Worked With:

Karoline Herfurth


John Gielgud


Tia Carrere


Skeet Ulrich


Jane Horrocks


Imelda Staunton


Jim Dale


Crispin Glover


Phoebe Cates


Nigel Planer

Rik Mayall Biography


Home > Actors > M > Mayall, Rik > Biography


Birth Name: Rik Mayall
Born: 1959
Birth Place: Harlow, England, GB
Death Place: London, England, GB
Died: 06/09/2014




Rik Mayall possibly did more to put alternative comedy on the map and on television than any other British comedian. Loud-mouthed by anyone's standards, he nonetheless was beloved by many across the U.K. and the world, as was witnessed by the outpouring of affection at his untimely death on June 09, 2014. Although most would say they were familiar with his work with long-time partner Adrian Edmondson on such shows as "The Comic Strip Presents..." (Channel 4 1982-2012) and his international breakthrough "The Young Ones" (BBC 1982-84), he also did solo work in films like "An American Werewolf in London" (1981) and his starring vehicle "Drop Dead Fred" (1991), as well as voice-over work including his performance as Toad in "The Wind in the Willows" (1995) and "The Willows in Winter" (1996).



Born in Harlow, Essex, England in 1958, he showed early promise as an actor when he first hit the stage at the tender age of seven. His parents, both drama teachers, encouraged his attraction to acting by having him in their many stage productions. By the time he met his lifelong comedic partner Adrian Edmondson when they were both studying drama at Manchester University, he had already begun honing an anarchic, punk-inspired comic voice. The two friends honed their talents at London's The Comedy Store after graduation, falling in with fellow comedians Nigel Planer, Peter Richardson, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. Their collective, The Comic Strip, became so popular that the newly-formed Channel 4 offered them their own television show, debuting in 1982 and running occasional series for the next three decades. This began a long and successful career in television, which proved Mayall's best and most successful medium.



"The Young Ones," a surreal series about four students sharing a decrepit flat, set the often violent and scatological tone of Mayall and Edmondson's collaborations; the smug sociology student Rick and the punky med student Vyvyan's violent hatred of each other was topped only by their shared contempt for their pacifist hippie roommate Neil, played by fellow Comic Strip vet Nigel Planer. Although only 12 episodes were made, "The Young Ones" quickly became one of the decade's most iconic comedy series; when it ran on MTV beginning in 1984, it brought Mayall's unique comic voice to America as well. Mayall, Edmondson and Planer, as well as writer Ben Elton and director Paul Jackson, reunited for another comedy, "Filthy, Rich and Catflap" (BBC 1987), a showbiz satire starring Mayall as a paranoid actor and his minders. Along with regular guest appearances on Rowan Atkinson's various "Blackadder" (BBC 1983-89) series, Mayall also had a supporting role in "Eat the Rich" (1987), a black comedy by Comic Strip founder Peter Richardson that featured performances by most members of the collective. Mayall's next major role came in the political satire "The New Statesman" (ITV 1987-1994), a savage indictment of Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government in which he starred as sanctimonious member of Parliament Alan B'stard.



Mayall's sole starring role in a Hollywood film came with the title role in "Drop Dead Fred," a Tim Burton knockoff starring Phoebe Cates as a young woman whose imaginary childhood friend comes back to her, unbidden, as an adult. Though it received largely scathing reviews, it was a financial success that gained a cult following. Mayall reunited with Edmondson when they co-wrote and co-starred in "Bottom" (BBC 1991-95), a surreal sitcom about a pair of unemployed alcoholic roommates. It was the perfect vehicle for the two long-time friends, becoming successful enough that the duo regularly toured with the characters for years after the show ended. The next few years saw Mayall diving into voice-over work. His role as Toad in "The Wind in the Willows" (1995) was reprised in "The Willows in Winter" (1996). He also appeared in an animated version of the children's story "Watership Down" (YTV 1999-2001) and starred in the title role of a comic animated series, "King Arthur's Disasters" (ITV 2005-06) with Matt Lucas. During this period, he filmed the role of the ghost Peeves in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" (2001), later claiming that he had not realized the character was cut from the finished film until he and his family attended its world premiere. Although he did not star in another film or television series in the 2000s, Mayall kept busy with voice work, guest appearances on television shows, his ongoing live performances with Edmondson, and appearances in television commercials. Rik Mayall died of cardiac arrest after returning to his London home from a run on June 9, 2014.