Childhood & Early Life
Richard Michael “Rik” Mayall was born on March 7, 1958 in Harlow, Essex, England to John Mayall and Gillian, both of whom were drama teachers. He was raised alongside his elder brother, Anthony, and younger sisters, Kate and Libby.
At the age of three, he moved with his family to Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, where he performed in his parents’ stage plays.
Mayall studied at King's School, Worcester, and later went on to attend the University of Manchester to study drama. There he met his friend cum future comedy partner Ade Edmondson. At the university, he also met his future girlfriend, the writer Lise Mayer.
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Rik Mayall, along with Edmondson, initially performed at The Comedy Store in the early 1980s. Apart from performing in their double acts, Mayall also gave solo performances as a solo comedian, using characters such as an anarchist poet named Rick and Kevin Turvey.
He then went on to set up the comedy club ‘The Comic Strip’ along with fellow comedians Edmondson, Alexei Sayle, Peter Richardson, Nigel Planer, Pete Richens, Arnold Brown and French and Saunders.
Mayall began playing his character Kevin Turvey in the sketch show ‘A Kick Up the Eighties’ that was first broadcast in 1981. Soon after this, he appeared in the American dark comedy flick ‘Shock Treatment’. During this time, he also had a minor role in the horror movie ‘An American Werewolf in London’.
The comedian continued to perform with Edmondson, frequently appearing together as "The Dangerous Brothers". Soon the duo, along with their Comic Strip group mates, began appearing in short films under the name ‘The Comic Strip Presents’. The series debuted on 2 November 1982 and continued for many years, with Mayall playing a wide variety of roles.
Mayall went on to write and act in BBC’s sitcom ‘The Young Ones’ in 1982. In the sitcom, he maintained his double-act with Ade Edmondson. While Mayall played Rick, a sociology student, Edmondson appeared as the violent punk star Vyvyan. Following the success of the first series, the second one was premiered in 1984.
The English comedian appeared as a detective in Art of Noise’s music video of "Peter Gunn". He then returned to stand-up comedy with ‘Saturday Live’—the British version of the American show ‘Saturday Night Live.’ In 1985, he appeared in an episode of ‘Blackadder II’.
He joined Edmondson, Elton, and Planer to star as Richie Rich in the follow up to ‘The Young Ones,’ which was titled ‘Filthy Rich & Catflap’ in 1987. Mayall and the rest of ‘The Young Ones’ cast recorded the song "Living Doll" with Cliff Richard for a charity campaign.
In 1987, Rik Mayall began playing Alan Beresford B'Stard in the drama ‘The New Statesman’. The drama ran for four series and was successful. In 1989, he starred in a series of shows for ITV called ‘Grim Tales.’ He then went on to do numerous advertisements for Nintendo games and consoles.
He starred in the West End production of ‘Waiting for Godot’ that premiered at the Queen's Theatre in 1991. He, along with Edmondson, then went on to appear in the sitcom ‘Bottom’ later the same year. Following the program’s second series, the duo decided to make its stage-show version titled ‘Bottom: Live’.
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In 1992, Mayall appeared in the film ‘Carry On Columbus’ with other alternative comedians. That year, he also did voice work for the screen adaption of the 1872 kid’s tale ‘The Princess and the Goblin.’
He next featured in the play ‘Cell Mates’. From 1999, he began voicing the character of Kehaar on the animated television show ‘Watership Down.’ Soon after this, he voiced all the characters in the video game ‘Hogs of War.’ In 2002, he played Professor Adonis Cnut in the sitcom ‘Believe Nothing’.
He then did voice work for BBC’s ‘Shoebox Zoo’ in 2004-05. At around the same time, the English actor starred in ITV’s series ‘All About George’.
In 2006, he reprised the role of Alan B'Stard in Marks and Gran’s play titled ‘The New Statesman 2006: Blair B'stard Project’. After this, he had a supporting role in the TV drama ‘Midsomer Murders’.
In April 2010, Mayall's England Football anthem titled "Noble England" was released by Motivation Records for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. In September that year, an audio book, co-narrated by Mayall was also released.
In 2011, he appeared on ‘Let's Dance for Comic Relief.’ He next co-wrote and acted in ‘The Last Hurrah,’ a six-episode audio series. Soon after this, Mayall narrated numerous kids’ books on the Me Books app.
In October 2013, he appeared in Channel 4’s ‘Man Down’. His final television appearance was in the first episode of the 2nd series of ‘Crackanory’ in 2014.
In 1985, Rik Mayall married make-up artist Barbara Robbin. The couple had met while filming ‘A Kick Up the Eighties’ and had entered into a secret relationship. At the time, Mayall already had a girlfriend named Lise Mayer. After discovering that Robbin was pregnant with their child, Mayall left Mayer. Mayall and Robbin went on to have three children: Rosie, Sidney, and Bonnie.
On 9 April 1998, the actor met with a serious bike accident. He was airlifted to Plymouth's Derriford Hospital after suffering skull injury. He was in a coma for several days but eventually came back to consciousness.
On 9 June 2014, Mayall died from a heart attack at his home in London. He had just returned home from jogging. He was 56 at the time of his death. His body was buried in his family ranch at East Allington, Devon.
In 2014, a 20-foot-high mural of Rik Mayall was built by street artist Gnasher at Mayall's birthplace in Harlow, Essex. The same year, a memorial bench for Mayall was installed on Hammersmith Broadway. The bench is situated at the junction of Hammersmith Bridge Road and Queen Caroline Street.