planer as a heavy metal band.

The Young Ones

At the same time The Comic Strip Presents... was being negotiated, the BBC took an interest in The Young Ones, a sitcom written by Mayall and then-girlfriend Lise Mayer, in the same anarchic vein as Comic Strip. Ben Elton, who had attended Manchester University with Mayall and Edmondson, was asked to join the writing team. The series was commissioned and the first series was broadcast in 1982, shortly before Comic Strip began. Mayall played his "Rick" character in the series, a pompous sociology student and Cliff Richard devotee, to wide public acclaim. Despite the sitcom format, Mayall maintained his double-act routine with Edmondson, who starred as violent punk Vyvyan. Nigel Planer (as hippie Neil) and Christopher Ryan (as "Mike the cool guy") also starred, with additional material written and performed by Alexei Sayle. The show's first series was very successful, and a second was commissioned in 1984.

Becoming a household name

Following The Young Ones, Mayall continued to work on The Comic Strip films. He also returned to standup, starring on Saturday Live - a British version of the American Saturday Night Live - first broadcast in 1985. He and Edmondson had a regular section as "The Dangerous Brothers", their earlier stage act.

In 1985, Mayall debuted another of his comic creations. He had starred in the final episode of The Black Adder in 1983 as "Mad Gerald". The series had proven expensive and a second series was not forthcoming until it was agreed that the budget would be cut and Ben Elton would replace Rowan Atkinson as co-writer (alongside Richard Curtis). The "re-vamped" Blackadder proved an enormous success thanks, in part, to the inclusion of a character named Lord Flashheart, played by Mayall, in the series' first episode, "Bells". Despite being on screen for mere minutes, Mayall's performance as the boisterous heart-throb Flashheart proved very popular and raised Mayall's public profile further. The character was given a bigger part as Squadron Commander Flashheart in Blackadder Goes Forth in 1989. A similar character, also played by Mayall, would appear in 2000's Blackadder: Back and Forth under the guise of Robin Hood.

In 1986, Mayall joined forces once more with Planer, Adrian Edmondson and Elton to star in Filthy Rich & Catflap as "Richie Rich" in what was billed as a follow-up to The Young Ones. While he received positive critical reviews, viewing figures were poor and the series was never repeated on the BBC. In later years, release on video, DVD and repeats on UK TV found the series a cult following. Mayall suggested the series did not last because he was uncomfortable acting in an Elton-written project, when they had been co-writers on The Young Ones. 1987 also saw Mayall co-starring with Edmondson in the ITV sit-com Hardwicke House. Due to the adverse reaction of both press and viewers however, ITV withdrew the series after two episodes, and the remainder has never been shown.

The same year saw Mayall achieve a number one hit in the UK singles charts when he and his co-stars from The Young Ones teamed up with Cliff Richard to record a new version of "Living Doll" for the inaugural Comic Relief campaign. Mayall played Rick one last time in the subsequent stage show and has supported the Comic Relief cause ever since.

That year, Mayall appeared on the children's television series Jackanory, on which well known-faces read children's stories. His crazed, anarchic portrayal of Roald Dahl's George's Marvellous Medicine proved one of the series' most memorable performances. However, at the time, the BBC received complaints "with viewers claiming both story and presentation to be both dangerous and offensive."

In 1987, Mayall undertook his first major solo project as fictional Conservative MP Alan Beresford B'Stard in the sitcom The New Statesman for Yorkshire Television, written by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. The character was a satire of Tory MP present in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and early 1990s. The programme ran for four series - incorporating two BBC specials - between 1987-1994 and was a success both critically and in the ratings. In a similar vein to his appearance on Jackanory, in 1989, Mayall was the star of a series of "bit" shows for ITV called Grim Tales, in which Mayall narrated Grimm Brothers fairy tales, while puppets acted out the stories.

In the early 1990s Mayall starred in a series of humorous adverts for Nintendo games and consoles. With the money he earned from the ads, he bought his house in London which he jokingly calls 'Nintendo Towers'.

He also lent his voice to the Playstation and Windows PC video game Hogs of War. In the early 1990s, he had auditioned for the roles of Banzai, Zazu and Timon in The Lion King. He was asked to audition by lyricist Tim Rice.

Bottom

In 1991, Mayall and Edmondson co-starred in the West Endmarker production of Beckett's Waiting for Godot at the Queen's Theatre. Here they came up with the idea for their next project, Bottom. Mayall and Edmondson have said Bottom was intended to be a cruder cousin to plays like Waiting for Godot.

Bottom was commissioned by the BBC and three series were shown between 1991-1995. Mayall starred as "Richard 'Richie' Richard" alongside Edmondson's"Eddie Elizabeth Hitler". The series featured their trademark slapstick violence taken to new extremes.

The series gained a strong cult following. In 1993, following the second series, Mayall and Edmondson decided to take a stage show version of the series on a national tour. Bottom: Live was a commercial success, filling large venues. Four additional stage shows were embarked upon in 1995, 1997, 2001 and 2003, each to great success. The violent natures of these shows saw both Edmondson and Mayall ending up in hospital at various points. A film version, Guest House Paradiso, was released in 1999. A fourth TV series was also written, but not commissioned by the BBC.

Other activities in the 1990s

Mayall starred in 1991's Drop Dead Fred as the eponymous character, a troublesome imaginary friend reappearing from a woman's childhood. He also appeared in Carry On Columbus (1992) along with various alternative comedy alumni.

Mayall also provided the voice of the character Froglip, the leader of "the goblins", in the 1992 animated film adaption of the popular 1872 children's tale The Princess and the Goblin by Scottish author George MacDonald.

In 1993, he appeared in Rik Mayall Presents, a series of three individual comedy dramas. Mayall's performances won a Best Comedy Performer award at that year's British Comedy Awards, and a second series of three was broadcast in early 1995.

In 1995 Mayall co-starred in a production of the play Cell Mates, alongside his friend Stephen Fry. The production was to prove immensely troublesome for Mayall. Not long into the play's run, Fry suffered a nervous breakdown and walked out of the production. He fled to Belgiummarker, where he remained missing for several days, and the play was forced to close shortly afterwards. In a 2007 interview, Mayall said of the incident: "You don't leave the trenches ... [S]elfishness is one thing, being a c**t is another. I mustn't start that war again." It is believed that Mayall and Fry are no longer estranged.

Edmondson later poked fun at the event during their stage tour Bottom Live: The Big Number Two Tour, when, after Mayall gave mocking gestures to the audience and insulted their town in a silly voice, Edmondson said "Have you finished yet? It's just I'm beginning to understand why Stephen Fry fucked off!"

Towards the end of the run of Cell Mates Mayall revealed a replica gun — a prop from the play — to a passer-by in the street. He was later cautioned over the incident. Mayall later conceded that this was "incredibly stupid, even by my standards".

Starting in 1999, Rik Mayall was the voice of the black-headed seagull Kehaar in the first and the second season of the animated television series Watership Down.

2000s

In 2000, Mayall appeared in the video production of Jesus Christ Superstar as King Herod. He joked in the "Making of" documentary, which was included on the DVD release, that "the real reason why millions of people want to come and see this is because I'm in it! Me and Jesus!"

In 2002, Mayall teamed up with Marks and Gran once more when he starred as Professor Adonis Cnut in the ITV sitcom, Believe Nothing. However, the sitcom failed to repeat the success of The New Statesman and lasted only one series. Following 2003's Bottom: Live tour, Bottom 5: Weapons Grade Y-Fronts, Mayall stated that he and Edmondson would return with another tour. Shortly thereafter, however, Edmondson told The Daily Mail that he no longer wished to work on Bottom. This effectively dissolved their nearly 30-year partnership. Edmondson claimed they were "too old" to continue portraying the characters. Edmondson added that, since Mayall had recovered from his coma, he was slower on the uptake and it had become more difficult to work with him, as well as citing that due to taking medication, Mayall had been advised to stop drinking alcohol. However, Edmondson said that the pair remained very close friends.

Mayall released an 'in-character' semi-fictionalised autobiography in September 2005 entitled Bigger than Hitler, Better than Christ (ISBN 0-00-720727-1). At the same time, he starred in a new series for ITV, All About George.

Mayall reprised the role of Alan B'Stard in 2006 in the play The New Statesman 2006: Blair B'stard Project, written by Marks and Gran. By this time B'Stard had left the floundering Conservatives and become a Labour MP. Following a successful two-month run in London's West End at The Trafalgar Studios in 2007, a heavily re-written version toured theatres nationwide, with Marks and Gran constantly updating the script to keep it topical. However, Mayall succumbed to chronic fatigue and flu in May 2007, and withdrew from the show. Alan B'Stard was played by his understudy, Mike Sherman during his hiatus.

Mayall was cast as the poltergeist Peeves, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first of the Harry Potter films in 2001. Comments by Mayall suggest material for the role was filmed and shown in cinemas but then never released to the public on any subsequent release for no apparent reason. He tells the story of this hiring/firing on his second website blog for his 2008 film, Evil Calls: The Raven.

For Evil Calls, he shot his role as Winston the Butler in 2002, when the film was titled Alone in the Dark. The film was not completed until 2008 and was released under its new 'Evil Calls' title to distance itself from the Alone in the Dark computer game movie. He may appear in a possible sequel.

Mayall currently performs the voice of the Andrex puppy in the UK TV commercials for Andrex toilet paper, and also has a voice part in the UK Domestos cleaning product adverts. Rik Mayall performs the voice of the character "King Arthur" in the children's television cartoon series "King Arthur's Disasters", alongside Matt Lucas (Little Britain) who performs the character "Merlin" on the children's series. He currently has a recurring role in theChannel Five remake of the cop drama series, Minder.

In the summer of 2009 Mayall will record a football Anthem called 'Noble England' for the World Cup 2010 with Coventry producer Dave Loughran. Mayall will perform an adapted speech from Shakespeare's Henry V on the track which is set to be released by Motivation Records in the spring of 2010.

Personal life

Mayall wanted to be a footballer and in the early '80s played for Redditch United reserves aged 18 but he was only with them for one season before leaving to attend the University of Manchester. He never returned to football, but on ebay a programme was found of Redditch United with the name Richard Mayall (Rik's full first name). Rik supports Aston Villa.

Family

Mayall married Barbara Robbin, a former make-up artist from Scotlandmarker, in 1985. They have three children: Rosie (born 1986), Sidney (born 1988), drummer of London band Pink Cigar, and Bonnie (born 18 September 1995).

Mayall met Robbin in 1981 while filming A Kick Up The Eighties. At the time, he was in a long-term relationship with Lise Mayer. Mayall and Robbin embarked on a secret affair which lasted until 1985 when Mayall learned that he had made both women pregnant. Mayall and Robbin immediately eloped to Barbadosmarker. Mayer would later suffer a miscarriage. Mayall maintains that, despite a longstanding feud, he and Mayer are now friends.

Quad bike accident

On 9 April 1998, Mayall was seriously injured after crashing a quad bike near his home in Devonmarker. He was in a coma for several days. Various media sources reported the comedian was "seriously ill".

Mayall's daughter Bonnie and her cousin had asked him to take them for a ride on the bike - a Christmas gift from his wife - but he was forced to refuse due to rain, and proceeded alone. Some time later, Mayall's wife Barbara looked out the window and saw him lying on the ground with the bike, at first believing he was joking.

Mayall was airlifted to Plymouthmarker's Derriford Hospital, where it was discovered he had suffered two haematomas and a fractured skull. During the following 96 hours, Mayall was kept heavily sedated to prevent movement which could cause pressure on his brain. His head injuries were so severe that his family was warned he would either die or possibly suffer brain damage.

After five days doctors felt it safe to bring Mayall back to consciousness. In his 2005 spoof biography, Mayall claims at this point he "rose from the dead". During Mayall's hospitalisation, the Comic Strip special Four Men in a Car was broadcast for the first time on TV. The film involves Mayall's character being hit by a car. Mayall had a long road to recovery and believed he was being held hostage by the staff at the hospital. After being transferred to a private hospital in London, he "escaped" and took a taxi to his home, but was taken back to the hospital later that day after being sedated by his doctor.

He was also supposed to take medication to prevent epileptic seizures for a year until doctors felt the threat of seizures related to his condition had passed. Mayall stopped taking the medication a few months later. As a result, he suffered one or two epileptic seizures. During one such episode, he bit through his tongue. He is now on the medication for life. Mayall eased his way back into his career by doing voice-over work. His first post-accident acting job was in the 1998 Jonathan Creek Christmas Special, as DI Gideon Pryke.

Both he and Edmondson have subsequently joked about this event in the various stage versions of Bottom, for instance Edmondson quipping: 'if only i'd fixed those brakes'. The pair wrote the first draft of their feature film Guest House Paradiso while Mayall was hospitalised. They originally planned to co-direct, but following the accident, Edmondson took on the duties himself.

References

  1. NNDB biodata
  2. Rik Mayall Biography in Film Reference
  3. Mayall interviewed for a Comedy Connections profile of The Young Ones
  4. UK Online website
  5. Acknowledged here on the BBC News website
  6. Reported at Television Heaven website
  7. Interview with Theatre.com January 11, 2007
  8. Police Rebuke Rik Mayall for 'Stupid' Gun Prank
  9. The Rik Mayall FAQ
  10. Article in The Daily Mail's "Weekend" supplement (2003)
  11. "Rik Mayall Acts Up"
  12. House of Fear.co.uk
  13. Noble England - Riks Football Anthem
  14. The Producer of Riks Football Anthem
  15. Noble Englands Record Label
  16. Interview with Roz Laws, IC Birmingham, 29 December 2002
  17. Interviewed by Michael Owen, You, 21 November 1999
  18. Report that Mayall was "seriously ill" following the accident


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