The Exiles were devastated to hear the news that our childhood comedy hero Rik Mayall had died suddenly at the age of 56 on 9 June 2014.
Because we’re so young and pretty, we missed out on punk’s first wave, but we got our overdose of ‘anarchy’ video-taping The Young Ones when it first aired (ok, we’re not THAT young, and yes, we had a video), and reciting and reenacting the scripts religiously in the school playground the next day, just like everyone else.
Rik was our gateway to punk and anti-hippiedom. In the early-1980s, before the Miners’ Strike – when Thatcher was merely cracking her knuckles before dishing out the kind of policies even Ayn Rand would blush at – Rik, in his own way, politicised a generation of spotty-botted oiks in a way that The Clash had obviously never considered.
He poked fun at the right (obviously) but also the right-on ’80s student politics of the left, forging a blueprint for the sense of humour that has kept us both sane and insane in equal measures.
We’ve nearly died laughing at Rik as Kevin Turvey, and in The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents, Filthy Rich and Catflap, Bottom, The New Statesman and Blackadder. And we’ll keep on laughing – but that moment of shock, on learning of the early death of The People’s Poet, has only concentrated and cemented Rik’s comedic genius in our minds.
Rest in peace, sweet Rik. We’ll leave the final words to you…
“This house will become a shrine – and punks and skins and rastas will all gather round and hold their hands in sorrow for their fallen leader. And all the grown-ups will say, ‘But why are the kids crying?’ And the kids will say, ‘Haven’t you heard? Rik is dead! The People’s Poet is dead!’ And then one particularly sensitive and articulate teenager will say, ‘Other kids – do you understand nothing? How can Rik be dead when we still have his poems?’ And then another kid will say…”