Rik Mayall was the kind of comedian that many will not realise the influence he has had on modern comedy. A smash hit TV star in the 1980s, by the mid-90s a new television audience would only recognise him as Richie from Bottom – a pivotal role for sure, but far from his best. Sadly, Mayall died suddenly on 9th June 2014, but his legacy will be long lived.

Rik Mayall – The Start of a Comedy Career

Mayall has a famously close connection with fellow comedian Ade Edmondson. The pair met as students at Manchester University and rose to fame together. Garnering attention for their double act at The Comedy Store in 1980, the pair met Alexei Sayle at the height of his fame and continued to collaborate with him. They established their own comedy club in Soho, London. However, the turning point was yet to come.

Rik Mayall The Young Ones

The Young Ones

Written by Mayall and his then-girlfriend Lise Mayer, the series was commission by the BBC in 1982, with legendary comedy writer Ben Elton attached. Mayall starred as Rick in the series with Edmondson as violent punk Vyvyan, with additional material written and performed by Alexei Sayle. The Young Ones was a huge hit, and would go on to be the foundation for many of Mayall and Edmondson’s future projects – both successes and failures.

The early 1980s saw Mayall take on many cameo roles, including several in the Blackadder series. This led to the actor becoming a staple comedian on British television.

Drop Dead Fred screenshot

Ups and Downs

The late 1980s were more difficult for Mayall. Filthy Rich & Catflap, which was billed as a follow-up to The Young Ones, received positive critical reviews yet viewing figures were poor. Conversely, in 1987, Mayall played fictional Conservative MP Alan Beresford B’Stard in the sitcom The New Statesman. Arguably some of Mayall’s finest work, the programme ran for four series and two BBC specials, having been successful both critically and in the ratings.

The early 1990s saw Mayall take a stab at movies, with mixed results. Drop Dead Fred performed poorly on initial release but later gained a cult fanbase. A turn in the long-running Carry On… series of films was essentially a right of passage for British comedians at the time.

Bottom screenshot


At the same time as tackling the silver screen, Mayall and Edmondson debuted a new comedy series on the BBC. Bottom endured three series were between 1991 and 1995 and gained a strong cult following. Later, Guest House Paradiso, a film based on the series, brought Bottom‘s ridiculous slapstick humor to the big screen. Bottom in itself has been hugely influential on modern comedy, with rumours persisting that the character voice of Stewie in Family Guy is largely inspired by Mayall’s Richie.

Rik Mayall’s Finest Hour

This leads us to what is arguably Mayall’s finest work, and in the strangest of places it certainly is. In the early 1990s Mayall was contracted to star in a series of adverts for Nintendo games and consoles. Reportedly, the actor was given a lot of freedom to create and act as he wished in these commercials, and it’s easy to see the influence his character has had on series such as South Park and Archer.

Rik Mayall Post-2000

From the turn of the century Mayall’s efforts were concentrated on numerous voice acting roles and cameos. His work on the PlayStation and PC classic Hogs of War drew significant acclaim, though sadly his role in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was cut from the final release entirely.

Rik Mayall Man Down

One of Mayall’s last roles was also another of his best, and has been sorely underrated. In October 2013 he appeared in Channel 4 sitcom Man Down, playing the father of the protagonist, Greg Davies. The series has since continued with Mayall, though his character has not been recast.

Rik Mayall Blackadder

The legacy of Rik Mayall will most certainly be an enduring one, with new comedy series to this day showing signs of influence from one or more of his many characters. Which is your favourite Rik Mayall character? Let us know in the comments below!